Clients who read about the occasional
athlete who suffers from a fatal incident on the basketball court or football field, or the marathon runner who “blows out his knees,” may ask, is exercise really safe? The best answer to that question is, exercising is safer than remaining sedentary.

In fact overwhelming evidence from
epidemiological data has identified numerous health benefits from exercise, including reduced blood pressure; lower percent body fat; and fewer risk factors for conditions like diabetes, osteoporosis, coronary artery disease and certain cancers.

Nevertheless, exercisers can occasionally suffer from complications ranging from minor injuries, such as muscle strains or skin wounds, to more serious problems, including acute cardiovascular events, hypoglycemia and severe musculoskeletal injury. Fitness facilities and individual personal fitness trainers (PFTs) should follow these exercise safety tips to minimize the risk of exercise-induced complications and ensure their clients’ safe participation in their exercise program.

Who Is at Risk?

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 6th edition), the risks involved in exercise participation are extremely low for young men and women, but tend to increase slightly as participants age, and increase more when participants have known cardiovascular disease. The underlying conditions that can cause cardiovascular complications during exercise—such as a history of multiple heart attacks, chest pain (at rest or with exercise), and abnormal heart rhythms or blood pressure responses during exercise—are not ones most PFTs typically encounter in their clients. However you may have clients who neglect to perform an appropriate warm-up or cool-down, exercise at intensities that are too high for their fitness level, and/or participate in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking. If these clients also have underlying cardiovascular disease or significant risk factors for disease, exercise complications may be a concern. You should be mindful of these characteristics and monitor these types of clients very closely.