Health & Fitness: Get Physically Fit and Exercise Safely without Injury

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By LaTINA EMERSON, Special to The Weekly

To maintain good physical health, it’s important to exercise and keep moving. Being sedentary isn’t good for our hearts or bodies, so people of all ages need to get off the couch, start exercising and be consistent, while also being careful not to overexert themselves and cause injury. 

In this interview with The Weekly, Colleen Alrutz, manager at Piedmont Newnan Fitness Center, offers some tips on how to get physically fit and exercise safely without injury. 

Q: Does everyone need to consult with a doctor before starting an exercise routine or is this recommended for certain populations?

A: The best answer is yes. For someone who is sedentary/very deconditioned, has blood lipid markers outside the normal range or has cardiovascular/metabolic/renal disease, a doctor consult becomes even more important. If no diseases are present or are asymptomatic, a doctor consult is of less importance.

In my tenure as the manager of Piedmont Newnan Fitness Center, I have never had a doctor not fully support his or her patient’s desire to begin an exercise routine. Our members’ ages range between 13-99.

Q: How often and how long should someone exercise to maintain good physical health? 

A: The American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic agree and recommend 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread out throughout the week, with two days a week of moderate to high intensity muscle strengthening activity (strength training).

Moderate activity might be a brisk walk, a bike ride or lap swimming. Vigorous aerobic activity could be a run, lap swimming at high intensity, aerobic dancing, etc. Weight training (on non-consecutive days) can include weight machines, dumbbells, your body weight or resistance bands.

As a rule of thumb, aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. If trying to lose weight, maintain weight loss or you have a specific fitness goal in mind, you may need to exercise more.

Q: Should exercise routines vary based on a person’s age?

A: There is chronological age and biological age. Biological age is how your body has aged healthwise compared to your chronological age. This is the number we should all be striving to improve. Exercise is essential for all ages for overall good health. It is too simplistic to prescribe training based on a person’s age. It should be prescribed by ability.

Last week, I had a fitness consult with a 90-year-old man who could run circles around many 50-year-olds!

Q: What types of exercises or activities do you recommend to stay in the best physical shape?

A: Aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance. A variety is best to achieve improvements in various physical fitness components (agility, speed, coordination and power).

Q: What advice can you offer to help people stay motivated to meet their fitness goals?

A: Find something you love and try to do it with others. Statistics say that people are 80 percent more likely to stick to an exercise program if they participate in group exercise. Make it fun, social and have accountability partners.

Q: How can people avoid injury or overexerting themselves when exercising?

A: Start slow and gradually increase time and intensity over time. Meet with a fitness professional to help teach you proper form and posture while performing exercises. Listen to your body and know the signs of overexertion: shortness of breath, dizziness/lightheadedness and unusual pain/discomfort.

Q: For people with busy schedules, can you recommend any exercises they can do at home or work?

A: For those with desk jobs, set an alarm on your phone every hour to stand up/march in place and do chair stretches and balance training, anything but sitting down. I purchased a standing desk several years ago and absolutely love it.

At home, use what’s available. Water bottles and soup cans are great substitutes for light free weights to perform light strength training. Body weight exercises are great as well. There are so many fitness apps available. All you really need is a good pair of shoes and your body. The rest are luxury items: fitness apps, Pelotons and dumbbells.

Q: Are there different things that people should consider when exercising indoors versus outdoors?

A: I would say don’t build your whole program around one or the other. Outdoors you will have weather conditions, such as being too hot, too cold, too windy, rainy, etc., that could become excuses. Move exercise indoors when outside weather conditions don’t agree with you. I much prefer to get my cardiovascular exercise outside; being outside feeds my soul! Do what makes you want to exercise more often!

Q: Are certain foods or drinks helpful to stay hydrated and maintain energy levels?

A: Water. Keep note that the feeling of thirst is an indicator of dehydration. A good rule to follow is to drink before you feel thirsty. Simply eat a well-balanced whole food diet and drink your water. If you are not a performance athlete, you should not need to do anything else.

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