Injury Prevention Through Exercise
Written by Ben Chapman
Most people would agree (unless you have been living under a rock for the majority of your adult life), that if you do some exercise a few times a week, you will maintain a strong and healthy body. This means less illness, potentially a longer lifespan, and boosted self-esteem; all very worthy reasons to move more often. However, what is not as often showcased by those glamourous images on social media is the benefits of exercise for injury prevention.
Who wants to slug it out working for 40 or 50 years (or more!) to then spend what is supposed to be the best years of your life unable to enjoy them? Unable to travel or go for a fish because your back is buggered from sitting at a desk for 20 years and eating takeaway because it was easier? Or that trek through the Bungle Bungles you dreamed of is out of the question because your years of squatting and kneeling and bending over as a tradie and knocking off 10 beers every arvo has resulted in two knee reconstructions and a belly too big to tie your own shoelaces?
Sure, trades and office-based jobs are a reality for many people, but combine your working life with moderate amounts of exercise and healthy eating and you’ll be laughing all the way to that Kokoda trail hike you have always dreamt of, or making it to Everest base camp if you’re that way inclined.
In a role as a safety and training manager for an underground mining contractor, one of my main roles is coordinating the injury management process for employees involved in workplace accidents. Through the numerous cases I have been involved in over the years in this industry, the results are clear - those that are physically fit sustain more minor injuries and return to work quicker than those that are already struggling with their health and fitness. Some may never return to their previous jobs, as recovery and associated exercise-based rehabilitation programs are too much to fathom.
I’ve seen blokes blow out their MCL, ACL and meniscus from stepping into a hole, then never return to work as their weight and overall health also took a stumble during the six-month recovery period. The roll-on effect from this cannot only be measured in dollars and cents, but in the things that they will never be able to accomplish through physical movement.
I am definitely not one of those experts (or pretend to be experts) who blog about what you should do, and when, but I can tell you this from personal experience – after injuring my back significantly in a workplace accident when I was 18, the only way I have been able to play sport, enjoy the outdoors and play with my kids is by staying consistently active and eating smart. Sure, I have my fair share of beers after work and enjoy the odd drop of claret with my wife, but everything in moderation. With this awareness backed up with a basic fitness regime, I have remained (for the most part), injury-free. If I do experience a flare-up, my knowledge and practice of maintaining a decent level of fitness enables me to overcome these niggles quickly, and get on with the things I enjoy, like yelling at kids and throwing balls at my dogs.
And seriously, at 39, I don’t want to spend two hours a day in the gym sculpting the perfect body with rippled abdominals that you could grate cheese on (although the Mrs might appreciate it), but I do want to be able to go for a run or practice sports with my kids. I do want to climb over rocks to my favourite fishing spots, swim a leg of the Busselton Jetty Swim, lift some heavy things occasionally and swing off bars like a monkey. To achieve this, my philosophy has always been to do what I can, when I can and prevent injury into my older years.
Just twenty minutes in the gym two or three times a week is better than sitting at the pub downing four Exports. A walk around the block with the dogs, kicking the footy at the park with the kids, or mowing the lawn with a weights vest on are easy examples of how you can incorporate exercise into each day and build from there. Ok, maybe not the weight vest thing, but I do try to get the most out of household chores, and mates call me a nutcase.
When I hurt my back at 18, I didn’t know what the inside of a gym looked like and I was already convinced I was indestructible, but the years after this proved to me that if I wanted to be able to do what I wanted, I was going to have to make some changes. That goes for all of us; nothing is easy in this life and if you want to enjoy the things you work so hard for, doesn’t it make a bit of sense to take time to ensure your body is in check?
Google away and you will find a range of solutions regardless of where you are in your fitness. Start off small, try some bodyweight exercise you can do in the comfort of your home, and walk whenever you can.
Eat well, drink water, but most of all have fun accomplishing goals and seeing the difference little changes make to the big picture. Not all of us are going to run a marathon or compete at the Olympics, only a small percentage of us will ever be elite athletes, but that’s not the big picture here.Be healthy and active for you, and those squeaky knees will sounds better, your back won’t ache every time you stand up, and you’ll be able to get the mail from the letter box without stopping three times to catch your breath when those birthdays keep adding up.