62,700. That was the number of people injured on exercise equipment, reported in a 2014 study by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The internet is littered with videos of treadmill mishaps. Some are less likely to get a laugh than others. Most of them are a result of not observing best (or even safe) practices. That being said, there are some notable cases where the machine or piece of equipment has failed.
|Read the story of an exerciser that stepped onto a moving treadmill and her aftermath|
According to the same study, treadmills alone were responsible for some 24,400 of those injuries. In fact, they were responsible for 30 fatalities between 2002-13.
So what things are most likely to cause injury? Other than incorrect use by the end user, there are a few equipment malfunctions that are more likely to cause injury:
- Treadmill (misaligned or improperly tightened belts)
- treadmill safety keys (missing or removed)
- bike pedal straps (missing or damaged)
- weight lifting machine cables (worn, frayed or otherwise damaged)
- resistance bands (slightly torn or worn out)
- stability balls (improperly inflated or excessively worn)
- weight racks (broken, worn or incorrectly assembled)
- Other exercisers (not observing proper equipment use and storage etiquette)
Even the most seasoned exerciser can suffer a mishap. Zigging instead of zagging, twisting instead of turning. It really doesn’t take much for someone working out to suffer an injury. One lapse in concentration or a distraction can mean the difference between a safe workout and a trip to the emergency room.
Of all the factors that can lead to exercise equipment injuries, the leading distractions are:
- Cell phones
- Improperly stored equipment
- Other exercisers
Being aware of these potential distractions and the potential for injury they pose, you can better focus on exercising. Additionally, you can take steps before you head to the gym, as well as while you are there, to diminish the chances of injury.
Check Up, Then Check In
It’s always advisable to speak to your physician before beginning a new exercise program. Knowing what your body is capable of will help to mitigate the potential for exercise-related injury. There may be something that you weren’t aware of in your physiology. Your physician can steer you toward the best types of exercise for your overall state of health.
Know Your Own Exercising Capabilities
There is nothing wrong with using less weight or ratcheting the speed on the treadmill down. It is less impressive to go too hard and fail than be a little below what you assume people think you should be at. And even less impressive when you are getting treated for an injury after a failed workout. Once you know what you can get away with, you can start to increase the weight or exertion levels.
Ask a trainer. Or a staff member. They aren’t just there to fill out their facilities’ t-shirts. They know about the fitness equipment on the floor—its strengths, pitfalls and most importantly, how to use it to its greatest effect.
We have stressed many times (and not because we are personal trainers) that getting a professional to help you—even if it is only for a few months—is one of the best exercising gifts you can get for yourself. It may cost you a little more to get the lay of the land, but it’ll cost you less than being laid out as a result of an exercising mishap.
Find out what you should be doing, and how best to do it. Get to know the equipment the proper way, and the difference about what is improper, (potentially) dangerous use.
Respecting the Machine
Never assume that one piece of equipment is the same as another. Manufacturers may observe similar guidelines when creating their equipment, but they aren’t identical. Functionality can be different, as can how the features work. Do a little investigating beforehand to see what the machine offers. Ask an employee or take a second or two to familiarize yourself with the setup and the controls. It’s a productive couple of minutes that can save you from embarrassment and/or injury.
Respecting the Machine
If something feels off, get off—immediately. Step away from the machine or fitness equipment you are using and report it to the powers-that-be. Your vigilance could save you, and someone else, pain and suffering.
If you are feeling some form of fatigue or muscle tiredness from too much exercise (or the same type of exercise) there is an increased likelihood of injury. Changing your routine or working different muscle groups can help to lessen the chances of a muscle pull, or other types of continual use injuries.
Incorrect activewear and footwear are quite often listed as main causes of exercise injuries. Ill-fitting footwear with poor support can lead to ankle injuries, blisters, shin splints, and painful insteps and heels.
Similarly, clothing needs to be both functional and comfortable. Compression gear can be good for circulation as well as temperature regulation. Clothing should fit but still allow for full range of motion. Equally, if it is too tight, it can lead to chafing.
Even the best equipment can periodically malfunction. Reputable and respectable fitness facilities will routinely have their equipment inspected and updated as part of the leasing or purchasing agreement. These inspections and services are all cataloged by the facility operators.
In fact, to be able to stay ahead of any issues on leased equipment, a fitness facility should check its equipment weekly. Companies that lease their equipment will have routine services built in, but it is still good for operators to catalog any issues as well as have a paper trail should anything go wrong.
Even free weights can break down and in doing so be a potential health hazard. Before you pick up (or put down) a free weight, make sure that you are familiar with the weights themselves as well as how to use them.
Some good practices to consider with weight training are that:
- all plates are properly secured
- if there are any plate locking mechanisms, they are tight and not worn out
- there is no wear and tear on the weight racks
- all weights are put back after use
- if you are using stack plates, the pin is inserted correctly and in good working order
- a spotter is always a good idea for lifting
Remember to stay vigilant and focused when working out. As user-friendly as modern exercise equipment is, there is still the opportunity for injury while using it. The more focused you are on your time in the gym, the more likely you are to avoid injury and see bigger returns.