The Truth About “The Biggest Loser” and P90X with Dr. Minn Saing, Department of Orthopedics, Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia
“Exercise” is near the top of most lists of New Year's resolutions. From newbies looking to start a fitness routine to weekend warriors looking for greater challenges, the first goal should be to avoid injury. So says Dr. Minn Saing, an orthopedic surgeon at Einstein Medical Center. Saing knows all about injuries. He was team physician for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers. Don’t worry — Saing has Philadelphia credentials. He now serves as on-field team physician for the football teams at Penn State Abington and Wissahickon High School.
People will start exercising and the weight will fall off, just like on "The Biggest Loser." Right?
Not exactly, Saing says. “They are losing the weight — and that is real — but it is a TV show, so the producers make it more dramatic than it may actually be,” he says. That’s especially true of the infamous Last Chance Workouts. “The trainers really push people to their physical limits and do so week after week,” Saing says. “Do I recommend that for someone who is overweight or out of shape? Start small so that you avoid injury. The contestants have a whole staff of doctors on hand to help them recover from those workouts. Most of us don’t have that kind of help — nor should we need it. If you are that sore after exercising, you may be doing too much of it and, most likely, you won’t stick with the program. ”
What are safe ways for people to start exercise programs?
Two components are critical, Saing says. First: cardiovascular exercise should be incorporated into the routine. Second: do something enjoyable. “If you never ran in the past, you’re not going to like running 10 miles per da,y and — even if you can do that — you won’t stick with it,” Saing explains. “Swimming, biking, walking. Those are things people enjoy, they revolve around cardiovascular exercise, burn calories and can be started slowly.”
How can people who are already fit ramp up their exercising?
Caution is still the best policy. “Weekend warriors are who I see most often in my practice,” Saing says. “Sprains, strains and aches are the basis of my work. Almost 95 percent of sports-related injuries are due to overactivity. Patients will say, ‘My shoulder is hurting and I don’t know why.’ Then I find out that they just started a kettlebell class and now their shoulder is impaired. Or, they’ve been running too much and now their knees hurt. Or, a 40-year-old guy is playing very physical basketball with 20-year-olds and ends up with a sore ankle. It’s too much, too soon, too hard, and the body isn’t ready for it.”
What about extreme exercise plans like P90X and Insanity?
Try them — slowly. “If you haven’t worked out in a few years,” Saing says, “and you try P90X and can’t finish it, don’t worry — you aren’t supposed to. Those programs aren’t meant to be completed perfectly the first time you try them. The point is to, over time, build up your ability to complete them. That involves building muscle and cardiovascular strength.”
What are three tips on avoiding injuries?
First, warm up before and after exercising, Saing advises. Second, take time off between exercise sessions so that muscles, tendons and ligaments have time to recover. Third, before starting a new activity or working with a new piece of equipment, ask an expert for advice. “Improper technique in the gym — or anywhere — can result in injury,” Saing explains. “That’s especially true if that improper technique is repeated again and again. It’s well worth the time to work with a trainer who can explain the best way to do different exercises in ways that will avoid the strains and sprains that send people to my office.”