Fitness, Nutrition & Weight Loss Articles » Preventing Injury by ShapeUpShopFri, 26 Apr 2013 13:31:33 +0000en-UShourly1 Exercise: Ten Ways to Beat the Heat, 16 Jun 2011 19:59:18 +0000Maia Appleby

by Michael Stefano

The dog days of summer are upon us, but you don’t have to put your exercise program on the back burner just because it’s too hot to workout. There are steps you can take to safely and comfortably exercise during the sweltering summer months, but first let’s take a short look at how the body responds to training in the heat.

When exercising in climates that are hotter than you are used to, blood vessels near the your skin have to open to permit the transfer of body heat to the environment. This forces the heart to work a little harder as it supplies the muscles with an adequate amount of blood (and oxygen). At any give pace, heart rates will therefore be higher than usual, as the cardiovascular system attempts to meet the fuel supply of working muscles. An obvious solution is to just slow down.

Sweating is another way the body regulates its internal temperature. Sweat evaporates on the skin and effectively removes body heat. High temps, when combined with high humidity, are especially stressful for any unacclimated individual. Sweat can’t evaporate when the air is laden with moisture, and this interferes with the body’s process of heat dissipation.

So how can we minimize these risk factors and get the most out of our summer workout program? Here are ten hot tips to make exercise safe and effective all summer long.

Ten Hot Weather Workout Tips:

1. Stay hydrated

  • Before Exercise: Drink 8 ounces of water 30 minutes prior
  • During Exercise: Drink 3 to 6 ounces of water every 15 minutes
  • After Exercise: Drink 8 ounces of water in the 30 minutes following

2. Back off intensity levels. When training in the heat, you won’t have to work as hard to elevate heart rate. Take this into consideration, and closely monitor your heart rate during aerobic exercise. Adjust down your pace accordingly.

3. Avoid training during the hottest times of the day. Take advantage of the extra daylight. Early morning and evening hours can provide us with a window of coolness to get in a workout.

4. Take the workout indoors. I personally love training outdoors whenever possible, but exercising in an air-conditioned house or gym can provide you with total protection from the heat. An exercise bike, treadmill, or a simple set of dumbbells can provide you with the tools to exercise at home.

5. Adjust clothing. Lightweight, loose fitting, and light colors. Experts recommend cotton over synthetics. Don’t skip the socks. Light cotton socks will protect the feat and help whisk sweat away.

6. Find a cool place. Wherever you happen to live, there are certain areas where joggers and walkers flock to because it’s cooler. It could be the boardwalk, if you leave near the ocean, or just a shady path in a local park. Seek out the coolest places to train.

7. Work out in the water. Find a local pool and switch to swimming as your aerobic workout, or just do water aerobics in the backyard pool. Either way you’ll get a great workout

8. Keep your face and neck clear. If you have long hair, pull it back and up. Remove all jewelry that can generate friction. Also remove any make up and allow the skin to breath.

9. Give yourself a couple of weeks. The human body is an amazing machine that will adjust to almost any condition. Back off intensity levels as you allow the body 10 to 14 days to acclimate itself to the hot weather.

10. Don’t exercise if the heat index is too high. Sometimes, you have to know when to just don’t do it. If you can’t bring the workout indoors, and into an air-conditioned environment, play it safe and take the day off. See the heat index or apparent temperature chart below for guidelines:

A Word About Hyperthermia

To avoid a possible heat-related injury, the main concern is fluid replenishment and maintaining adequate hydration. Hyperthermia, or simply too much heat, is a condition that affects the human body on three levels:

  • Heat Cramps: Cramps or muscle tightness experienced in dominant muscles such as calves and abdominals.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Characterized by sweating profusely, but your skin will appear cool and clammy. Body temps will still be at normal levels.
  • Heat Stroke: At this point the skin will turn dry and red. Sweating will stop as the body tries to conserve water. Core body temperatures of 105 degrees are possible, and this can be life threatening if left unchecked. Loss of consciousness is possible.

If you suspect that you are experiencing any of the symptoms of hyperthermia, STOP EXERCISING. Get out of the hot environment as soon as possible and replenish fluids. If caring for someone else with suspected hyperthermia, and they lose consciousness, do not attempt to give anything by mouth. For simple heat cramps, stretching can also be helpful.

Be especially careful when training in hot whether if you’re obese, unfit, dehydrated, or have a previous history of heat stroke.

Following the above tips will keep you safe and exercising all summer long. Remember, when training in the heat, keep intensity levels down, and above all stay hydrated. Enjoy your summer!

