How to safely start an exercise program

In the “new normal” many of us have more free time and started to exercise. Whether you are new to exercise or just getting back into it. There are a few things to be aware of to make your transition into the exercise realm safer. Here are some basic guidelines so you can make the most of working out and avoiding injury.

Choosing an activity

There are many exercise activities you can engage in but which is best? The best activity is the one you are interested in! This sounds pretty basic but if you enjoy an activity this will make it easier to be consistent and stay compliant.

Create a realistic schedule

Once you have decided on an activity you now have to fit it into your schedule. A lot of people set high expectations for themselves. “I am going to start going to the gym 5-6 times a week.” This is very ambitious and you may achieve this but for those just starting out this is unrealistic. A lot of people do not take into consideration all the time that goes into exercising. What you think may only take an hour may take 90 minutes because you forgot about packing your gym bag, driving or logistics of the equipment. All these things add up so it is best to take the first couple weeks to determine how much time the activity will take and then create your exercise. schedule. It is best to start with realistic attainable goals and then build as you feel more comfortable.

Injury prevention

Injuries often occur by increasing either volume or intensity of an activity in a small time frame. Just because you could bench 250lbs in college does not mean you can do it as a 40 something. The first 6-8 weeks of any exercise program should focus on achieving a base layer of fitness. Whether it is resistance or cardiovascular training you should do lower intensity and volume at first to give your body a solid base fitness level. After this base period you can start adding more volume and varying levels of intensities to achieve your desired neuromuscular adaptation. An example of neuromuscular adaptation would be a runner that wants to become faster. To become faster the runner would need to apply intensities that stimulate speed. This would include doing intervals or tempo runs above their normal pace.

Warm-up/cool down

One of the best ways to decrease risk of injury is to incorporate some type of warm-up/cool down. Warming up stimulates blood flow, increases flexibility and prepares the body for the upcoming activity. Here are some examples of warming up:

*Light cardio (jog/eliptical/bike) for 10-15 minutes

*Dynamic stretching

*Foam rolling

Upon completion of most exercise activities your body is warm. This is a great time to stretch! Static stretching is most beneficial when tissues are warm and pliable. There are many theories on the durations of holding a stretch. The general consensus is between 30-60seconds holds of major muscle groups but consistency is the key! Incorporating in a 5-10 minute stretch session post workout will reap huge benefits in keeping you injury free!