Many exercises require repetitive movements, such as lifting weights, running and swimming. Every day activities, such as walking and climbing stairs, move your joints and muscles in the same way many times. Repetitive motion exercises can result in injury to your joints. Getting regular exercise is essential, but you need to take some precautions to avoid repetitive use injuries and reduce the wear and tear on your joints.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Repetitive motion injuries can be painful and interfere with your normal daily activities. Two common types of injuries caused by repetitive motion exercise are tendinitis and bursitis. It is not unusual to develop both tendinitis and bursitis simultaneously. Tendinitis is inflammation of the connective tissue that attaches your muscles to your bones. This tissue, responding to muscle contractions, pulls your bones to move your joints. Bursae are small sacs found in your joints that lubricate the bone. Repetitive exercise can cause these sacs to become inflamed. You can develop a repetitive motion injury in any joint that you use frequently and move in the same manner. Tennis elbow, swimmer's shoulder and runner's knee are repetitive use injuries.
Swimming offers a challenging aerobic workout, as well as improvements to your cardiovascular health and muscle tone all over your body. Swimming is also low-impact, which means your joints are not subjected to the stress of pounding your bodyweight against the ground, as in running or jogging. While swimming is low-impact, it is not without hazards to your joints. Repetitive movement of your arms and legs to propel and pull your body through the water can result in repetitive use injuries. The shoulders are especially susceptible to repetitive use injuries. Your rotator cuff is stressed when you lift your arm for each stroke. A swimmer who trains every day is at risk for repetitive motion injuries to the knees, back and hips as well. You can avoid repetitive use injuries from swimming by always using proper form, strengthening your core muscles and allowing your muscles to recover between workouts.
Running and Walking
Walking, jogging and running are easy ways to get in a hardcore aerobic workout, but these repetitive motion exercises can be difficult on your joints. Your foot and your knee carry about 45 percent of your bodyweight. Running puts a great deal of stress on your entire leg, especially your ankle and knee joints. You can prevent repetitive use injuries from running and walking by wearing a well-fitting pair of running shoes and using correct posture and form when exercising. Check your running form to make sure your joints are in proper alignment when you move. Misaligned joints take a beating from repetitive exercise, which can lead to inflammation and pain.
Resistance exercises, such as weight lifting, puts stress on your joints not only by increased pressure on your muscles and joints, but also by repetitive up and down motion. For example, you perform a biceps curl by lifting a weight up and back toward your upper arm and then lowering the weight back to the start position. This repetitive motion places stress on your elbow and wrist. One way to reduce the risk of injury from repetitive exercise is to properly warm up your muscles and joints prior to your workout. Use proper lifting technique to reduce wear and tear on your joints. Stretching before and after your workout increases blood flow, which can also help to reduce the risk of inflammation from repetitive injury.
Avoid working the same muscles and joints on consecutive days to help reduce your risk of developing repetitive use injuries. If you don't want to skip a day of exercise, consider cross training. Cross training can help you become more fit and improve your athletic performance. Runners, for example, can cross train by swimming two times each week. Swimmers can cross train by exercising on a treadmill or jogging twice each week to give their shoulder joints some much-needed rest. If you're a weight lifter, don't work the same muscles and joints on consecutive days and take one or two days each week to do some aerobic exercise, such as walking or swimming, to improve your cardiovascular health while your joints take a rest.