4 tips for keeping your exercise resolution
It’s a new year and exercise is at the top of your resolution list … again. Unfortunately, most of us give up quickly, not even making it to February. Orthopedic sports medicine specialist Gabriella Ode, MD, offered some tips so you can set yourself up for success.
Why do people typically abandon their exercise resolutions?
Dr. Ode said the hardest part about keeping exercise resolutions is the time commitment. Exercise takes dedicated time several days a week to produce lasting change. To achieve that, there must be a commitment to a routine that is realistic for your daily schedule.
“Going from never working out to immediately working out seven days a week for an hour at a time is not a realistic first goal, and the burden of trying to keep an unrealistic pace can contribute to you abandoning that goal,” Dr. Ode said. “If you have started with an ambitious goal that no longer seems realistic to attain, instead of abandoning your exercise resolution, cut back on your frequency and time commitment. Commit whole heartedly to this new goal and then ramp up from there.”
What is the best way to start and stick with an exercise routine?
Dr. Ode offered these four tips:
Create a plan. Start by setting aside time during the week for exercise. Set a reminder for yourself every day or every other day at a certain time that you plan to commit to exercise. You could take a 30-minute walk in the park with the kids, get on the stationary bike at home, or take a fitness class.
Consult a pro. If you have the means and access, consider meeting with a fitness professional at your local gym. This is particularly important if you are a beginner with weight training. Have them show you how to properly use the available equipment. This will set a good foundation for safe exercise and minimize your risk of injury.
Keep it fresh. It’s important to add different exercises over the course of your routine to keep it fresh and avoid overuse injuries. A good exercise routine over the course of your week will include lower impact and higher impact exercise, varying in intensity and using different muscle groups.
Monitor your heart rate. As you exercise more frequently, your body will begin to adapt to the increased workload, and you may notice that you aren’t seeing the same results you used to see when you first started exercising. An important way to keep your routine fresh and know if you are doing too much or too little is to track your heart rate during exercise.
“Your maximum heart rate for a different level of exercise will depend on your age subtracted from 220,” Dr. Ode said.
According to the American Heart Association, target heart rate during moderate intensity activities is about 50–70% of maximum heart rate, while during vigorous physical activity it’s about 70–85% of maximum.
“A heart rate monitor allows you to monitor the intensity of your exercise routine and make adjustments so that you are keeping up your intensity and continuing to see results as you get more adept at your routine,” she added.
Is it normal to experience pain while exercising?
Dr. Ode said soreness and muscular pain after a workout are common and, in most cases, normal after a strenuous workout or a workout that pushed you past your previous limits. This is called “delayed onset muscle soreness” or DOMS. Symptoms, which include muscle tightness, fatigue, soreness to touch and swelling, typically start 12 hours after exercise and resolve within one to three days.
To minimize some of the symptoms of DOMs, it is key to stay hydrated and stretch before and after a workout.
“While some rest is helpful, continued movement during the DOMs period and low impact exercise that warm up the muscles and keep them loose is ideal. If symptoms persist longer than seven days or if you notice discoloration of urine in the immediate days following exercise – a byproduct of severe muscle breakdown – you should seek medical attention,” she said.
Dr. Ode said it’s important to also see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Pain during exercise. While soreness in the hours after exercise can be normal, pain during exercise is not. If a specific exercise is causing sharp or throbbing pain or joint swelling, you should stop. This may be an indication that you are straining bones, muscles or ligaments beyond their capabilities. If you feel a painful “pop” or “snap” during exercise or if you notice that you are no longer able to bear weight through your limb, seek medical attention urgently.
- Prolonged pain afterward. If you have pain that continues after you have stopped the activity, particularly for more than seven days afterward, consider seeing your doctor for evaluation.
“Listen to your body when it tells you something feels wrong,” Dr. Ode said. “While sometimes it may indicate a minor injury that just requires a period of rest, ice, elevation and anti-inflammatory medications, it is important to have a medical professional guide you through that treatment and also determine if your injury is more serious.”
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