About the Author: Michael Stefano, New York City firefighter and author of The Firefighter’s Workout Book, The 30 Minute-a-day Train-for-life Program for Men and Women. Special Offer: Lose weight and get in shape with the FREE Train For Life Newsletter.

Does Magnet Therapy Work?, 10 Jun 2011 03:28:42 +0000Maia Appleby

by Maia Appleby

Magnets were used as medical devices before the refrigerator was even invented. In fact, the Yellow Emperor’s Book of Internal Medicine, published in China more than 4000 years ago, suggested that magnets might be useful for healing purposes. Cleopatra was known for wearing a magnet on her forehead to retain youthfulness, and Aristotle spoke to the Greeks about magnetic healing. It’s been around.

Throughout the centuries leading up to today, physicians and scientists across the globe have been toying with the idea. Some have taken holistic approaches, feeling that magnets controlled the body’s ‘life force’ and ‘humors’, primitive versions of today’s medical terminology.

Others noted that the Earth is one big magnet and that people are also magnetic in nature. Magnetic energy imbalance was blamed for mental illness, seizures and fainting. The notion prevails to modern times that a magnet applied to the human body increases blood flow, improving the body’s ability to heal afflicted areas and carry away toxins, speeding up its natural healing process.

It’s a hot debate in sports medicine these days. Magnetic pain relief devices are popping up on shelves all over the place, in use by elite athletes and the elderly alike. Some people claim that it works and some argue that it’s all psychological. Although no conclusive studies have been done on this topic, there’s some convincing evidence supporting the benefits of magnet therapy… and lots of skeptics. Here’s what both sides have to say about it:

It Does:

‘This is not magic. There is nothing mystical about this. We have tested magnets on more than 5000 patients and there is no doubt ‘ the treatment works.’ -Robert Holcombe, M.D., Professor of Neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center

‘I’ve used hundreds of pain relieving products from all over the world, and biomagnetic therapy products have given me the best results.’ -Kurt Angle, 1996 Olympic Gold Medal for Wrestling

‘I know what a difference magnets have made in my life. I’d like to help anyone else I can to feel this great.’ -Dan Marino, former Miami Dolphins Quarterback

‘Bioflex medical magnets applied to a localized painful area delivering static magnetic fields of 300 to 500 gauss over a pain trigger point results in significant and prompt relief of pain.’ -Carlos Vallbona, MD, Carlton F. Hazelwood, PhD, Gabor Jurida, MD, Baylor University College of Medicine

It Doesn’t

‘Application of one variety of permanent magnet had no effect on our small group of subjects with chronic low back pain.’ – Edward A. Collacott, MD; John T. Zimmerman, PhD; Donald W. White, PT; Joseph P. Rindone, PharmD (Journal of the American Medical Association. 2000;283:1322-1325)

‘The magnetic foil offered no advantage over the plain insole.’ -Caselli MA, Clark N, Lazarus S, Velez Z, Venegas L, Department of Orthopedic Sciences, New York College of Podiatric Medicine (Journal of American Podiatry: 87(01): 11-16, 1997)

‘The use of a magnet for reducing pain attributed to carpal tunnel syndrome was no more effective than use of the placebo device.’ -Richard Carter; Thomas Hall; Cheryl B. Aspy, PhD; and James Mold, MD, MPH (Journal of Family Practice: 51(01) 1-2002)


It seems that the people who swear by magnet therapy do it based on emotions, while the skeptics include those who actually conducted research on it. Does this make it seem like a placebo? Maybe, but who cares? If it works, that’s all that really matters to a person in pain.

Before you buy:

Magnets are made with a wide range of strength levels, measured in gauss. Little research has been done on what a ‘safe’ level for therapeutic use may be for prolonged use, but keep in mind that, while the average refrigerator magnet measures at about 60 gauss, an MRI scan subjects a person to about 50,000 gauss without causing harm. What’s safe for you? Ask your physician.

NOTE OF CAUTION: Magnets should not be used by pregnant women or people with pacemakers or implants.

Should I Exercise With a Cold?, 09 Jun 2011 03:27:41 +0000Maia Appleby

A recent study sponsored by the American College of Sports Medicine indicates that exercising moderately while you have a common cold doesn’t affect the severity or duration of the symptoms.

It’s a widely accepted notion that exercising and keeping in shape will reduce your risk of getting sick, but nothing has been previously documented to demonstrate whether working out while suffering from a cold would reduce or intensify the symptoms.

The common cold affects us all, with the average American getting sick up to six times a year, but will exercising when you’re not feeling well, increase or decrease your ability to battle the illness, and reduce symptoms?

