Almost anybody can safely take up walking, and light to moderate exercise is usually fine for healthy adults with no symptoms or potential for injury. If you plan your exercise program to follow guidelines to exercise safely this will reduce or eliminate injuries and you won’t loose valuable time sitting out injured.
It’s wise to talk to a doctor if you have any questions about your health or plan to start more vigorous workouts, especially if you haven’t been active recently.
The best person to discuss your health with initially is your doctor. Definitely if you have any injuries, but also to exclude and monitor any chronic or unstable health conditions. For example heart disease or to exclude risk factors for heart disease, a respiratory ailment like asthma, high blood pressure, joint or bone disease (including osteoporosis), a neurological illness, or diabetes. Also consult your doctor if you suspect you may have an illness that would interfere with an exercise program or if you have been experiencing any troublesome symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness.
Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and check your blood pressure, weight and talk to you about your history. You may get a referral to a dietitian, exercise physiologist or another health professional to help you get started and monitor your progress.
Tips for Exercising Safely
When you have discussed your current health situation with your doctor, go ahead and start your program.
These tips below can help you avoid injuries and enable you to move forward with your plan.
- Take five to 10 minutes to warm up and cool down properly. In your program have a warmup session, this may be upper and lower body exercises and light cardio. This will prepare your body for your exercise session. An example may be if you are out walking, walk slower for about 500 meters and allow yourself to warm up.
- Start slowly and boost your activity level gradually unless you are already exercising frequently and vigorously. This would definitely be if you are a newbie. Remember your tendons, ligaments and muscles need to strengthen to cope with the increased activity and load.
- Be aware that training too hard or too often can cause overuse injuries like stress fractures, stiff or sore joints and muscles, and inflamed tendons and ligaments, as above.
- Different sports will have different effects on body parts. For example swimming (shoulders), jogging (knees, ankles, and feet), tennis (elbows) — are often overuse culprits, too. If you vary your sports, stretch and rest sufficiently after each session you will reduce and/or eliminate injuries. Shoulders, knees and ankles are very prone to injury especially in the over 50/60 age groups, start any of these exercises slowly.
- Listen to your body. Hold off on exercise when you’re sick or feeling very fatigued. Cut back if you cannot finish an exercise session, feel faint after exercise or fatigued during the day, or suffer persistent aches and pains in joints after exercising.
- If you stop exercising for a while, drop back to a lower level of exercise initially. If you’re doing strength training, for example, lift lighter weights or do fewer reps or sets.
- For most people, simply drinking plenty of water is sufficient. But if you’re working out especially hard or doing a marathon or triathlon, choose drinks that replace fluids plus essential electrolytes. This is necessary in the hotter months of the year when you are sweating more during your sessions.
- Choose clothes and shoes designed for your type of exercise. Monitor your shoe condition and replace shoes every six months or as necessary when cushioning wears out. Buying shoes can be confusing because of the market. A suggestion would be to go to a local sports store and seek assistance from a professional. Some sport shoe shops measure your foot and also identify variants in your foot and suggest the most appropriate fitting shoe for you.
- For strength training, good form is essential. Initially use no weight, or very light weights, when learning the exercises. Never sacrifice good form by hurrying to finish reps or sets, or struggling to lift heavier weights.
- Exercising vigorously in hot, humid conditions can lead to serious overheating and dehydration. Exercise during cooler morning or evening hours or at an air-conditioned gym. Watch for signs of overheating, such as headache, dizziness, nausea, faintness, cramps, or palpitations.
- Dress properly for cold-weather workouts to avoid hypothermia. Depending on the temperature, wear layers you can peel off as you warm up. Gloves and neck scarves can be a helpful addition to your sports gear.
- Purchase reflective gear for the times when you are out in the early morning or late afternoon.
- Delayed muscle soreness that starts 12 to 24 hours after a workout and gradually abates is a normal response to taxing your muscles. By contrast, persistent or intense muscle pain that starts during a workout or right afterward, or muscle soreness that persists more than one to two weeks, merits a call to your doctor or physiotherapist for assessment and advice.
This post offers information that is designed for educational and information purposes only. Do not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace medical treatment or advice. If you have any concerns about your health, you should always consult your doctor or health professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice because of something you have read in this article.
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