by John Bradley, PT
So you have decided to take the plunge and get yourself in shape by starting an exercise program.
Great! Now, what do you do first?
Believe it or not, at this point, a lot of people get stuck and never move forward to starting actual exercise. That is unfortunate and is the reason I am writing this article.
I cannot tell you how many folks have admitted to me that they have always wanted to start exercising, but they simply do not know how to start. Without question, the first step is to talk to your physician and likely get a complete physical before embarking on any exercise program, no matter how benign it seems.
In the almost 30 years I have been practicing, I have many stories of people who blissfully started an exercise program on their own without consulting their doctor first and ran into trouble. Fortunately, most of these problems were easily addressed and may have been simple sprains/strains from using parts of their bodies for the first time in a long while.
Start safe first!
But, I have vivid memories of more serious situations.
In fact, I will always remember a 16-year-old, athletic-looking girl, who told me she was going to start a running program.
Upon starting running, she was complaining of shortness of breath very early in her running.
I immediately had her seen by her doctor, only later to learn she was diagnosed with an unusual but treatable cardiac condition that was causing her symptoms.
So, start the safe way by seeing your doctor!
Set the plans in motion and take your time
Once you have completed that first step, it is time to get moving…..literally!
I am a firm believer in simply getting a previously inactive person to start walking more. That may mean parking a farther distance from the entrance to your place of employment every day or when you go shopping. Walk to the drugstore to get the Sunday paper instead of driving, etc.
The distances do not have to be great. Just adding walking 10 more minutes per day will make a huge difference in how your heart and lungs are working.
Yes, heart and lungs! That should be the focus of any introductory exercise program.
Remember, no one died of small muscles! Add a little bit of walking time to your program each week. I mean, it could be only 1-2 minutes more per week.
Don’t rush. This will be your best insurance against incurring a strain injury from progressing too quickly as well as preventing you from getting discouraged with setting an unreasonable goal. Speaking of which, you are shooting for 30 minutes of sustained activity 5 days per week.
But, take your time and add a little time each week.
Take it easy
Back to muscles…I said that no one has ever died from small muscles.
But, life is certainly a lot easier with strong muscles, isn’t it? I advise people to focus on major muscle groups such as the hips, back, and legs.
Don’t get bogged down with trying to do an exercise for every muscle in your body.
Keep it simple in concept and practice. For example, a great hip and leg exercise is a simple step up to a stair step. Just alternately step up one leg at a time onto the bottom step.
Start with ten times on each leg and slowly add repetitions every 2 weeks, working up to thirty times on each leg.
For general strengthening of the back, particularly the postural muscles, try this: stand with your back against a door jamb.
With your arms hanging at your sides, gently pinch your shoulder blades together, as if you were wrapping them around the door jamb.
Hold 5 seconds. Do 2 groups of 10 repetitions.
One of the advantages of the simplistic approach is that for most people, it is doable. This doesn’t mean you will not advance to more complicated and challenging exercises, but it is a reasonable jump-off point that should not be intimidating or take a huge amount of time.
So, no excuses! Make a commitment to add years to your life and feel better every day!
Start doing this video below for a start!