Chris J. Dunn, MS, RCEP
Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist
|Chris J. Dunn
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Signs & Symptoms of Overexertion
If the following symptoms occur, contact a physician before continuing exercise. Although any symptom should be clarified, these are particularly important:
Discomfort in the upper body including the chest, arm, neck, or jaw, during exercise. The discomfort may be of any intensity and may be present as an aching, burning, tightness, or sensation of fullness.
Faintness accompanying the exercise. Sometimes brief light-headedness may follow unusually vigorous exercise or a limited cool-down period. This condition does not usually indicate heart disease and may be managed by exercising at a lower intensity with a gradual cool-down at the end of the session. If a "fainting spell" or feeling of faintness occurs during exercise, discontinue the activity until after evaluation by a physician.
Discomfort in bones and joints either during or after exercise. There may be slight muscle soreness when beginning exercise, but if back or joint pain develops, discontinue exercise until after evaluation by a physician.
Sick Day Guidelines
Exercise only when feeling well.
Wait until symptoms and signs of a cold or the flu (including fever) have been absent 2 days or more before resuming activity
Exercise & Meals
Do not exercise vigorously soon after eating. Wait at least 2 hours. Eating increases the blood flow requirements of the intestinal tract. During vigorous exercise, the demand of the muscles for blood may exceed the ability of the circulation to supply both the bowel and the muscles, depriving organs of blood, resulting in cramps, nausea, or faintness.
Adjust exercise to the weather. Exercise should be adjusted to environmental conditions. Special precautions are necessary when exercising in hot weather. It is difficult to define when it is too hot to exercise since air temperature is greatly influenced by humidity and air movement (wind), which are not easy to measure. The following guidelines are recommended for a noncompetitive workout: if air temperature is over 70°F, slow the pace, be alert for signs of heat injury, and drink adequate fluids to maintain hydration. A good rule to follow is to exercise at the usual workout pace, which may be a slower pace or lower work intensity because of environmental conditions.
Acclimatization to moderate levels of heat is gradual, requiring 12 to 14 days. Accommodation to extreme heat never occurs. Signs of heat injury may be varied at the onset; hence, any symptom should be regarded as evidence of heat overload. The following indications of heat stress are particularly likely to occur: headache, dizziness, faintness, nausea, coolness, cramps, and palpitations. If any of these symptoms are present, stop exercising immediately and go to a cooler environment. If the air temperature is over 80°F, exercise in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat. Air-conditioned shopping malls are popular for walking. Exercise is tolerated better if humidity is low and a breeze is present. Exercise in the heat causes excessive fluid loss, so adequate fluid intake is important before, during, and after each session.
Warm up. Aerobic exercise should always be started with a proper warm-up. Begin the exercise session with five minutes of very slow movement and then gradually increase the intensity to the desired level.
Cool down. Following a higher intensity bout of aerobic exercise slow down and continue to move for 5 additional minutes to allow heart rate and blood pressure to gradually diminish.
Slow down for hills. Watch for hills. When ascending hills, decrease speed to avoid overexertion. Again, a useful guide is to maintain the same rating of perceived exertion as in a usual workout.
Wear proper clothing and shoes. Dress in loose-fitting, comfortable clothes made of porous material appropriate for the weather. Use sweat suits only for warmth. Never use exercise clothing made of rubberized, nonporous material. In direct sunlight, wear light-colored clothing and a cap. Wear shoes designed for exercise (e.g., walking or jogging shoes).
Understand personal limitations. Everyone should have periodic medical examinations. When under a physician's care, ask if there are limitations.
Select appropriate exercises. Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercises should be a major component of activities. However, flexibility and strengthening exercises should also be considered for a well-rounded program.
Watch for the following signs of over exercising:
Inability to finish. Training sessions should be completed with reserve.
Inability to converse during the activity. Breathing normally increases during exercise but should not be uncomfortable. When a conversation cannot be conducted during exercise because of difficulty breathing, the conditioning activity is too intense.
Faintness or nausea after exercise. A feeling of faintness after exercise may occur if the activity is too intense or has been stopped too abruptly. In any event, decrease the intensity of the workout and prolong the cool down period.
Chronic fatigue. During the remainder of the day or evening after exercise, an individual should feel stimulated, not tired. If fatigue persists during the day, intensity and/or duration of the workout should be decreased.
Sleeplessness. If unable to sleep well despite feelings of fatigue, the amount of activity should be decreased until symptoms subside. Insomnia is particularly likely during distance training. A proper training program should make it easier, not more difficult, to have a good night's rest.
Aches and pains in the joints. Although there may be some muscle discomfort, joints should not hurt or feel stiff. Check exercise procedures, particularly stretching and warm-up exercises, to ensure that you are using the correct technique.
Muscle cramping and back discomfort, may also indicate poor technique. If symptoms persist, check with a physician before continuing.
Start slowly and progress gradually. Allow time to adapt.
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