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Exercise Safety

Tips for staying safe while lifting weights

More and more people are lifting weights at home these days, so it should come as no surprise that weight lifting accidents are on the rise. According to a recent study, nearly a million Americans visited emergency rooms after injuring themselves lifting weights between 1990 and 2007.

The majority of the injuries were to men, but the number of injuries among women was accelerating at a faster rate than among men. Men were more likely to sprain or strain their muscles and ligaments; women were more likely to experience fractures.

According to the statistics, a minority of weight lifting accidents were caused by overambitious exercisers attempting to lift more than they can handle. Most were caused by simple carelessness, such as dropping a weight on one's foot.

Less than two percent of the accidents reported necessitated a hospital visit and even fewer were fatal.

Safety Tips

When you're lifting weights, remember the following safety tips:

  • Warm up. Don't start lifting weights with cold muscles. Before you begin lifting, do some light cardio and some stretching.
  • Use a spotter. If possible, lift weights with a spotter present.
  • Don't overload. Learn your body's limits and don't exceed them. Work your way up to heavier weights and never increase the weight you're lifting by more than 10 percent of the previous weight.
  • Keep breathing. Never hold your breath while lifting weights, as it can cause you to become dizzy and pass out.
  • Use proper form. You should never extend your arms or legs to the point that they become locked while lifting weights, as this can put your joints under tremendous stress. Keep your knees and elbows bent at all times.

Seeking Treatment

Should an accident occur and you become injured while lifting weights, try to remain calm. Sprains and strains can be very painful, but they are very rarely life-threatening and often require no medical treatment beyond ice and rest. In the event of an emergency, call 911. Do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital if you are seriously hurt. Instead, get a family member or friend to drive you or call a taxi or ambulance.

Family physicians are well-equipped to diagnose and treat most sports injuries. If you belong to an HMO or PPO, such as Kaiser Permanente, CIGNA, Aetna or Blue Cross, your primary care physician should be the first person you see following a sports injury (except in the case of emergencies). He or she can refer you to a specialist if it is required. If your injury requires surgery and your health insurance permits self-referral, you may elect to speak with an orthopedic surgeon first.

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