Maintaining Good Health and Safety Practices for Aerobic Instructors
By John Hart
Ensuring the well being of Fitness instructors taking classes is essential for both the Fitness centre and also the instructor.
From the centres point of view tired injured instructors affects the bottom line and can cause disruption to classes and clients alike. Also from a duty of care point of view centres have the responsibility to protect their most precious asset, their staff.
The approach is one of common sense where by simple strategies established early sets the stage for less chance of injury and lost time by staff.
The following will examine types of injuries most likely to occur and how to prevent these occurring. In many cases instructors quite innocently volunteer to do more classes than is desirable.
Aerobics and fitness classes involve the movement of large muscle groups in continuous rhythmic activity to music. Today there are more than 2 dozen aerobic movement hybrids. New ones appear nearly weekly with the addition of medicine balls, Swiss balls, commando schools, boot camp and the like, many of which are simply adaptations of old exercise regimes. These are either extensions or combinations of high and low impact.
Aerobics is associated with a significant number of sports injuries. Injuries generally fall into two groups:
• Injuries – these occur as a result of a fall, twist or similar accident and most often involve the ankle, elbows, shoulder and or knee hinge and synovial joints.
• Overuse injuries – these usually develop gradually, often as a result of a change in the amount or intensity of aerobic activity, or due to a training error. Shin pain is the most common overuse injury, while foot and knee overuse injuries are also common.
• Back injuries may also be caused, or aggravated by, aerobic exercise.
Other types of injuries that occur are:
People who exercise sporadically can only imagine the gruelling schedules that aerobics instructors face during a typical week at work. Although enthusiasts love the camaraderie of group aerobics, and instructors love the adrenaline thrill of leading high-energy classes, however many instructors today also risk the following no so well known injuries:
• repetitive stress and overuse injuries,
• job burnout,
• eating disorders,
• Hearing loss.
• Sleep disturbances
• And if left untreated, mild depression
Some latest research (still to be proven to have any real validity but thought I would include this one for those who are interested) NB: added at the end of this article.
Aerobics – preventing injury
First and foremost:
Be smart about how you conduct a class, the following tips may help:
• You don’t have to always fully participate in every class, use the time to correct the technique of the participants
• Move amongst the group offering advice and correcting incorrect movements.
• When demonstrating exercise at deferring levels of ability IE> level 1, 2, and 3 always ensure you only complete level 1.
• Use your time to encourage others
• If running is involved ensure that you become a time keeper rather than a participant
• Remember that normal rest periods also apply to you…..treat your schedule as you would for a customer by not over training and allowing for rest periods…. IE if completing a weight circuit ensure that you have not done this yourself without at least a day rest in between
• Ensure you are not working the same muscle groups in the same day
• Do not complete an anaerobic activity on the same day as an aerobic routine if you wish to participate in the class yourself
• Always feed yourself straight after a class with both a quick recovery drink (orange juice or a high glycaemic drink) and ingest some small amounts of both protein and carbohydrate (low glycaemic food)
• Protect your hearing by keeping volumes bearable
• Protect your voice by wearing the radio mike in all sessions
To prevent injury you should:
• Be prepared
• Use good technique and practices
• Wear the right gear
• Check the environment
• Know yourself and the sport.
• Warm up, stretch and cool down.
• Consult your doctor for a heart and lung assessment before starting an aerobics program if you are aged over 40.
• Have a musculoskeletal assessment performed by a sports medicine professional before commencing aerobic instructing if you have suffered an injury in the past.
• Start your class at a moderate pace, to allow you to warm up adequately as well as the participants.
• Stay really well hydrated both before, during and after the class
Use good technique and practices
Good technique and practices can help prevent injuries. Suggestions include:
• Use the good technique and also emphasise this with the participants
• Start all aerobics sessions with a gentle warm-up
• All very large beginners’ classes should have a second instructor available to move among the group and correct any faults. This is also important when learning new techniques.
• Seek advice from professional about how to improve or correct your own technique if you have injuries that may be related to poor techniques.
Wear the right gear
Make sure you:
• Wear footwear specifically designed for aerobics. Good fit, stability, secure lacing and good forefoot cushioning are important features of an aerobics shoe.
• Choose clothing that fits well
• Woman should consider a sports bra to improve comfort. Individual fit is very important.
Check the environment
Choosing an appropriate venue is important. It’s a good idea to:
• Make sure aerobics areas are well lit.
• Check that the temperature in the aerobics area is maintained at a moderate level, with good ventilation.
• Use facilities with a floor suited to aerobics. Sprung floors or padded carpet over concrete are best.
• Check that all implements and equipment used in classes are maintained in good working condition.
• Make sure cool, fresh water is readily available.
• Check that the music is clear and at a comfortable volume.
Know yourself and the activity well
• Choose to instruct in activities that are suited to your own fitness level.
• Know and use the right techniques for yourself and class.
• Know how to use the equipment properly and safely before instructing participants.
Respond promptly to injuries
If you or someone else is injured:
• Seek prompt attention from qualified first aid personnel. First aid facilities should be available at all times and updated to ensure the supplies are adequately replenished.
• Get prompt attention for all traumatic injuries.
• Have injuries that do not respond quickly to first aid measures assessed by a sports medicine professional, preferably a doctor, to ensure an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
• Don’t wait until pain is severe. Overuse injuries, especially to the shin, are common in aerobics. They often cause only mild discomfort at first, but frequently get worse. They can be caused by many factors and an early full assessment is important for recovery.
If an injury should occur…….the right treatment, begun early, is likely to lead to better and more rapid recovery from injury.
Prompt attention should be sought for all traumatic injuries.
Foot biomechanics play a large part in overuse injuries of the lower limb, and their correction with orthotic devices (such as specific arch supports) are often very helpful.
ARTICLE MENTIONED EARLIER:
People who engage in demanding physical activities might expect to suffer occasional injuries to the body parts directly involved. But few devotees of high-impact aerobics are likely to guess that their jumping and bouncing to music could damage their inner ears, causing symptoms like persistent vertigo, dizziness, imbalance, motion sickness, ringing or fullness in the ear and high-frequency hearing loss.
Yet just such a syndrome has been identified in a group of otherwise healthy women in the Westchester County area of New York who regularly do high-impact aerobics, which involves a lot of bouncing up and down, often with both feet off the ground at once.
In a paper published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, Dr. Michael I. Weintraub, a clinical professor of neurology at New York Medical College in Valhalla, extended a previous observation of suspected inner-ear damage related to high-impact aerobics.
In an interview, Dr. Weintraub said he had preliminary clinical evidence that other jarring activities, like professional volleyball and high-mileage running, could cause similar injuries to delicate structures in the ears that govern balance. He noted that the astronauts who had the most trouble with motion sickness were those who were the most physically fit because they did the most running.
Dr. Weintraub’s study gave no measure of how often the problem occurs in connection with high-impact aerobics. Most people who engage in the activity apparently do not develop symptoms. But Dr. Weintraub estimated that as many as 20 to 25 percent of those who regularly do high-impact aerobics might be affected.
Among participants examined, symptoms were worst among aerobics instructors, who typically lead several 40- to 60-minute sessions a day several times a week. Enthusiasts usually take four classes a week.
Dr. Weintraub found that 80 percent of those with symptoms had suffered damage to the parts of the inner ear involved with balance. He said he suspected that the repeated jarring loosened tiny stone like structures called otoliths, jamming them down among the hair cells that transmit information to the brain about the body’s position in space.