Fitness Tips for Keeping Your Crews Injury Free

Help reduce the risk of musculoskeletal problems with these six strategies.

Technology, from automatic bricklayers to bionic arms and exoskeletons, will eventually take a load off construction workers. But for now, much of the work is physically demanding. Constant wear and tear can cause aches and pains that interfere with how workers perform on the job, and how they feel once they get home.

Lifting, pushing and pulling heavy loads and working in awkward positions can also cause muscles sprains and strains, and repeating the same tasks over and over again can lead to repetitive strain injuries.

To reduce the likelihood of work-related musculoskeletal injuries, consider educating your crew on these six health and fitness tips. (Workers should talk to their doctor before changing their exercise routine or starting an exercise program.

Make time for a warm-up

Physical therapist Alice Holland of Stride Strong Physical Therapy said dedicating 15 minutes before the work shift to warm up and do dynamic stretches — think leg swings, trunk rotations, arm circles, and side bends — helps increase blood flow, loosens up muscles and joints and warms up the body for physical activity.

Focus on core strength outside of work

Weakness in the lower back and core can lead to tension in the hips and lower back, especially when carrying heavy loads. Classes such as yoga and Pilates can strengthen these areas. If making the time for a class is not realistic, planks are a good exercise to perform at home. Planks help strengthen core muscles including the abs, lower back and hip region.

Practice stretches that can help the low back

Examples include the lying knee twist (also called a supine spinal twist), yoga cat/cow, piriformis seated stretch, cobra stretch and child’s pose.

Follow guidelines for safe lifting

Bend at the knees instead of at the waist and use your legs to do the work. Avoid twisting while lifting.

Participate in a regular exercise program

A great way to reduce the risk of injury is to participate in a regular exercise program that focuses on overall strength and endurance. Federal health guidelines recommend two days per week of full-body strength training and 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. Don’t overdo the weights. Working out is not about the amount of weight you can lift; rather, it’s about strengthening the major muscle groups and the smaller stabilizing muscles that help prevent injury.

Pay attention to ergonomics

The construction industry is full of jobs that require repetitive motions. If your workers repeat the same motions daily, make sure they have training in ergonomics. Depending on the job they’re performing, you can also encourage them to alternate between heavy and light lifts, which can help reduce the buildup of fatigue. And of course, providing time in the day for regular breaks will give their body the rest it needs.

Being sore at the end of a day of hard work is one thing; a musculoskeletal injury that can lead to downtime is another. Encouraging your crews to stretch, strengthen and watch how they move can benefit everyone.

Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer specializing in business, health, wellness and education.

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