The Most Common Fitness Injuries — And How to Avoid Them

The Most Common Fitness Injuries — And How to Avoid ThemSprains and strains are the most common injuries at the gym, according to new research. (Photo by Getty Images)

A vast majority of the time, going to the gym is good for your body. It clears your head, gets your blood moving, and helps you feel less guilty about grabbing that stale half-donut off of the free food table at work. Occasionally, though, injuries do happen. Now, for the first time, we have a picture of the most common fitness-related emergencies and what causes them.

The new study, published in the journal Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, examined 2,200 exercise-related emergency room visits that took place in Australia over eight years. More than 70 percent of weightlifting injuries occurred when someone was hit, struck or crushed by weights or fellow exercisers, the researchers discovered. And nearly 60 percent of aerobics injuries were due to falls. Overall, sprains and strains were the most common ailments.

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Overcrowding during group classes, using new and unfamiliar equipment, and competing with other gym-goers were a few factors that contributed to the accidents, the study authors said.

Follow these tips from top fitness trainers to stay safe during your next sweat session.

1. Mark your territory.
Even though it might seem like a good idea to watch the instructor’s form closely, avoid a spot right in the front, since it’s where people tend to want to show off, said Marc Santa Maria, national director of group fitness for Crunch gyms. You’ll have more room to move if you stay in the back or side of the room. Specifically, make sure you have enough space behind you so you don’t bump into something (or someone) when you step backward. And choose a spot with a view of the mirror to check your form periodically.

2. Get your head in the game.
About 15 minutes before your group class starts, hop on the treadmill and power walk for 10 minutes. “If an area of the body is cool, without blood flowing to the area it won’t have much flexibility or quick movement capability,” celebrity trainer Craig Ramsay told Yahoo Health. A warm-up also helps you tune into your body, making you less likely to trip or take a misstep because you’re distracted. “Group classes for many people are very intimidating, and we get into our head and out of our body with that,” Ramsay added. “We really need to be connected with our body to move safely and purposefully.”

3. Protect your digits.
The most common injuries Ramsay sees are bruised knuckles and broken fingers when people return dumbbells to the rack and trap, hit or pinch their hands because they’re moving too quickly. “I see that at least once a week unfortunately, and it is not pretty when fingers break that way,” he said. Even during an intense workout, remember to slow down when you rack your weights.

Related: 5 Exercises That Combat Computer Body

4. Ask an expert.
When you’re new to a piece of equipment, you’re more likely to injure yourself by using it improperly. If you’re not sure if you’re using something the right way, approach a personal trainer who is on the gym floor but doesn’t seem to be working with a client. The trainer will be happy to make a new connection and help keep you safe, Santa Maria said. Better yet, use the free personal training session that probably came with your gym membership to bone up on your form and learn how to use some new training tools.

5. Use smart treadmill sense.
Don’t hop on or off a moving treadmill. It seems like a no-brainer, sure, but Ramsay said he sees it all the time — especially now that circuit workouts alternating treadmill running and strength training are becoming more popular. And before your tread session, be sure to double-knot your laces and tuck them into your shoes. Treadmill face isn’t a good look on anyone.

6. Stick around.
Lots of group classes tend to skip over the cool down, Santa Maria said, so take an extra few minutes to cool down on your own. If you don’t ease out of a hard workout, you might get lightheaded as your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly. A cool down also helps your body clear out metabolic waste products, which could help reduce muscle soreness the next day. End a hard workout with five to 10 minutes of light activity — for example, easy pedaling at the end of a spin class — plus some easy stretches.

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