The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Why So Many Aerobics Injuries?

A recent New York Times article quotes aerobics teachers and devotees saying they now have painful, chronic injuries from years of aerobics classes. Why did this happen?

I receive frequent e-mails from aerobics instructors, many only in their 20s and 30s, saying they are too old to continue teaching because of pain and injuries from teaching. I am older than their parents. At the schools and clubs where I teach classes, teachers and trainers are often absent, or replaced, because of herniated discs.

The Times article quotes major aerobics spokespeople, attributing the injuries to jumping on "concrete floors in bad tennis shoes," and related how former well-known-names in the aerobics industry now teach low impact classes. The article continued, "A lot of people doing aerobics back then can no longer do any jumping whatsoever. They have problems with their backs, feet and hips."

Conventional "impact activities" are not the problem.

  • In the years I spent in the lab studying injuries, seeing patients, and teaching students, I have found that the problem is not that impact must be avoided. I see patients who are instructors of Pilates, stretch, yoga, rowing, martial arts, and Alexander technique for degenerating joints. It is simple misuse.
  • It is not that people are doing the exercises "wrong" but the movements themselves.
  • If you saw someone bend over at the waist or hips to hoist a suitcase or child, you know it is bad bending and it hurts the back. The same people will bend over the same way to lift weights in a gym or do yoga stretches. It is the same disc-injuring bending in all cases.
  • The post Common Exercises Teach Bad Bending gives interesting examples from a class that is "low-impact." Wear occurs on the lower back and neck discs regardless of how expensive and engineered the aerobics shoes.
  • The post Are You Making Your Exercise Unhealthy? shows you how to put the knowledge of bad positioning together in your mind with how people are exercising, to realize it is not rocket science when people have pain, even though they "do their exercises."

You can run, jump, walk without jarring impact

  • Many people walk with higher impact than a good martial artist will kickbox.
  • Many people are unnecessarily restricted from favorite sports and told to walk instead, based on the fallacy that running or tennis is necessarily higher impact, instead of looking at how heavily they clomp around letting spine, hips, knees, and ankles sag and grind.
  • One story with helpful links is told in You Can Fix Your Own Knees.
  • Another is Walking Softly Benefits Olympic Wrestler

What about body weight?

  • Many of my obese patients with knee pain stand and walk with their knees in sagging positions. This is not a consequence of their body weight.
  • When I show them to simply hold their knee from knocking inward (or outward) by using their own muscles to hold straight, the pain quickly goes away. They say that they can then, for the first time, *do* any real exercise to lose weight.
  • Lightweight people can have the same knee and other pain. They may move heavily without good shock absorption or hold joints in angled painful ways.

The post When Did Health Become Thinking Out of The Box? explains more of why you don't have to have pain from exercising or even long sitting while studying (or watching TV). I don't take people away from their favorite activities when injured. I even use their sport as rehab, showing them how to do it in healthier ways so that they can do more, lift more, and run more than before, not less. Health care should not be "Limit to the patient to limit the pain."

Read Inspiring Patient Stories on my web site - how patients fixed their own pain and could do more than before.

Read success stories of these methods and contribute your own. Before asking questions, see if your answers are already here - click labels under posts, links in posts, archives at right, and the Fitness Fixer Index. For personal medical questions - Replies to Medical Questions.
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.