Take a dead lift for example. It's not a bad exercise that should be banned for everyone, but would be considered risky for an exerciser who has back issues, tight hamstrings and/or poor technique. Rather than deem it an unsafe exercise, identify it as risky for certain exercisers.
With your concern about knee pain, it is wise for you to identify the activities that cause inflammation and discomfort. This way you could avoid these movements and consider them risky for you. Keep in mind, however, it is often poor technique that instigates pain and, in fact, if performed correctly, would not cause problems at all. This is where fitness professionals can be quite valuable by evaluating form and execution and suggesting corrective tips.
If there is pain during movement, the first step is to consult a medical professional to identify the cause of your knee pain. The most common reason for knee pain is osteoarthritis, which indicates joint degeneration. But there could be other causes such as bursitis, or injury to tendons and ligaments. Developing your list of risky exercises would be based on the following: a history of prior injury; current condition of your knees; movement that predictably results in knee pain; intensity and length of this exercise; frequency of exercise.
For instance, let's say you experience knee pain when performing step exercise, but now we'll look closer. You might have been exercising in a daily class on an 8-inch step; stepping to a music beat of 130 beats per minute for 60 minutes. Change the formula and you may change your results. Perhaps you could have avoided knee pain if you had exercised every other day on a 4-inch step at 124 beats per minute for 45 minutes.
Intensity and frequency are important considerations when formulating your activity plan. Limitations oftentimes require us to lower intensity and vary movements in order to decrease the incidence of joint pain.
As a general rule, knee pain is exacerbated by higher impact movements that are repetitive. Conditioning your body -- improving muscular strength and cardiovascular efficiency -- can be accomplished in a number of ways. Swimming, Pilates and yoga are safe and effective class alternatives and cardio machines such as recumbent bikes, stair steppers, rowers and ellipticals are have less impact on the joints. Many people who perform the same or similar activities day in and day out increase the likelihood of injury. Cross-training -- mixing up your activity choices -- is a much safer and healthier plan to follow.
If you are interested in strength training, and I hope you are, I recommend you consult a fitness professional regarding appropriate movement based on your health history to strengthen the muscles around your knees. They can also suggest appropriate flexibility exercises to promote muscle recovery and healthy joints.
Listen to your body and understand that persistent pain signals a need to eliminate or to adjust movement, intensity and/or frequency. Allow your muscles and joints to acclimate to your new activities by introducing movement and intensity gradually and progressively. When exercise is approached in this manner, you will create a personal activity plan that includes movement that is appropriate for you and takes the scary out of exercise.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified coordinator/instructor since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail cindys...@aol.com. Look for her award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World" on her website, www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.