The study, headed by Thomas G. Weidner, Ph.D., Ball State University in Munice Indiana, involved 50 moderately fit student volunteers, who were divided randomly into two groups: exercising and non-exercising. Each volunteer was injected with the cold germs, and tracked for a ten-day period.

The subjects all kept a daily log of physical activity. The exercise group worked out either by running, biking or using a step machine for 40 minutes every day, at no more than seventy per cent of their maximum capacity (measured by heart rate reserve).

Upon completion of the study and after analysis of exercise data, symptom severity, and actual mucous weight measurements, there was shown to be no significant difference in symptom severity or duration in the exercise group or in their inactive counterparts.

The study revealed that exercising at a moderate intensity level does not intensify cold symptoms or compromise the immune system. It seems that a moderate level of intensity is not enough to alter immune response.

Reader beware, high intensity exercise such as heavy weight lifting or high intensity aerobic training has been shown to have a negative impact on the immune system during a cold or any respiratory infection.

Symptom to Exercise Guidelines:

  • Runny nose, sneezing, scratchy throat only: Safe to exercise at low intensity levels.
  • Fever, dry cough, sore muscles, vomiting, diarhrea: Exercise not recommended, resume more intense physical activity when cold, or infection is gone.

About the Author: Michael Stefano is a captain on the New York City Fire Department, as well as author of The Firefighter’s Workout Book, The 30-minute-a-day, Train-for-life Program for Men and Women. He is also managing editor, and writer of many articles on health and fitness at, (where you can sign up for a FREE Train For Life Newsletter).

Preventing Children’s Sports Injuries, 03 Jun 2011 18:09:37 +0000Maia Appleby

Preventing Injuries – Childhood sports injuries may be inevitable, but there are some things you can do to help prevent them:

  • Enroll your child in organized sports through schools, community clubs, and recreation areas where there may be adults who are certified athletic trainers (ATC). An ATC is also trained in the prevention, recognition and immediate care of athletic injuries.
  • Make sure your child uses the proper protective gear for a particular sport. This may lessen the chances of being injured.
  • Warmup exercises, such as stretching and light jogging, can help minimize the chance of muscle strain or other soft tissue injury during sports. Warmup exercises make the body’s tissues warmer and more flexible. Cooling down exercises loosen the body’s muscles that have tightened during exercise.

And don’t forget to include sunscreen and a hat (where possible) to reduce the chance of sunburn, which is actually an injury to the skin. Sun protection may also decrease the chances of malignant melanoma–a potentially deadly skin cancer–or other skin cancers that can occur later in life. It is also very important that your child has access to water or a sports drink to stay properly hydrated while playing.

Treat Injuries with RICE If your child receives a soft tissue injury, commonly known as a sprain or a strain, or a bone injury, the best immediate treatment is easy to remember. “RICE” (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) the injury. Get professional treatment if any injury is severe. A severe injury means having an obvious fracture or dislocation of a joint, prolonged swelling, or prolonged or severe pain.

  • Rest. Reduce or stop using the injured area for 48 hours. If you have a leg injury, you may need to stay off of it completely.
  • Ice. Put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, 4 to 8 times per day. Use a cold pack, ice bag, or a plastic bag filled with crushed ice that has been wrapped in a towel.
  • Compression. Compression of an injured ankle, knee, or wrist may help reduce the swelling. These include bandages such as elastic wraps, special boots, air casts and splints. Ask your doctor which one is best.
  • Elevation. Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart. Use a pillow to help elevate an injured limb.

Sprains and Strains A sprain is an injury to a ligament–a stretching or a tearing. One or more ligaments can be injured during a sprain. A ligament is a band of tough, fibrous tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint and prevents excessive movement of the joint. Ankle sprains are the most common injury in the United States and often occur during sports or recreational activities.

A strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon. A muscle is a tissue composed of bundles of specialized cells that, when stimulated by nerve impulses, contract and produce movement. A tendon is a tough, fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone.

Growth Plate Injuries In some sports accidents and injuries, the growth plate may be injured. The growth plate is the area of developing tissues at the end of the long bones in growing children and adolescents. When growth is complete, sometime during adolescence, the growth plate is replaced by solid bone. The long bones in the body are the long bones of the fingers, the outer bone of the forearm, the collarbone, the hip, the bone of the upper leg, the lower leg bones, the ankle, and the foot. If any of these areas become injured, seek professional help from a doctor who specializes in bone injuries in children and adolescents (pediatric orthopaedist).

