Monday, September 6, 2010

"Easy on the Joints" - Really?

On Aug. 31 the Wall Street Journal printed an article entitled, "Tough New Workout Gear That Goes Easy on the Joints," so I read it with interest because joint injuries are so common. The article started with a photo and description of the TRX Suspension Trainer, which I've used before and would hardly call "easy" on the joints! It's actually very easy to injure your joints if used incorrectly.

So what did the article mean by "easy on the joints"? I had to keep reading to find the answer. Actually, the author was referring to low-impact equipment, stating that Baby Boomers who have had years of high-impact aerobics classes, running, etc. may now need to participate in low-impact exercise.

The article also emphasized mostly equipment that is space-saving and inexpensive, which is a trend these days. I wish the article focused more on these aspects of the equipment, rather than on being supposedly easy on the joints, because the space and cost savings of this equipment was more significant that the ease of joint use.

In fact, almost all the equipment described can easily damage the joints if you just pick it up and start using it! Sure, they are low-impact, but if you tweak your shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee or ankle the wrong way in the process, you could have a long recovery period. There's a brief mention of risk of injury with bad form, but I believe it should have been stressed, with each piece of equipment, that instruction on proper use is vital, rather than repeating that each piece of equipment is easy on the joints.

Along with the TRX, the articles describes:

Valslide: I've used gliding disks before. They are a lot of fun and allow you to do a lot of circular exercises that you can't do otherwise. But you need to know how to use them in order not to injure yourself.

SelectTech Dumbbell: I own a pair of select-a-weight dumbbells. They are a great space-saver, by combining all the weights into two handles. If you are just starting out, you need instruction on correct form to prevent injury.

Kettlebell: I've seen these used before. They are "old-school" equipment that has returned to fashion. Like gliding disks, you can do a lot of exercises  that you can't do otherwise, using both momentum and strength, but you can hurt yourself if they aren't used properly.

P90X: I know of people who love these workout DVD's. My feeling is that any exercise program that you actually follow for 90 days will give you great results.

Elliptigo: I'd never heard of this outdoor elliptical bike. It looks interesting and would definitely get you looks on the street, but why not just ride a bike? A bike's cheaper.

Perfect Sit-Up: Here is yet another piece of sit-up equipment. It's amazing that they all sell! Certainly no one needs to pay $100 do to sit-ups!

Personally, I prefer the less is more philosophy of exercise, using body weight, a bench or chair, and resistance tubing. I do have a few other pieces of equipment, but I don't use them regularly. It's fun to try out new equipment, but once the new-ness has worn off, it mostly just gets dusty.

Save your joints by using all equipment properly, getting instruction from a Personal Trainer if necessary.

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