Health & Fitness: Three tips to stay healthy in the gym |

Health & Fitness: Three tips to stay healthy in the gym

Lifting weights is good for your bones. According to a report by the Office of the Surgeon General, roughly four in 10 women age 50 or older in America will experience a hip, spine or wrist fracture. While peak bone mass in acquired by most before age 29, weight-bearing activities are important to slow the decline of bone mass that appears to happen as we age. Wolff’s law developed by the German anatomist and surgeon Julius Wolff states that bone in a healthy person will adapt to the loads placed under it; just like muscles can get bigger, bones get stronger under stress.

Depending on the individual, anything from heavy barbell squats to simply squatting from a chair will be enough to encourage bone growth in younger individuals and help prevent the decline of bone mass in older individuals. Lifting weights increase bone mass, but it also increases bone mineral density, or the quality on minerals deposited in the bone. Calcium and Vitamin D are also critical to maintain bone health.

Add variety in your exercise program. When the same physical activities are performed day in and day out, there is the risk of injury from overuse and repetitive motion. Just like a car, over time the parts being to wear out. Although, the body requires movement; “motion is lotion” is synonymous with grease on a car. Synovial fluid (the grease) is needed to reduce friction and allow the joints to function properly.

It is important to maintain full range of motion and the best way to do that is to simply keep moving in different directions. This keeps the body lubricated and by altering movement patterns it avoids overuse injuries.

Avoid consistent use of back braces while lifting. One reason people wear back braces while lifting is the belief it will reduce the likelihood of injury. It appears that, for healthy workers, wearing braces may not reduce injury, but instead increase the risk of injury. A study by Kraus and colleagues surveyed nearly 36,000 Home Depot employees over a five-year span, during which a mandatory back brace policy was enforced. There was a 27 percent increase in lower back injury for those workers employed longer than four years. The consistent use actually increased the chance of workers sustaining injuries.

One reason people may get injured while wearing a back brace is a false sense of security. Instead of focusing on proper form and requiring a certain degree of strength, the belt can act as a Band-Aid and cover-up a weakness. However over time, like the Home Depot study demonstrated, that weakness can turn into injury overtime.

The same idea relates to the gym and is why proper form and total body strength is so important and one reason why belts for most people shouldn’t be considered a long-term solution. Although for some the brace may be necessary, like those with past injury, strength or post rehab issues; for most healthy people the goal should be to strengthen the core.

Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach who trains at Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. Crouse specializes in performance enhancement and injury prevention. Visit for more information.

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