For people of all ages, regular exercise is one of the best ways to stay healthy. It can slow the aging process, lengthen your life and improve brain health. If you don’t have a regular exercise routine, you may not where to start. But take heart — it’s easier than you think.
Talk to Your Doctor and Trainer
If you’ve never followed an exercise routine or have let it slide for a while, check with your doctor first. A physical exam can determine your overall health for your age. Your doctor can also recommend suitable exercises if you’ve had injuries such as broken bones, muscle or ligament injuries, or have had surgery like hip or knee replacement.
After talking with your doctor, you might also consider working with a professional trainer who can show you proper exercise technique and form to help you prevent injury.
Know Your Fitness Level
You may think you know how fit you are, but your doctor or trainer can give you baseline measurements so you can track your progress. These may include:
- Body mass index
- Number of situps and pushups you can do
- Pulse rate before and after walking a specific distance, usually a mile
- Waist size
Plan Your Routine
Whatever your age, the best exercise is the one you enjoy the most. You can’t stick with your routine if you don’t like it. Determine the types of exercise you want to do and what you want to get out of them. Do you want to increase muscle strength? Improve your cardiovascular health? Prevent osteoporosis? Or maybe you want to maintain mobility and overall quality of life. Here again, a trainer can help you. Common types of exercise include:
- Calisthenics (lunges, sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups at a medium pace)
- Flexibility exercises (muscle stretches)
- High-impact aerobics (running and dancing, etc.)
- High-intensity interval training (short bursts at high-intensity followed by low-intensity or rest periods)
- Low impact aerobics (swimming, walking or bicycling)
- Resistance training
Get In the Swim of Things
Swimming is a great cardiovascular workout that strengthens muscles while putting minimal stress on your bones and joints. And, it’s perfect if you have arthritis or osteoporosis. If you can combine your other exercises with a swim before or after, so much the better.
Eat Well for Fitness
Eat a well-balanced diet to get calories and nutrients that fuel your daily activities, including your exercise routine. Learn to eat the right types of food at the right times of the day. If you’re not sure what types of foods are best for you, your doctor can get you started. And, if you feel that more focused education and guidance are needed, your doctor may also recommend a dietitian or nutritionist to further help you.
Don’t Exercise on Empty
You should eat one or two hours before your workout to ensure you have enough energy. It’s important to achieve the right balance of carbs and protein. For a pre-workout snack, avoid junk food packed with sugar and fat. Eat snacks that combine carbohydrates with protein, such as bananas, berries, grapes, oranges and nuts. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
Set Goals, Start Slow
Don’t overdo it. Have a realistic picture of what you can do. While doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week is recommended, it may not be what you’re comfortable with at first. Start at your own pace and simply strive to increase your goals over time. You’ll soon improve and won’t injure yourself in the process.
Choose the days and times that are best for you. You won’t keep going to the gym at 5 a.m. if you’re not happy about it. Exercise when it suits you best. You’ll find working out the same days and times helps you stick to your exercise routine — and that’s the most important part!
Stay Off the Injured List
Sports medicine specialists at Emory Sports Medicine provide outstanding care for athletes at all levels who enjoy active lifestyles and want the best possible outcomes and recovery from sports injuries. To ensure your fullest recovery, our professional, highly skilled, and caring staff at Emory Physical Therapy offer unparalleled clinical care and evidence-based treatment.
About Dr. Mautner
Kenneth R. Mautner, M.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. He is board certified in PM&R with a subspecialty certification in Sports Medicine. He is the Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine and Fellowship Director for the ACGME accredited Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship.
Dr. Mautner is considered a leader in the field of Orthobiologics treatment for chronic soft tissue and joint disorders including Platelet Rich Plasma and Stem Cell injections. Dr. Mautner is the head team physician for the Atlanta Hawks, Harlem Globetrotters, and Pace Academy, as well as a team physician for the Atlanta Braves, Georgia Tech, and Emory University.