I just came in from my exercise walk and I am reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “The first wealth is health.”
Exercise is a health issue. Many of us don’t see it in this way and put other priorities ahead of it on our “list of things to do.” We don’t take the time or don’t feel we have the money to begin a fitness program. Other reasons for not exercising include difficulty finding childcare or reliable transportation.
However, exercising improves our health and helps us feel better about ourselves.
Exercise can help us:
• Control our weight
• Lower or control our blood pressure
• Tone and strengthen our muscles
• Increase bone density
• Control blood sugar
• Control cholesterol levels in the blood
• Relieve stress
It is always important to consult your physician before starting an exercise program. This is particularly true if any of the following apply to your current medical condition:
• Chest pain or pain in the neck and/or arm
• Shortness of breath
• A diagnosed heart condition
• Joint and/or bone problems
• Currently taking cardiac and/or blood pressure medications
• Have not previously been physically active
If none of these apply to you, start gradually and sensibly. A friend shared this: My husband went in to the Dr. last week because he wanted to start exercising, now that his busy season is over at work, he wasn’t feeling bad or anything (but does have diabetes and high blood pressure). The Dr. did an EKG and it didn’t match his last one, so they sent him to the Emergency room. They now have scheduled a stress test for next week. They have likely caught something that wouldn’t have been caught without a heart attack or stroke.
Common-sense precautions are important for new exercisers:
• BE SMART. Check with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program.
• KEEP YOUR EXERCISE PROGRAM IN BALANCE. Aerobic exercise should be combined with a sound strength-training program to work the heart and muscles. If you are just getting started, begin with small goals like walking before or after work for 20 – 30 minutes, or work up to that point. Ask your health care provider or fitness professional about what your heart rate should be during exercise. If it’s too hot or cold outside, go to the mall and walk; be creative. Strength-training can be done at home, however, it’s best to consult with a fitness professional before getting started. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends working opposing muscle groups for the lower, upper, and core body at least twice a week (for 20 – 25 minutes per workout).
• TAKE CARE OF YOUR FEET. Make sure your shoes provide good support and cushioning. Respond quickly to any foot problem (for example, blisters, bone bruises, etc.).
• LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Allow your body to adapt to relatively small increases in exercise intensity. The main cause of musculoskeletal injuries is overstress, especially from a sudden increase in how much exercise you do and how hard you train.
• DRINK PLENTY OF FLUID BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER EXERCISE.
• RESPECT SIGNALS FROM YOUR BODY THAT SOMETHING MAY BE WRONG. Stop exercising if you experience any of the following signs , including abnormal heart beats, pain or pressure in your chest, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea during or after exercise, prolonged fatigue, or insomnia. Check with your health care provider if the symptoms persist.
• MINIMIZE THE CONSTANT STRESS ON YOUR JOINTS. If you prefer to engage in high impact exercise, try to also include low or non-impact forms of exercise in your program (preferably on an alternating basis).
• REMEMBER, EXERCISE IS ONLY ONE FACTOR IN AN OVERALL HEALTHY LIFESTYLE. As we age and our bodies change, so do our fitness and nutritional needs.
Source: The Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center
Writer: Kathryn Dodrill, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County.
Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.