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Archive for November 16th, 2009

By Jacqueline Stenson, MSNBC contributor

Many exercisers wonder whether vigorous physical activity, such as running or jogging, can be too tough on the body, especially the joints.

Physical activity guidelines released by the federal government last year recommend a minimum of two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate physical activity or at least one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity, plus at least two days of strength training a week. The guidelines also state that greater health benefits can be achieved when adults like yourself increase their physical activity to five hours a week of moderate activity or 2.5 hours of vigorous activity, or more.

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Light weight training from PsychologyToday.com

Dr. W. Ben Kibler, a spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine and medical director of the Lexington Clinic Sports Medicine Center, says that you can overdo it with exercise and sustain overtraining injuries, particularly if you don’t follow good technique or listen to your body’s warning signals to taper off. But there’s no reason to think that healthy people doing recommended amounts of physical activity and progressing at a sensible rate are going to eventually wear out their bodies. On the contrary, there is abundant evidence that exercise can go a long way to keep us healthy and strong as we age — and prevent early death.

There is a fairly common concern among exercisers that high-impact exercise such as running will eventually destroy the knees. But as Dr. Ron Noy, a New York City sports medicine specialist and spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, points out, running helps the joints stay lubricated and healthy, and keeps the bones and heart strong.“If you have a healthy knee, running is not going to damage the knee,” he says. “It’s not going to wear down your knee, and there are benefits to the joint from running.”

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The Knee Joint. Image from globalsurgicalsolutions.com

”It’s a different story, though, if you have an arthritic or injured knee, which gives the body “less protective power” against high-impact activity, Noy says. Problems also can arise in obese people who are sedentary and then jump into a rigorous exercise program, which can overload a deconditioned body, he says, possibly leading to knee injuries, stress fractures or other problems.

So it would not be a good idea, for instance, for a 250-pound couch potato to start out running 12 miles a day, Noy says. “You have to acclimate your body to accept that load,” he says, with a “slow, progressive program.”

Even normal weight people with no health issues can become injured if they push too far, too fast in a range of activities. How much is too much varies from individual to individual, so as your program progresses, listen to your body, says Noy. If you’re getting signals such as pain, swelling or extreme fatigue, scale back.

An experienced coach or personal trainer can help recreational athletes develop a safe program that incorporates proper technique and equipment.

And it’s always a good idea to get a checkup before starting a training program, Noy says. It’s especially important to identify any potential heart problems or risk factors such as a family history of early cardiac death that might lead to sudden death during exercise. Be sure to discuss with your doctor any chest pain, shortness of breath or prior difficulty exercising in hot temperatures.

Kibler points out that people who die during endurance exercise often have underlying health problems or they push themselves too hard in the heat.“There’s usually some identifiable reason outside of exercise,” he says. “But exercise is the trigger.”

Link to original MSNBC article here.

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