By Heidi Streeter, PT, DPT
When you begin the journey to better health, adding exercise is an important part. Just remember exercise comes in many shapes and forms. There are low impact activities such as swimming, yoga and Pilates and moderate impact exercises like aerobics or walking. You can also engage in high impact workouts like plyometrics and running. However, simple daily movements like taking the stairs, parking farther away in a parking lot or doing house or yard work can add extra minutes to your activity count for the day.
It is important to remember no matter what new activity you choose to add to your exercise routine that you ease into it by ramping up the time spent and the intensity of the exercise. This can be done daily for easier tasks or weekly for harder tasks.
Just think, you wouldn't’t train for a marathon by putting on your sneakers and going. You would start with walking, then add distance to your walking, then add intermittent running to your walking and lastly you would increase your miles and speed with your running.
This same principle applies to any new form of exercise. Start slow and with low intensity and gradually build up your stamina and endurance. This allows your body to adapt to the new needs of the exercise and will help prevent most exercise-induced injuries. Strain, sprains and overuse injuries are the most common things that physical therapists see with patients who jump right into a new exercise program without gradually progressing.
Below are some tips to help you have the best results from a new exercise program:
Make a fitness goal — Having a written goal helps you monitor progress and make sure the goal is specific and attainable. Create a timeline for the goal to plan out how quickly or slowly you should progress your activity.
Create a routine — Most people are hardwired for routine. Setting certain times or days of the week to exercise can be your key to compliance.
Pick an activity you enjoy — Nothing is worse than pushing yourself to do something you despise! If you don’t like running, don’t run or maybe don’t pick a 5K or half marathon as your fitness goal. As mentioned earlier, exercise can come from many different avenues. Be creative!
Allow for recovery time — Starting a new program can make certain muscles work harder than before and you will most certainly experience soreness. This soreness can lead to compensation and possibly overuse injuries if you don’t allow for proper rest and recovery in your routine.
Listen to your body — Pain, dizziness, excessive shortness of breath or nausea are signs that your body is telling you "you have worked too much or too hard."
Phone a friend — Finding someone to workout with not only helps the activity seem less daunting but also helps with motivation.
Just remember, exercise and daily activity above and beyond your normal level keeps your body healthy on many levels — not only for muscle strength, joint support and cardiovascular health but mental wellness as well.
So get out there and get moving!