Exercise is an important aspect of living a healthy life and maintaining independence as we get older. That being said, it is important for anyone thinking of starting an exercise program to understand the risks that accompany all types of workouts. Before you start a new activity, be sure to follow these steps to ensure that the program is carried out in a safe and effective way.
1. Address any aches, pains, and injuries that may be ailing you prior to beginning any exercise.
This can be done by consulting your doctor of physical therapy. He or she can help you prepare your body for a regimented exercise program. Symptoms like back pain, knee pain, and shoulder pain can be accentuated both during and after exercise, so addressing problems like these before beginning a new program will ensure that the condition does not progress – and it will help you avoid any further injury. Pain and injury can both be demotivators for exercise and weight loss.
2. Set goals for yourself.
Identifying simple and specific goals can help maximize the effectiveness of the exercise program. Goals should also be progressive in nature to help keep you motivated. Unrealistic goals can cause you to give up or stop the program altogether. So while having a major goal will help steer an exercise program, having minor goals along the way to the major one will help keep you on track.
3. Identify what types of exercise you are willing and able to participate in.
Exercise is a broad category, and exercising regularly requires discipline. What makes it even harder is participating in a program that is not enjoyable for you. While your program should be relatively challenging, it should be enjoyable at the same time. Oftentimes the reasons people despise certain workouts or movements are related to pain or discomfort felt while performing them.
4. Seek help when needed.
Searching the web for answers to your exercise questions can lead to generalizations, so be sure to consult an expert in the exercise arena. If you are not sure where to start or are a novice, seeking health and exercise expertise or direction from your physical therapist is very important. Often physical therapists refer to a specific network of highly qualified personal trainers who can help you with daily workouts.
5. Finally, make your exercise uniquely your own.
What works for your friend may not be effective for you. Tailoring a program to your specific needs and goals will help increase its effectiveness for you.
American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 9th ed., Linda S. Pescatello, ed. (Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins Health, 2014).