Opinion Column

FITNESS: It's important an exercise is safe for you

By Donna Cotnam, Daily Observer


When it comes to safety in my exercise classes or when I set up a program for someone, I am very much a stickler. A group fitness setting encourages everyone to do the same exercises, at the same pace, with the same number of repetitions - kind of a cookie cutter workout, I agree.

I have been teaching group fitness classes for more years than I care to disclose right now. What I learned early in my career is that one size does not fit all. In a large city, the population allows for more variety in classes - beginner, intermediate or advanced.

Not having that luxury in a smaller town, I have always felt it important to make everyone in my class feel that they are working out at the right pace/intensity for them. It's all about making it safe.

Body alignment, posture and position are all crucial in keeping the workout safe. You need to know that when you go to a group fitness class, despite how much the instructor encourages (pushes) you, you have the freedom to workout at your own pace (more intensity or less"¦your choice).

The most important thing to remember is to work within your limits. Not all exercises are appropriate or helpful for every body. You need to understand your body and know how it reacts to an exercise. Some contra-indicated exercises may be fine for a person who works out all the time, but for a new exerciser, it could be very dangerous. Take squats for example - they are commonly done in most classes or fitness programs. They are fine if you don't have any joint injuries, but can be really hard on your knees.

This doesn't mean that you never do squats, you just need to modify them so they are safe for you. This might mean holding on to the wall while you do them so you have support, or not dropping too low as they are performed. The same is true for something like 'double leg lowers.' This is when you are lying on your back with both legs in the air, then slowly lower both legs together as low as you can (often done with shoulders off the mat - abs engaged). For someone with back issues, this exercise can be extremely difficult and needs to be modified. They could start with both legs bent at a right angle (we call this table top legs), then extend one leg at a time straight out as far as they are comfortable. They could also keep their hands underneath their butt to ensure their back does not come off the floor.

You shouldn't let particular injuries or ailments keep you from exercising. You need to be proactive and find out what you can and can't do to make sure the exercise is safe for you. Modify the exercise/workout to fit your needs. A trained fitness professional can help you do that. Keep it safe!

If there are any specific fitness related questions you would like addressed please email them to: fitmom@hotmail.com

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