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Friday, November 04, 2011

How Exercise Can Kill You

While exercise is generally a good part of balanced healthy life style, many people do not realize that it can also be a risky and deadly activity. This is generally by taking unnecessary risks while exercising. As an example, I continue to be surprised at how many people are willing to jog on the shoulder of a road with cars speeding by at 55 to 70 mph with absolutely no physical barrier separating them from the vehicle. All it takes is one carless mistake on the part of the driver or jogger and serious injury or death can occur.  Unfortunately, I have seen many patients with severe brain injuries and/or paralysis as a result of these types of accidents.

As a recent example in the news, a man in North Carolina was recently killed while jogging along a roadway after an SUV lost control and crashed into him. A group of five joggers were recently killed when a drunk driver of a Mercedez Benz crashed into them. Sometimes, joggers make the mistake of deciding to dash across a street, are not paying attention (e.g., listening to music), and get killed by a car that crashes into them. This is exactly what happened to a young woman in Texas this month. This is why when I go for a jog, I stick to parks, residential areas where cars are going slow, and treadmills.

Another problem I see is that far too many people are pushing their body to extreme limits and trying to participate in triathalons. The result is premature death for some people. For example, a few months ago two people died after suffering cardiac arrest during triathalons. One was from the city I grew up in – Freehold, New Jersey. The ages were 40 and 64. Both died during the swimming event. The risk of dying from these extreme exercise activities is less if you are young and healthy, but the older you are, the more you risk a catastrophe like this from happening, particularly if you do these activities in extreme weather conditions such as 90 degree heat. A 2009, Minneapolis Heart Institute study that found that athletes participating in triathlons have twice the risk of sudden death.

Overall, it is important that people use common sense when exercising and not put themselves at unnecessary risk of serious injury or death. This involves avoiding exercising near 4,000 pounds of steel traveling towards you at high speeds, avoiding exercise in extreme temperatures, not jogging in the dark with dark clothes on, wearing a helmet when riding a bike, and avoiding extreme physical activity particularly if you are older. Some days, it’s better to just stay inside, relax in the recliner chair, eat some buttered popcorn, and watch a movie.

Update: See How Jogging Can Kill You.

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