Aren’t we all guilty of overdoing it, the first time we try a new job, sport, or game?  My granddaughter introduced me to the Wii a couple of years ago, and tennis was her choice of sport.  I was thrashing and slashing all over the room, when I noticed she was simply flicking her wrist and beating the socks off me!  We all want to try “extra hard” when learning a new sport or physical type of job.  That’s when the muscles show us that we aren’t in as good shape as we thought! 

This is the second week of National Safety Week, when the National Safety Council asks us to emphasize the importance of preventing overexertion.  According to Injury Facts, 2011 Edition, overexertion is the third leading cause of unintentional injury treated in emergency departments in the United States.  Approximately 3.3 million emergency department visits occur yearly because of injury from overexertion.  Usually it is associated with lifting, pushing, lowering, pulling, or carrying.  

We overexert ourselves in many ways, either at our jobs or physical training.   Close observation helps eliminate the possibility of serious effects of overstressing the muscles.  The load should be reduced and recovery pursued.  Symptoms of overtraining (and overexertion) may be:

  • Disturbances in movement;
  • Disturbances in rhythm and flow;
  • Lack of concentration;
  • Soreness in muscles, joints. 
  • Fatigue.

Here are some suggestions to prevent overexertion:

  • Stretch or warm up before lifting objects or strenuous activity;
  • Lift with legs bent and hold object close to body.
  • Avoid bending, reaching and twisting when lifting. 
  • Approach an object straight on;
  • Ask a friend for help when lifting.
  • Pace yourself when pursuing any activity.
  • Take breaks.
  • Stop if you can’t handle the load. 

Overexertion can lead to cardiac arrest when working or doing outdoor work during hot, humid days, or shoveling snow in the winter.  If our bodies are unaccustomed to these duties, we must gradually get in physical shape before taking them on.  When tendons, ligaments, and muscles work harder than they are meant to, sprains, strains, or other damage happens.  Usually the back is the most common area of injury.  Age has a lot to do with our strength, as well.  One should never try to lift an item that is too heavy, as he/she  may be able to do it now, but could have complications from it later on. 

Wellness centers have personnel who can help you get into shape and feel better, ready to tackle the world!  Workplace wellness programs offer incentives to employees by helping them with ergonomics, fitness, and nutrition.  Companies that offer these types of benefits may find less missed work time by their employees. 

To not be counted among the statistics of emergency room visits due to overexertion, “take it easy!”  Pace yourself, whether at work or play.