It’s that time of the year again when New Year’s resolutions to exercise more and lose weight are giving way to old habits.
Dr. Nicholas Slenker, an orthopedic surgeon with Coordinated Health, a division of the Lehigh Valley Health Network, has some tips to help couch potatoes work their way to becoming string beans.
“Exercise is so important,” he said. “I’m a huge believer in move it or lose it.”
Slenker said our bodies are not meant to sit for hours. They’re meant stay in motion.
“There are so many ways to exercise,” he said. “There are so many ways to just stay active and live an active lifestyle.”
The first thing though is to find something that is enjoyable.
“If you dread the exercise, it won’t stand the test of time,” he said
Slenker suggests walking. It’s low impact, easy to do, and it doesn’t have to be 10,000 steps a day.
He suggests starting out small, since most couch potatoes are in need of some conditioning before they take on high-impact aerobic exercise.
Commit to doing 20 minutes a day, every other day. Reasonable goals are easier to accomplish.
To keep that motivation up, Slenker offers a couple tips.
1. Schedule a time to exercise. This way, time is set aside for that activity, instead of exercise being fit in where there is free time. Scheduling will also help it to become part of a routine – a new habit.
2. Be creative in picking an activity. It doesn’t have to be the same activity over and over again. Walk one day, bike the next or try a rowing machine, water aerobics, treadmill or a stationary bicycle.
“The people who are most successful with exercise are those where it becomes part of their life,” he said. “If you talk to people who exercise regularly, they are off kilter if they do not exercise. Their routine is upset.”
3. As for as the perfect time of the day to exercise, it is really whenever is best for that person. Some people are morning people, some people are evening people. As long as it doesn’t make it difficult to fall asleep, then it’s a good time.
4. If it becomes tough to keep up an exercise schedule, then turn to the group experience.
A group can mean getting a family member to go on the walks, walking with friends or neighbors, or reporting in with someone when the walk is accomplished.
It can also mean joining an exercise class. Of course, in-person classes are not available right now, but there are videos on YouTube to introduce a person to these low-impact stretching exercises like yoga and Pilates.
“These are great entry-level exercises,” Slenker said. “Stretching can be quite an exercise. You can do some stretching for 20 minutes and be worn out. It’s called isometric exercising. Holding a great stretch and probably safer for you as you start out.”
After about four to six weeks of regular conditioning exercises, it’s time to add strength training. Slenker said keep it simple. Buy some bands and 2-, 3- or 5-pound dumbbells and ankle weights to use in repetition exercises for biceps, triceps, chest, back and knee extensions. Check out YouTube for some simple band workouts and repetition exercises.
“You need to have conditioning and then strengthening exercises,” he said. “They complement each other. They build your body in different ways.”
Sore muscles vs. injury
With any exercise, sore muscles are common.
“Sore is good,” Slenker said. “It is part of muscle recovery and build up.”
A pulled muscle is another thing. That is actually more like an injury, he said.
The first thing to do for a pulled muscle is to ice it, then rest it and wrap it. Ibuprofen can also be used to reduce inflammation.
For minor pulls, resting for a day may be enough, but for some injuries, the muscle may need to be iced for two to three days. Never put heat on an initial injury, he said.
After a few days, a heating pad or a warm shower can be used on the sore muscle before stretching. Stretching is important in order to stay flexible.
Slenker said it takes a couple months for an exercise program to become part of a routine, but embrace the small victories. It’s worth it.
He recommends eventually making exercise a part of each day. The goal should be to do an exercise that gets the heart rate up and produces a sweat every day.
Exercise is an important part of life, Dr. Nicholas Slenker of Lehigh Valley Health Network, says. METROGRAPHICS