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Times of India
11 November 2010

Incorrect exercise techniques at the gym wrecked Prachi Gupta’s knees. Nilanjana Nag reports on how she got back on her feet
Knee-Jerk Reaction
In an age flanked with 'beforeafter' pictures that rule our lives and more importantly, our minds, looking thin takes precedence over looking good. For everything from hair loss to facelifts, there is a quick fix remedy. Why should weight loss be any different? Troubled about her weight, 32–year–old Prachi Gupta didn’t quit eating; she chose the saner, healthier option– working out at the gym. Little did she know that her decision would only yield catastrophic results.

Irreparable Damage
Exactly a year ago, while gearing up for a big family wedding, Prachi bought slinky dresses for herself. Having married into a typical Punjabi family, a dance performance on sangeet was expected of her. "I was determined to look pretty and for that, I needed to fit into the dresses. Losing weight was the only option and I had less than two months to do it. I put myself on a no–fat diet and joined a gym closeby. A personal trainer was assigned to me and he put me on cardiovascular exercises and free body lunges and squats."

Gupta resolved to doggedly pursue her ambition of losing maximum weight in minimum time. So, she started pushing herself for harder and longer workout sessions. "All I wanted was a quick fix. On the treadmill and stepper, I began with 15–20 minute walking sessions and in less than 12 days I had stretched the time to 50 minutes. Without any supervision, I would try out tough inclines on the treadmill. I was also doing free body lunges, squats and gradually, my knees started hurting.

Knee-Jerk Reaction
They’d ache even at home while walking around. I brushed it off, attributing the pain to earlier inactivity. I kept telling myself that the longer I exercised, the thinner I would get. But a day arrived when I couldn’t tolerate the pain any longer and I decided to consult knee replacement surgeon Dr Rakesh Nair.

Says Dr Nair, "Prachi was lucky she didn’t have to undergo arthroscopy. She came to me with knees that were badly swollen up with blood and fluid that had accumulated over time. I had to put her on painkillers and anti–inflammatory drugs immediately, post which I started gradual regenerative therapy."

The Unexpected Phobia
For Prachi, who has been assisting her husband in his business, work is predominantly sedentary. So, the gym was a welcome change. But even after recuperating from the injury, Prachi had developed a phobia for gyms. "I had suffered too much to even look at another treadmill again. But Dr. Nair insisted that I go back to exercising," says Prachi.

Dr Rakesh Nair, who works out at a gym regularly, thinks the root of the problem is ignorance. "Joining a gym isn’t the end of your problem; you must know how to exercise correctly. I have seen a sharp rise in knee injury cases amongst women between the age group of 25–35, who are trying to lose weight either to get married or lose post pregnancy fat. Weight loss has definite advantages because the human body has a 1: 3 ratio with the knees. This means that if your body loses 5 kgs, the pressure exerted on the knees is thrice reduced.

The knee, being the most crucial weight–bearing joint of the body, undergoes a lot of abuse that in turn has a cumulative effect. And at times it affects the mind too. I had a difficult time getting Prachi back to working out because of her phobia."

Prachi says, "I joined a different gym after two months of therapy. This time Dr. Nair called and spoke to my trainer and instructed him to start with sitting lower body exercises like static quadriceps and move on to cardiovascular only two weeks later. Now I’ve recovered fully. As Dr. Nair says: you should make money for yourself, not for your doctor."

Doctor recommends
Mind Is Stronger Than The Body
Without letting your ego get in the way, learn to recognise body alarms. Stop exercising the moment you experience the slightest pain.

Prevention Better Than Cure
Every two to three years, get a Bone Density Dexa done. It’s a procedure that scans all your bones to reveal the weak ones.

Eating Right
Protein supplementation must always be spread out. Don’t eat 20 egg whites at one go, eat them over one day. Eat food that’s high on Vitamin D, like sea fish (salmon, mackerel, Bangda,Tarla), cheese and beef.

Good Footwear As A Rule
Wearing bad shoes is a lethal error, especially on Mumbai roads. Before going for a walk, always warm up at home with the following simple exercises. Each position is to be held for 5 counts.

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