Tips for Exercising Safely
The benefits of exercise and strength training - at any age - are numerous. Regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, increase your energy, sleep better and look better. It can help prevent many age-related diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer's and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and high blood pressure. It can also help maintain your mobility and independence as you age by keeping your bones and muscles strong, promoting good balance, and combating frailty. According to Miriam Nelson, a scientist at Tufts University who specializes in the aging process, "Biologically, we can reverse the aging process by 15 to 25 years."
In order to reap the rewards of physical activity and avoid injury, keep the following simple safety tips in mind.
Get your doctor's okay before beginning. Get a complete physical and tell him or her exactly what kind of activities you intend to participate in.
Dress appropriately. Wear layers so you can adapt to changing weather and/or your rising body temperature as you exercise.
Use proper equipment. Wear a helmet when you cycle, knee pads and elbow pads when rollerblading and any other appropriate safety equipment. Make sure all of the equipment you use is in proper working order, too, so pump up your bike tires, check your brakes, etc.
Start slowly. If it's been a while since you were active, give your body time to adjust to the increased activity. Start with just a few minutes of activity a day. When that feels comfortable, gradually add more time, greater intensity, and/or greater frequency.
Stretch once you're warm. Don't stretch cold muscles; this can cause injury. Walk or do some other form of warming up for five minutes and then gently stretch.
Don't hold your breath. When you are lifting weights, do not hold your breath. Instead, exhale as you lift and inhale as you release.
Everything in moderation. Exercise should make you feel good and give you more energy. While some mild soreness and fatigue are normal, the discomfort should subside in 24 hours and the fatigue should help you sleep better that night but not affect you the next day. If you are breathing so hard during an activity that you cannot talk, you are exerting yourself too hard.
Hydrate. Dehydration can lead to potentially serious conditions. Whether you are physically active or not, you should drink 8 to 10 glasses of water each day. Physical activity increases your need for water, so be sure you hydrate before, during, and after exercise.
If something hurts, stop! If you experience any of the following while exercising, stop immediately and call your doctor:
- Chest pain
- Acute shortness of breath
- Irregular, rapid, or fluttery heartbeat
- Light headedness
- A sudden, severe headache
- Excessive sweating that is out of proportion to your exertion or the temperature
Remember that exercise should make you feel better, not worse, and that consistency is the key. Don't get discouraged if you don't see or feel results immediately. Do a little bit every day and you will see and feel the reward!