Repetitive Motion Injuries Painful injuries such as stress fractures (where the ligament pulls off small pieces of bone) and tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon) can occur from overuse of muscles and tendons. These injuries don’t always show up on x-rays, but they do cause pain and discomfort. The injured area usually responds to rest. Other treatments include RICE, crutches, cast immobilization, or physical therapy.

Heat and Hydration Playing rigorous sports in the heat requires close monitoring of both body and weather conditions. Heat injuries are always dangerous and can be fatal. Children perspire less than adults and require a higher core body temperature to trigger sweating. Heat-related illnesses include dehydration (deficit in body fluids), heat exhaustion (nausea, dizziness, weakness, headache, pale and moist skin, heavy perspiration, normal or low body temperature, weak pulse, dilated pupils, disorientation, fainting spells), and heat stroke (headache, dizziness, confusion, and hot dry skin, possibly leading to vascular collapse, coma, and death) These injuries can be prevented.

Playing Safe in the Heat is Cool

  • Recognize the dangers of playing in the heat.
  • Respond quickly if heat-related injuries occur.
  • Schedule regular fluid breaks during practice and games.
  • Drinking water is the best choice; others include fruit juices and sports drinks.
  • Kids need to drink 8 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes, plus more after playing.
  • Make player substitutions more frequently in the heat.
  • Wear light-colored, “breathable” clothing, and wide-brimmed hats
  • Use misting water sprays on the body to keep cool.

Exercise is Beneficial – Exercise may reduce his chances of obesity, which is becoming more common in children. It may also lessen his risk of diabetes, a disease that is sometimes associated with a lack of exercise and poor eating habits.

As a parent, it is important for you to match your children to the sport, and not push him or her too hard into an activity that he or she may not like or be capable of doing. Sports also helps children build social skills and provides them with a general sense of well-being. Sports participation is an important part of learning how to build team skills.

Sports Injury and Prevention – The following “sports scorecard” shows winning ways to help prevent an injury from occurring:


  • Common injuries and locations: Bruises, sprains, strains, pulled muscles, soft tissue tears such as ligaments, broken bones, internal injuries (bruised or damaged organs), back injuries, sunburn. Knees and ankles are the most common injury sites.
  • Safest playing with: Helmet; mouth guard; shoulder pads; athletic supporters for males; chest/rib pads; forearm, elbow, and thigh pads; shin guards; proper shoes; sunscreen; water.
  • Prevention: Proper use of safety equipment, warm-up exercises, proper coaching and conditioning.


  • Common injuries and locations: Sprains, strains, bruises, fractures, scrapes, dislocation, cuts, dental injuries. Ankles, knees (injury rates are higher in girls, especially for the anterior cruciate ligament, the wide ligament that limits rotation and forward movement of the shin bone), shoulder (rotator cuff strains and tears, where tendons at the end of muscles attach to the upper arm and shoulder bones).

  • Safest playing with: Eye protection, elbow and knee pads, mouth guard, athletic supporters for males, proper shoes, water. If playing outdoors, add a hat and sunscreen.

  • Prevention: Strength training (particularly knees and shoulders), aerobics (exercises that develop the strength and endurance of heart and lungs), warmup exercises, proper coaching, and use of safety equipment.


  • Common injuries: Bruises, cuts and scrapes, headaches, sunburn.
  • Safest playing with: Shin guards, athletic supporters for males, cleats, sunscreen, water.
  • Prevention: Aerobic conditioning and warmups, and proper training in “heading” the ball. (“Heading” is using the head to strike or make a play with the ball.)


  • Common injuries: Soft tissue strains, impact injuries that include fractures due to sliding and being hit by a ball, sunburn.
  • Safest playing with: Batting helmet, shin guards, elbow guards, athletic supporters for males, mouth guard, sunscreen, cleats, hat, breakaway bases.
  • Prevention: Proper conditioning and warmups.


  • Common injuries: Sprains and strains of soft tissues.
  • Safest playing with: Athletic supporters for males, safety harness, joint supports (such as neoprene wraps), water.
  • Prevention: Proper conditioning and warmups.


  • Common injuries: Strains, sprains, scrapes from falls.
  • Safest playing with: Proper shoes, athletic supporters for males, sunscreen, water.
  • Prevention: Proper conditioning and coaching.

How Your Child Can Prevent Sports Injuries

  • Be in proper physical condition to play the sport.
  • Know and abide by the rules of the sport.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear (for example, shin guards for soccer, a hard-shell helmet when facing a baseball or softball pitcher, a helmet and body padding for ice hockey).
  • Know how to use athletic equipment.
  • Always warm up before playing.
  • Avoid playing when very tired or in pain.
  • Get a preseason physical examination.
  • Make sure there is adequate water or other liquids to maintain proper hydration.

