Working out without fear

Keeping fit and healthy is in vogue as society becomes increasingly health-conscious. This transcends all age groups and everyone has his own fitness activity in the midst of everyday life.

It is, however, important to understand that not everyone has the same level of fitness and health - so each individual has to create an exercise regime based on his baseline health and fitness level. Doing so will prevent untoward injury and even potential risk to life.

Pre-participation evaluation is an important part of preparation before exercise. Checking the level of fitness and baseline health level allows the benefits or dangers of exercise to be identified from the outset. News on elite athlete, like footballer Fabrice Muamba falling suddenly ill, or dropping dead in the act of exercising enforces the need for this evaluation.

Check it out

Quite simply, the specific goals of the pre-participation check-up are:

1. To detect manageable medical conditions that may interfere with sports and to determine whether there are contraindications to exercise, particularly for those who are at risk, even with low levels of exercise. Issues with flexibility and muscle strength are easily detectable during examination, allowing for prevention steps to be initiated.

2. To gather baseline data for future reference - this allows comparison of fitness data, which is useful in assessing return to exercise and sports after an injury. This ensures that the risk of repeat injury is minimised.

3. To discover predispositions to injury, including previous athletic injuries from inappropriate conditioning programmes, and to assess an athlete's current fitness level to help prevent overuse injuries.

It is prudent to remember that being an athlete when young does not guarantee that it is safe to exercise at high intensities when older. Simple history taking and assessment of resting pulse, blood pressure and body weight may provide a better understanding about the athlete's level of fitness.

4. To provide an opportunity for health education, physicians often use pre-participation evaluation to educate on basic injury prevention and emergency care strategies in exercise and sport. Getting a pre-exercise evaluation is important to get the full benefits of exercise and to prevent injury. Exercise should be fun and you should not be scared of doing it.