Working out offers a lot of health benefits, and the risks are astonishingly small, according to a new study from the United Kingdom.
“This work demonstrates that engaging in fitness activities is overwhelmingly a safe and beneficial pursuit,” said study co-author Dr. Sean Williams, a researcher at the University of Bath Center for Health and Injury and Illness Prevention in Sport.
“While no physical activity is entirely without risk, the chance of serious injury is exceedingly low when compared to the myriad health and wellness advantages gained from staying active,” Williams continued in a university news release.
The five-year study found that even forms of exercise sometimes considered risky by the public, such as road cycling, are generally safe.
Data for the study came from hospitals in England and Wales. The researchers found that between 2012 and 2017, nearly 12,000 trauma injuries resulted from sports and exercise.
The study looked at 61 sports and other physical activities to provide a comparable estimate of the risks to participants.
Running, golf, dance classes and gym sessions were the least likely to result in injury. Running had in 0.70 injuries, golf 1.25 injuries and fitness classes just 0.10 per 100,000 participants a year.
Among the most popular sports, soccer had the highest injury incidence rate at 6.56 injuries per 100,000 participants a year. The authors characterized this as still relatively small.
Motorsports, horseback activities, paragliding and hang gliding were by far the riskiest activities of those studied. Motorsports resulted in 532 injuries, equestrian pursuits led to 235, and gliding caused 191 injuries per 100,000 participants.
Men had more injuries than women, with 6.4 injuries per 100,000 per year compared to 3.3.
Yet even with the good news, injury risks for popular sports and other physical activities are increasing internationally.
“Though the finding that more people are getting injured could be multifaceted — trauma data recording has improved during the study, which means more injuries are now recorded — it’s important that any increases in burden are responded to, and that this data is used to make activities safer,” said Dr. Madeleine Davies. She is the study’s lead author and a former post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bath.
Many exercise and recreation injuries are preventable, Williams noted, with protection equipment, education and rules changes.
The findings were published online Oct. 24 in the journal Injury Prevention. The British Medical Association funded the study.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the benefits of physical activity.
SOURCE: University of Bath, news release, Oct. 26, 2023
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