*Adapted from Play It Safe, a Guide to Safety for Young Athletes, with permission of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
NIAMS/National Institutes of Health – E-mail:

Elizabeth Quinn, M.S., is an exercise physiologist and health information writer and researcher. She currently manages the clinical health information development for a NW health care organization. A former national silver medalist in road and track cycling, Elizabeth continues to participate in recreational cycling, mountain biking, running, skiing and almost anything else that requires movement. To read more of her articles, please visit

Help! Spinning Hurts Me!, 03 Jun 2011 18:05:40 +0000Maia Appleby

Yes, spinning is an INCREDIBLE form of exercise. The music, the energy, the sweat. However as a spinning instructor, the most common complaint that I hear is that Spinning Hurts! Many participants comment that they feel very bruised and sore from the seat. One woman even told me she could hardly walk the next day!

I admit it. The first time that I started teaching spinning, I also experienced this. My rear end and another place really hurt. However, when most people would walk out and quit, I didn’t have that choice! Why? Because I was the teacher! So, I kept at it and after a few weeks I was no longer in pain.

Just like any other new activity there is always a period of transition. Your body has to become accustomed to a particular stimulus before being comfortable. Just as a martial artist must toughen up his knuckles to punch or how a gymnast must callus her hands to work on the uneven bars a cyclist’s bottom must get used to the feeling of the seat! No Joke!

To prevent unnecessary discomfort, consider the following tips.

Make sure that you have enough resistance to stay in control of the bike!
Too often I see participants spinning with not enough resistance, especially during sprinting segments. If ever you feel that you are bouncing up and down on the seat this means that you are lacking resistance. It is this bouncing out of control motion that contributes to those bruises! Take command of that bike! Increase the resistance! You should never be spinning full force without any resistance! It doesn’t make much sense. If you did this on a real bike, you wouldn’t be going very far, would you?

Use a gel seat or padded biker shorts!
Who’s to say that you can’t pad things up a bit? Why not? Take the seat off your real bike! Or why not invest in some fancy cycling clothes? Look chic, be comfortable, train hard, and have fun all at the same time!

Check to see that your bike is adjusted correctly.
Perhaps it is the positioning of your seat that is causing the discomfort. Ask your instructor for help to align your seat properly. There are usually two ways to adjust the seat. Verify that the height is correct. If you stand next to the bike, it should be about two inches below your top hipbone.

Second, verify the distance of the seat from the handlebars. Before the class begins, sit on the bike and cycle forward until your two feet are in line with one another, parallel to the floor. At this point, check to make sure that for the front leg, your knee does not surpass your toes. If it does, you must pull your seat backwards.

As for the handlebars, this is more of a personal preference. However, if you have any type of back problems it is best that you keep the handlebars a bit higher than normal. This would prevent you from holding a hunched over position throughout the class, which might irritate your back.

I hope this helps!

Copyright Rozel Gonzales, reprinted with permission.

Rozel Gonzales is the owner of She is a certified Schwinn spinning instructor, personal trainer, group fitness instructor and fitness presenter. She currently teaches spinning classes at Monster Gym in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, Canada.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, you can contact Rozel Gonzales via email at

A Simple Achilles’ Tendon Stretch to Help Relieve Heel Pain, 03 Jun 2011 17:10:29 +0000Maia Appleby

If you spend a lot of time on your feet or if you often wear uncomfortable shoes, odds are at one time or another you have experienced heel pain. Many times, heel pain is a result of a weak or overworked Achilles’ Tendon. Your Achilles’ Tendon or “heel cord” is the rope-like muscle at the back of your foot that connects your heel and foot to the back of your leg. By regularly stretching your Achilles’ Tendon you can help relieve heel pain.

The best way to stretch your Achilles’ Tendon is to perform the following stretch:

1. Stand about three feet from a wall and place your hands on the wall.
2. Lean toward the wall — bringing one leg forward and bending your arms at the elbows.
3. Keep your back and your back leg straight with your heel on the floor. (If you’re doing it correctly, you should feel a gentle stretch in the calf muscle of your back leg.)
4. Hold this stretch for a short while.
5. Repeat with the other leg.
6. Do this stretch regularly to relieve heel pain.
If your pain doesn’t go away or is severe, visit your doctor. This is a great stretch to do before walking to prevent soreness in your heel.

Source: American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society. Article submitted to Time for Fitness by Nicole Niemiec.