Is this the year that you get into better condition? That could mean anything from getting off of the couch and walking every day to setting a goal of running a marathon in the fall. No matter where you are on the fitness scale, the benefits of getting your body moving are enormous.
“Regular exercise is important for both physical and mental health,” says Doug Hinton, rehabilitation manager at NorthBay Rehabilitation in Fairfield and Vacaville. “You’ll not only feel better, but you may even prevent or delay many ailments and physical challenges.”
Studies show that routine exercise can lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. To get the most out of your workout, following some simple tips can help you stay safe while on the road to wellness.
“No one wants to jump into a new routine only to get sidelined by injury,” Doug says. “If you have been inactive for a while, or already have health concerns, be sure to check with your physician before starting an exercise program. Once your physician has granted you medical clearance, start slowly and stay committed to gradually increasing your exercise time.”
Choose the proper clothes. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes that let you move freely. Replace your shoes every six months as the cushioning wears out.
Dress for the season. Stay cool in the summer by wearing light clothes that help release heat and layer your clothes in winter to help you stay warm and avoid hypothermia.
Warm up. Cold muscles are prone to injury, so plan a five-to-10-minute warm-up by walking or running in place or riding a stationary bicycle. Warming up increases your heart rate and loosens your muscles and joints.
Listen to your body. Don’t exercise when you’re sick or feeling fatigued. Stop exercising if you have persistent aches and pains following your routine or if you become lightheaded.
Drink water. Simply drinking water helps most people stay hydrated. If you are running in a marathon or working out especially hard, you may need a drink that adds electrolytes to the water.
Progress slowly. As your fitness improves, increase your exercise time by no more than 10 percent a week.
Ask for help. If you are using exercise equipment at a gym, or seeking expertise in a particular sport, find a coach who will teach you the safest way to progress.
Aim for a balanced program. An all-around fitness routine that improves your endurance, strength, balance and flexibility will lessen your chance of injury.
Cool down. The final phase of your exercise routine should be twice as long as your warm-up. Slow your motions and lessen the intensity of your workout for 10 minutes until you have a normal heart rate and your skin is cool.
Rest. Plan regular days without exercise to let your body recover. Always choose rest if you’re fatigued or feeling pain.