Regular exercise has many health benefits such as proper weight management and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and even helping you sleep better.
But the greatest challenge for many is getting started and doing so safely. Catholic Health Physician Partners Primary Care Physician Mark Guelzow, MD, offers tips on the best way to begin an exercise program that over time will make you feel better and have a positive impact on your health.
Q: What is the best way to safely start an exercise regimen?
A: Start slow and gauge your limits. Set a new goal each week and work to gradually increase to about 150 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly. It’s important to remember that everyone will progress differently. You could start walking 10 minutes per day 3 days per week with a gradual increase in the amount of time and days walked each week. It’s also important to stretch before any activity. Set attainable goals and keep track of your progress.
Q: Should you visit your primary care physician before starting an exercise program?
A: Visiting your doctor to discuss your exercise goals is a great idea, especially if you have not had a recent physical exam. Your doctor will be able to access your risk factors and your safety profile. Together you can set goals that can be achieved safely.
Q: When starting, are there warning signs that I may be doing too much too quickly?
A: Chest pain and tightness or shortness of breath are signs to immediately stop exercising and get in touch with your doctor. Other signs may include extreme muscle fatigue, joint swelling, and severe soreness. Be intentional and consistent, but also know your limits.
Q: Is it important to maintain a balance between weight training and cardiovascular training?
A: The recommendations for heart health and maintaining a healthy weight are moderate intensity aerobic exercise and resistance training, the latter of which should occur two days per week. Moderate-intensity exercise includes brisk walking, riding a bike on level ground (or a stationary bike), pushing a lawnmower, raking, heavy cleaning and water aerobics. Resistance training includes lifting weights, using resistance bands, heavy gardening (digging, shoveling) and using your body weight for resistance by doing sit-ups or push-ups.
Q: What types of exercise can be done at home?
A: Use technology to your advantage. There are plenty of free apps/websites that provide streaming and recorded workout classes. Social media can be a great tool to find fitness tips and ideas for home workouts. There are apps for yoga, meditation, guided walking, running, strength training and more. If tech isn’t your thing and you have limited access to equipment, pick up a book on bodyweight exercises at the library.
To make an appointment with a Catholic Health primary care physician, please visit our Find a Doctor page or call (866) MY-LI-DOC.