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Monday, April 4, 2011

Your Fitness Threshold: The Key to Injury Prevention

Post provided by Scott Smith, MD

Many patients come to the doctor with aches and pains that “started out of nowhere” apparently without an injury. They have experienced a stress to their system that was above some undefined threshold and resulted in an injury.

Everyone has heard the term overuse. I don’t like it because it implies that there is something wrong with using our bodies. Our bodies are built to be used. I prefer to think more in terms of underfitness, meaning that the activity performed was above the fitness threshold resulting in damage to some part of the musculoskeletal system. In every case there are two options. One option would be to stop or limit the activity performed. This is not only no fun it’s unhealthy. The second option is raise the fitness threshold such that it is never surpassed and no injuries are incurred. This would be great except that it is unlikely that anyone can obtain and more importantly maintain their perfect maximum fitness level. Therefore it is inevitable that we all will have some aches even if we have a high fitness threshold.

These aches should be very mild, short lived and self limited. In fact most will resolve if the body is allowed to repair itself. Daily or at the very least weekly physical activities to “stress” your system will strengthen it. As the fitness level increases so will the amount of activity required to cause pain.

The inertia of being out of shape makes it extremely difficult to make any significant commitment to exercise. By exceeding our threshold in our first few workouts we become sore or even painful where we can no longer perform. This stops us in our tracks physically not to mention what it does to our mental outlook. The next re-initiation of a workout program is more difficult and less likely to succeed. A more gradual approach is much more effective. This allows the body to repair the “damage” from a work out and stepwise progress toward healthy fitness is made. If significant soreness is present don’t stop workouts just decrease intensity and persists at a lower level. Then make slower progress as the discomfort subsides. If problems persist seek professional help.

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