The New Year, a Fresh Start, a New You!

Julie Valois, M.P.T, D.P.T.

The start of a new year is a good time to reflect on what you have learned, and what you could be doing differently. If you’re not doing anything differently then you’re not growing.  This applies to your exercise program, or lack of one!

What do you want from your exercise program…Have a great work-out? Lose weight or get in shape? Improve your health? Increase your physical performance? Then let’s get you started! Here are a few key points to consider to safely start or revise your exercise program. Before you start an exercise program, it’s always best to consult with your physician prior to starting.

-Quality over quantity: The effectiveness of your exercise session is not the length, but quality. For example, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a routine with a period of maximum exertion followed by quick rest periods for a set of intervals.  Such a program is not recommended more than three times per week.  Your exercise routine should include stretching to improve circulation and elasticity of muscles before and after activity. Core exercises are always important, because your body has over 29 core muscles in the pelvis, abdomen, and back, providing the foundation for the entire body and needs to be addressed. You should individualize your program by selecting the right exercises for you, or seek the help of a professional trainer. 

-Sleep: Sleep is one the easiest factors we can control, but is often overlooked. Sleep allows your body to go into what is known as an “anabolic state,” which allows the body to produce new bone, muscular, and nerve tissue. To optimize strength, recovery, and growth we must make sleep a priority!

-Listen to your body: The myth: “No pain, no gain.”  If you have pain then stop, reassess, modify, slow down, rest, or seek professional medical help or exercise assistance. If you are feeling fatigued or sick, take a break from training.

-Pace yourself: Establish your goals and devise a plan within an achievable time frame.  A general guideline is to use the 10 percent rule -- increase your activity by no more than 10 percent per week. This includes time exercising, weight, distance, and intensity of your routine. Injuries often occur due to increasing training too quickly or trying to reach exercise goals too fast.

-Make it functional: “Functional exercises” like squats, planks and step-ups carry over to real-life activities.  They also encourage movement into multiple planes, which helps prevent imbalancesthat could lead to injuries.  This is how our body is designed to move, so incorporate them into your routine.

-Optimal nutrition plan: For your health, eating a well-balanced diet is vital, and your carbohydrate, protein, and dietary fat needs could change depending on the type and intensity of your workouts.  Establish goals and seek assistance and recommendations from your physician or a nutritionist. Remember, hydration is necessary before, during, and after exercise , so be sure to get enough water throughout the day. There are no specific guidelines as it varies from one individual to another based on many conditions. So drink up!

- It’s a lifestyle change: Make exercise a habit! Set realistic, attainable goals and keep a written log of your workouts and progress. Make it fun. Maybe exercise with a friend to reinforce your commitment.  Create a routine, exercising at the same time of day and you will be less likely to skip your workout. Establish inclement weather alternatives. Cross-train, vary your exercise to allow you to step out of your comfort zone. It will boost your metabolism and allow different muscles to be recruited to prevent injury. Reward yourself!

Remember, always be focused and careful while you are exercising.  Unfortunately, injuries can occur.  If they do, remember our team of physical therapists and occupational therapists at Lifespan are here to help you move better, feel better, and stay active!  Call us at (401) 444-5418.

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