Are you aware of the fact that the surface you choose to work out on could be causing you leg, knee, and back pain? Whether you are a recreational walker or a competitive athlete, the surfaces you use regularly (asphalt, grass. etc) have different affects on your body. Choosing surfaces wisely, or adjusting your use of them, may help stop and prevent pain and injury.
Here is a breakdown of commonly used surfaces and how they may help or harm your body.
Asphalt and Concrete
Asphalt and concrete surfaces, such as roads, outdoor basketball and tennis courts, etc. do not absorb much if any of the shock created when your foot comes into contact with the ground. As a result, this force is pushed back into your foot, vibrating the bones and muscles throughout your body. Over-exertion on these surfaces could result in stress fractures, knee pain, shin splints, and more. This is not the more beneficial surface to work out on, but if you are not particularly injury prone, using these surfaces regularly should be okay.
Dirt surfaces such as running or hiking trails are a good option if you are an athlete that has suffered from shin-splints, chrondromalacia, or ITBS. This softer surface is much more forgiving on impact than concrete, but anyone working out on a surface like this should be cautious of where they step; trail footing can be bumpy, causing your foot to land at an angle. Impact like this may irritate a previous sprain or injury or lead to new injuries.
This surface used in volleyball, running, and other training is not recommended for continuous use due to the fact that sand and its grains are very unstable (especially when dry), placing excess strain on your ankles, knees, and hips. At the same time, the unstable surface causes your body to engage the core and other muscles that may not be used in your everyday routine, in an effort to stabilize the body. If you choose to use a sand surface, a shorter workout may be the best way to obtain the benefits without risking injury,
If the weather is not up to par with an outdoor workout, or you need to monitor a specific distance, time and/or incline, you may choose to hop on a treadmill. This surface provides more cushioning than asphalt and its continuous, flat surface is free of obstacles, making it a good option for injury recovery. Treadmill workouts, however, cannot provide the same resistance training that natural changes in an outdoor environment may. Moving on an uneven surface teaches your body how to recognize these disparities and how to react and compensate for them.
Rubber and Turf
Rubber surfaces such as a track is soft enough to supply a bit of cushioning without making the surface unstable. Like a treadmill, it has a flat, predictable surface. This is beneficial if you suffer from recurring pain or are recovering from an injury such as shin splints. One thing that track users may be unaware of is that the circular curves of the turns cause your body to continually lean toward the inside, placing greater strain on these muscles. To avoid an uneven pressure, try to work out, moving in the opposite direction every couple of workouts.