The British Osteopathic Association has warned that the rush to get started on New Year fitness resolutions, fuelled by the desire to tackle post-Christmas waist lines, leads to a 20 per cent increase in the number of people visiting their osteopaths for treatment in January.
The extended Christmas and New Year holiday period often leads to people spending more time on leisure activities such as getting fit, but this in turn can have unexpected consequences.
Gyms up and down the country will see an increase in the number of over-enthusiastic members who risk pulling muscles or creating longer-term complaints, such as soft-tissue damage and joint injuries.
The main reason for gym injuries is trying to do too much too quickly, especially on machines designed to improve the “abs” and lateral muscles.
Abdominal exercises which affect the abdominal (or stomach) muscles can add pressure to the lumbar spine, putting additional stress on the lower back. In addition, intense abdominal exercise can cause respiratory problems by straining the chest.
A second reason for the increase in joint and muscle injuries in January is the number of people taking up fitness programmes that include walking the dog or brisk country walks and underestimating the risk from their environment during the winter months.
The BOA’s Kelston Chorley, says: “People – especially the middle-aged and the slightly unfit – deciding to take brisk walks in the countryside with their dogs and not realising how slippery wet leaves can be and the dangers of hidden roots and branches lying hidden.”
“Walking is an excellent way of keeping fit and I often recommend that my regular patients take up dog walking if they want an incentive to get out and about, whatever the weather. However, people unused to exercise do need to be careful when they’re away from the pavements and walking in the dark.”
How to avoid winter injuries
l If you are unused to exercise, walk shorter but increasingly longer distances to help you avoid overdoing it.
l Make sure you are wrapped up warmly, even if the sun is shining, because frozen fog and ice can produce unexpected dangers; beware of wet leaves and hidden branches when walking in woodland. The winter season can be very hard on aching joints, with the cold making particularly surface hard and jarring adding to stiff and painful joint.
l When going to the gym, always start off by working with a qualified gym professional who can assess your fitness and health levels and recommend the best exercises to improve your fitness without over doing it.
l After spending time outside, take a warm shower or a bath in order to loosen up your joints.