Tips to get in shape safely

September 28, 2015

Reclaiming your health through proper fitness is a great goal, but don't sabotage your efforts by overexerting yourself. Follow these stay-safe tips for a healthy routine.

Tips to get in shape safely

Although most of us do need to get more exercise, people who have been inactive for a while may have health concerns about embarking on an exercise program. If any of the following applies to you, you should talk to your doctor before starting:

  • You have had a heart attack or stroke.
  • You have heart disease or diabetes, or are seriously overweight.
  • You have asthma, or lung, liver or kidney disease.
  • You have osteoporosis or arthritis, or have had joint surgery.
  • You have had a recent joint, muscle, tendon or ligament injury.
  • You have balance problems or dizzy spells.
  • You are a man aged over 45 or a woman over 55 with high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

If you haven't exercised for a considerable length of time, it is important to start slowly and build it up gradually. First, add some walking and gentle stretching exercises to your daily routine, or go swimming with a friend a couple of times a week. If you do join a gym, ask the trainer to help you to plan a program tailored to your own starting fitness level.

Talk to your doctor

  • Starting an exercise program can be especially difficult if you have mobility problems.
  • If you have had a stroke or are recovering after a heart attack, discuss your plan with your doctor or rehabilitation specialist.

Gently on the joints

  • Gentle exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of arthritis. It can reduce joint pain and stiffness, help build the muscles that support your joints, improve flexibility and increase endurance.
  • Of course, exercise also helps control your weight, taking the load off your knee joints, and it can reduce the risk of other skeletal problems such as osteoporosis.
  • Compared to brisk walking, strolling reduces the strain on knee joints by around 25 per cent, helping to burn calories while reducing the risk of injury.
  • In Nordic walking, the poles take the weight off your joints and you burn more calories per mile.
  • Swimming or tai chi are also good options for safe, low-impact aerobic workouts.
  • Always begin an exercise routine slowly, increasing the intensity and pace as your muscles warm up.
  • If you find even gentle exercises too painful at first, try a water exercise program (your local pool probably runs one).
  • The buoyancy of your body in water reduces the stress on your hips, knees and spine, making movement easier.

How much exercise do you need?

  • To gain cardiovascular benefits, you need to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. (Moderate-intensity exercise makes you feel slightly warm and slightly out of breath.)
  • If you find this daunting, then begin with 10 minutes three times a day and gradually build up to an unbroken 30 minutes.
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