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Health and Wellness
Exercise for Life
You've committed to a physical activity routine and you're ready to roll. But after your first week of working out, you're sore all over and think you may have pulled a muscle. What happened?
Many times, people who decide to start working out throw themselves into a fitness routine, overdo it, and hurt themselves. The same thing can happen to "weekend warriors" - those who put off exercising all week and then go overboard trying to cram it all in on the weekend. The result is discouragement and trips to the doctor.
Rules Of Thumb
If you're new to physical activity, haven't been active in a long time, or are trying a sport or activity for the first time, it's important to start out slowly and build up your activity gradually so you don't get hurt.
For instance, if you decide to start walking, begin by doing 10 minutes at a time. After a couple of weeks, you can increase your time to 20 minutes and then 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and eventually an hour. To realize health benefits, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, at least five days a week.
If you're starting a strength-training program, talk to a fitness instructor about how much weight to begin lifting, what exercises to do, and how often. If you're working with weight machines, learn how to use them correctly. Don't work the same muscles two days in a row. Instead, vary your activities daily to work different muscles and keep your routines interesting. Don't forget to warm up with some simple stretches before your routine, or by walking or marching in place.
For aerobic exercise, a good rule of thumb to see if you're working at the right pace is the "talk test." If you can't talk during the activity, you're working too hard. If you can belt out a song, you can pick up the pace.
Another guideline is the 10 percent rule. Don't increase your program (walking distance or amount of weight lifted) by more than 10 percent a week. So if you start out walking a mile, don't go more than an extra one-tenth of a mile, or about two blocks, the following week.
Remember Use Common Sense when you first start exercising. If you want to use the treadmill or exercise bike, start out slow. Start with the lowest setting and gradually build up."
When To Exercise Caution
Most healthy adults can start moderate physical activity as soon as they're ready. If you have any of the following conditions, you'll most likely benefit from exercise, but you should talk to your doctor before you begin:
- heart problems, chest pains, high blood pressure, dizziness or balance problems
- asthma, bone or joint problems, diabetes
- any new, undiagnosed symptom, such as weakness or headaches
Here are some other tips to keep you safe when you're working out:
Warm up and cool down. Always warm up your body before you begin a workout. If you march in place, move your arms. Then do some stretching for your arms, legs, and back. Repeat the stretches after your workout.
Drink up. If you're planning to exercise for an hour or more, drink more water than you think you need before, during, and after exercise to avoid getting dehydrated. Drinking 10 to 16 ounces of water two hours before your activity will give your body time to get rid of extra liquid and offset fluid lost from sweating. During your first hour of exercise, drink five to 12 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes. If you exercise more than an hour, make it a sports drink to replace lost carbohydrates and electrolytes. After exercising, drink at least two cups of water for every pound of sweat you lose (weigh yourself before and after your activity).
Listen to your body. People know their bodies better than anyone else does. If you feel something out of proportion to the level of exercise you're doing, step back and evaluate yourself. Note any changes in normal feeling, including:
- lightheadedness, shortness of breath, sudden severe headache
- excess sweating that's out of proportion to your level of exertion
- chest, stomach or any other pain
See a doctor if your symptoms don't go away.
Regular physical activity has many health benefits. You'll build stronger bones and muscles, control your weight, and are able to fight colds and stress better. Work out safely and reap the rewards!