It’s the end of December, you probably have been eating too many cookies and sitting around with yummy drinks for the whole month. January is approaching and this might be the time to finally get back to exercising but it’s been a while and you wonder if your body even knows what “squat” means anymore. Maybe it is worth considering making a plan to ensure this idea is safe and actually has potential for getting what you want out of it.

And actually, you could get more out of this than just dropping a few pounds. Exercise has a myriad of proven benefits for your mind, immune system, heart, kidneys, muscles, and bones! Exercising helps improve concentration, sleep, mood and psychological stability. Depending on the type of exercise, you can improve your bone density and cardiovascular health or better manage chronic conditions. Did you know it can even help with glycemic control and insulin sensitivity as well as reducing the risk of cancer?? That’s not even to mention feeling stronger, more mobile, and more resilient!

 

 

So, what are some considerations to improve the safety and success of this endeavor??

 

#1 Start slow: If you jump in full force, you can easily put yourself in danger of serious injury or exhaust yourself, lowering your ability to continue and stay motivated. You can always take it to the next level as you continue, but take the time to learn what your body can actually tolerate at this point.

#2 Increase gradually: Once you see how you feel after a few rounds, you can increase the intensity in a few ways. You can add resistance/weight, do a longer duration of time, or more reps/sets. Make sure you only manipulate one aspect at a time to allow for safer progression.

#3 Create a well-rounded plan: Try to include exercises aimed at endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. The different types of exercise have different effects on the body, thus creating different health benefits. Too much of any of these without regard for the others often leads to injury. See our blog post about what is the best type of exercise for you to get started with. 

#4 Set realistic expectations: Setting realistic and attainable goals is extremely important for maintaining motivation. It is very easy to be passionate and motivated and then get frustrated by the length of time it takes to see results if the goals are too high too soon. Having a long term goal is good, but give yourself smaller, attainable goals to reach along the way to help stay motivated and encouraged.

#5 Plan for accountability: The importance of community cannot be overstated! If you are serious about making change then link arms with some people who will help hold you up on the hard days. No matter how determined you are out of the gate, I promise those days will come and having support helps you remember why you are doing this and not to succumb to the temptation to give up. This category can also include writing down the small progressive goals and marking progress to motivate you along the way.

 

When to use caution:

  • New activities that your body isn’t used to or hasn’t done in a while
  • Returning to exercise after healing from an injury
  • Chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis: make sure you know what effect exercise will have on your body with these conditions
  • Cancer or blood disorders: know your leukocytes, hemoglobin, and platelet level to ensure it is safe to exercise
  • Pregnancy: See our blog post about how to safely exercise while pregnant 

 

When to NOT exercise or stop immediately:

  • Chest pain or other heart symptoms
  • Excessive or unexplained breathlessness not normalizing with rest
  • Unexplained or regular dizzy spells
  • Fever or any acute severe illness
  • Serious musculoskeletal problem
  • Severe cognitive functioning

 

Here are some additional questionnaires to help determine if it is safe for you to begin exercising:

 

Written by: Kelsey O’Leary, PT, DPT