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6 Gym Health Hazards

How to avoid injury, infection, and other health risks at the gym.

Risk: Improper Exercise Selection or Form

Choosing the wrong exercises or using improper form is one of the most common hazards in the gym, says Neal I. Pire, spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine. "Just because an exercise is 'Mr. Olympia's favorite' does not mean it is a good choice for you. Couple this with not asking for professional help from a personal trainer, and you are ripe for a mishap that will land you at the neighborhood orthopedist."

Avoiding the Risk

"Know your limits," McMillan says. "You know your body better than anyone." If you have special risks or conditions -- such as a bad back, high blood pressure, recent surgery -- tell your trainer so he or she can tailor your exercise program to your specific needs.

Risk: Falls

Jumping, running, and moving around various objects in the gym can increase your risk of tripping and falling.

Avoiding the Risk

Be aware of your surroundings, McMillan cautions. Watch for items that you might trip over -- such as a water bottle, hand weight, piece of equipment, sweatshirt, or even a loose set of keys. Then move them to a safer location. Be especially careful in wet areas around showers, pools, and hot tubs, where you're more likely to slip and fall.

Risk: Sprains and Strains

Trying to lift too much weight, using poor technique, overdoing your workouts, and stretching incorrectly can lead to sprains and strains.

Avoiding the Risk

If you are questioning whether you can safely complete a movement, drill, or exercise, it's probably best to back off in order to ensure you don't push too hard and injure yourself, McMillan says.

She advises if something doesn't feel right, stop what you're doing immediately. Then ask for ice, elevate and rest the injured body part, and apply compression to minimize swelling. Tell a gym staff person exactly what happened and document everything, McMillan says.

"Even if you're feeling OK, it's always best to call a family member to come and get you," McMillan says. "Sometimes the adrenaline kicks in and you don't realize how injured you really are. During this time, you could do even more damage."

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