The beginning of a new year is a chance for all of us to start fresh. Some of us will begin to exercise as a new year’s resolution. At the best of times, sticking to an exercise program can be difficult for most people. Injuries to your feet can hinder your ability to exercise and may cause you to give up your new year’s resolution.
I routinely see a number of new patients seeking help for various types of foot and lower extremity ailments after starting a new exercise program. An unstable foot structure coupled with the introduction of new stresses on the foot due to exercise can cause knee, ankle, heel, arch and forefoot pain.
It is important to realize your body tissues have adapted to your sedentary lifestyle. Any new exercise program will cause stretching, pulling, twisting and bending to your ligaments that connect your bones together and the muscles and tendons that move your bone joints. This new activity will change the length of these body tissues causing damage. If you rest these body tissues they will heal and become stronger for the next session of exercise.
If you approach your exercise program without the proper amount of rest and recovery between exercise sessions you can cause overuse damage to your ligaments, tendons, muscles and their attachments to bone. For instance, heel pain can be caused by pulling away of the plantar fascia away from the heel bone. The plantar fascia gets stretched because the unstable foot will bend as the heel lifts off the ground while walking or running. You will complain of pain as your heel hits the ground first thing in the morning. This pain can get worse if you try to walk through the pain.
I am concerned about the proposed new exercise guidelines that were discussed in the Globe and Mail newspaper on Jan 4, 2011.
The Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology has recommended new fitness guidelines for Canadians. Their major recommendation was to spend less time exercising over one week and instead perform several intense bouts of exercise over a very short period of time. This new recommendation may cause injuries in people with an unstable foot. If you adopt these new exercise guidelines you may be putting too much stress on the ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones of the foot and lower extremity in too short a period of time. You need to adapt your body tissues gradually to these new exercise guidelines to prevent injury.
Injuries during exercise are usually caused because:
1. you perform too many exercise repetitions in a short period of time;
2. you exercise for too long a period of time in one session;
3. you exercise using too much weight;
4. you don’t take into consideration your bodyweight;
5. you use walking and running shoes that are to old and worn out, sometimes changing your workout shoes will prevent problems from occurring;
6. you do not allow for enough rest and recovery to help heal damaged tissues before you exercise again.
I advise my patients that everyone has a different biomechanical tissue stress limit based on their body type. In other words, your ligaments, muscles, tendons and bones can be only stretched, twisted, pulled or bent to certain point before a tissue injury occurs. If you have been sedentary it won’t take much activity to cause a tissue injury. The key is to gradually stress your body tissues over time to make them stronger to prevent injury. Professional athletes have built up their body tissues over a long time to withstand the large amounts of stress occurring during their sport. Even a professional athlete has a biomechanical tissue stress limit in their ability to withstand stress. Unfortunately, when a professional athlete has stresses applied to their body tissues exceeding their biomechanical limit the injury consequences can be disastrous.
Remember a new exercise program should be designed to have a gradual increase in repetitions with enough recovery in between exercise sessions. Good luck with your new year’s resolution of exercise.