– EN Fitness & Wellbeing – Fitness fanatics who take part in high-intensity interval training are potentially putting themselves at significant risk of injury, according to a new study.
Increasingly tough workouts combining aerobic exercise, weight lifting and callisthenics, completed at maximum capacity, followed by periods of rest and recovery, have been growing in popularity over the past decade as they help us reach fitness goals quicker than lighter training.
However, researchers from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School have warned that such workouts pose an increase injury risk, as many of those taking part lack the athletic capacity to push themselves to the limit safely.
“These workouts are marketed as ‘one size fits all.’ However, many athletes, especially amateurs, do not have the flexibility, mobility, core strength and muscles to perform these exercises,” said Joseph Ippolito, a physician in the department of orthopaedics at the school says.
His team analysed records from America’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System dating from 2007 to 2016, and found nearly 4 million injuries resulting from equipment common to high-intensity programmes, like barbells and kettle bells, or from exercises like burpees and lunges.
Most injuries involved knees, ankles and shoulders, while white males aged 20 to 39 were most at risk of pushing themselves too far and suffering an injury.
The researchers found a steady increase of an average of 50,944 of these injuries per year over the period, which corresponded with a growth in interest in high-intensity training, as determined by the number of Google searches for similar programmes.
They also found a significant rise in nerve damage, internal organ injuries, concussions, puncture wounds, dislocations and strains and sprains during the period.
The study, which is published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, acknowledged that high-intensity interval training is an effective way to boost cardiorespiratory fitness, build muscle mass and lose weight quickly, but warned those not in shape not to push too hard.
“We certainly do not want to discourage people from this type of exercise because of its numerous health benefits, but recommend that they understand the pre-existing conditions and physical weaknesses that may predispose them to injury,” Rutgers student and co-author Nicole D. Rynecki, adds.
She advises individuals undertake these exercises with supervision and to build strength with lighter exercise before going all out in interval training.
“Exercises such as stretches that can increase range of motion and strengthen rotator cuff muscles are important, especially for older people and those who are predisposed to rotator cuff tears,” Rynecki explains.