New Year health and fitness resolutions are responsible for a huge spike in the number of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and sickness absences, according to research.
A study by physiotherapy provider Physio Med has concluded that over-ambitious exercise plans can lead to a belated headache for employers after the New Year enthusiasm wears off, even sometimes leading to long-term absence because of severe musculoskeletal injuries.
The company, which provides occupational physiotherapy to businesses including Royal Mail, Waitrose, Rolls-Royce and the Department for Work and Pensions, surveyed its 2,000-strong network of chartered physiotherapists.
It found that requests for physiotherapy appointments increased dramatically in March and April, with 89% of the physiotherapists that responded naming injuries related to exercise and sport as one of the most common reasons for people to seek treatment at this time.
Other less common causes of injury included work-related injuries, DIY, gardening and road traffic accidents.
The spike in physiotherapy appointments in March and April was attributed to the increase in over-eager fitness enthusiasts and sporting novices embarking on a New Year "health kick".
When asked what was the most common cause of such fitness-related injuries, physiotherapists said that nearly half were caused by people overestimating their ability and pushing themselves too far, with 27% citing lack of proper instruction on correct fitness techniques or gym equipment and 12% blaming a failure to warm up before exercising.
The three most common injuries resulting from ill-fated fitness campaigns were lower back pain, followed by neck or upper back pain, then shoulder pain.
Mark Fletcher, clinical director at Physio Med, said: "We may be well into 2012 now, but our physiotherapists are continuing to see the effects of over-enthusiastic New Year fitness campaigns as their appointment books fill up with new injuries.
"Within the healthcare industry, we obviously encourage physical exercise, but a sudden increase in physical activity - such as a new fitness campaign - should always be approached with caution. To avoid workout injuries, and therefore time potentially laid up and unable to work, it's important to start a new regime slowly, take advice and build up the intensity of activity gradually," he added.