Between the surgeon general recommendations for exercise to improve overall health risks, general benefits of weight loss and energy levels, and the positive impact on resiliency of tissues from bone to tendon, exercise is seen by many in the healthcare profession as a go to response to a variety of conditions from cardiovascular to musculoskeletal. But can there be too much of a good thing?
easing back in
The plethora of research leans to “yes”. Stress fractures, tendon injuries, muscle strains, and a variety of inflammatory conditions like plantar fasciitis and IT Band Syndrome can often be linked to increasing loads or frequencies faster than the body is able to adapt. This is not to say that exercise is bad in any way. All of the above sources touting its benefits are absolutely correct! However, it is important to ease into exercise at a progressive rate.
In general, even people with significant past exercise experience who have taken more than a month or two off of exercise begin with a significant reduction in days per week of activity. They also have a significant reduction in load to avoid these injuries. The end goal of many programs is from 3 to 6 days per week. But only some individuals may be able to jump into a program like that. We encourage most exercisers to start back at 2 days per week. As time progresses, they should slowly add exercises in depending on body response.
This may defy some more traditional programs like classic marathon prep programs. But given the high rates of injury among this tradition, it may be wise to look to current research and adapt our introductory exercise routines. Yes, even for those who initially feel able to follow these routines. It is important for all coaches and trainers to be very vigilant regarding new pains. Also, be willing to back down intensity or frequency, building back up slowly.
As always, modify to your own symptom response and be mindful of what your body is telling you!