Brendan Sullivan, PT, MSPT, OCS, Lead Physical Therapist
Chester County Hospital
Published January 20, 2014
It is that time of year when people put exercise at the top of their New Year's Resolution list. Although many start with the best of intentions, often times, that initial motivation and vigor is not sustained to keep exercise as a regular part of their life. Life often "gets in the way" as people are busy with work and family and, unfortunately, their personal health is neglected.
It is estimated that only 1/3 of adults regularly work out. Since inactivity and obesity are common risk factors for heart disease (heart failure, heart attacks, high blood pressure and stroke), it is important to incorporate exercise into our lives. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death among men and women.
We know that exercise can help us to be healthier and to look and feel better, reduce stress, sleep better and boost energy levels, but making exercise a priority in our lives is easier said than done. Here are a few ideas to help you start and maintain your fitness goals.
- Decide that you are going to begin to exercise
- Get cleared by your physician to make sure it is safe to exercise
- Commit to making it a priority.
- Decide on what type of exercise you want to do (Weights and/or cardiovascular training. Home and/or gym.)
- Surround yourself with people who can support and motivate you.
- Set realistic, measurable goals (Chart your workouts so you can see your progress and regularly review your goals.)
Maintaining your progress:
- Schedule your time to work out as you would any other appointment.
- Start out easy and increase as you are able. Aim to achieve 30-60 minutes of exercise 3-5 times per week. You may only be able to tolerate 5-10 minutes at first. That is okay. Keep it up and as your body adapts to those changes you will be able to increase your time.
- Consider classes at gyms or working with a qualified personal trainer. Aquatics are a great environment for those with joint pain as the buoyancy of the water helps minimize the stress and strain on joints. It is also allows for easy transition from cardiovascular to resistance training.
- Make smart decisions as it relates to diet/nutrition. Seek advice from qualified professionals to ensure what you are eating is appropriate and in safe amounts.
- Drink plenty of water.
Think you are too busy to work out? You can always find time during the day:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Do squats while brushing your teeth.
- Exercise while watching TV.
- Walk when on the phone.
- Park farther away from stores and walk.
Each time you work out:
- Have a plan and chart your work out.
- Make sure you are hydrated, and then replace lost fluids.
- Warm-up well and stretch to avoid injury.
- Cool-down and stretch.
- Know when to stop and see your physician. (Chest pain and/or shortness of breath; joint pain and/or swelling.)
Expect to be sore after you begin an exercise program or exercise vigorously. This is a perfectly normal phenomenon and typically begins 24 to 48 hours after the activity. It usually subsides within a few days of onset. Don't let this soreness stop you. Just work out a different muscle groups or modify your exercise regimen until it resolves.
Sources: Exercise and Heart Disease Statistics. LiveStrong.com; Elizabeth Quinn, How Do I Start Exercising?. About.com
This article was published as part of the Daily Local News Medical Column series which appears every Monday. It has been reprinted by permission of the Daily Local News.