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Get in shape the safe way

By The Health News Team | December 12, 2023
Person walking on a treadmill

Whether it’s the start of a new year, or almost summer, getting in shape is a common goal for many throughout the year. But there may be unfortunate consequences for those who rush into their new workout routine.

If getting in shape is in your plan, be sure to approach your regimen safely. Follow these tips from Michael James, physical therapist and rehabilitation manager at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.

“Adding more activity to our daily routines and following a balanced, healthy diet that consists of fruits, vegetables and lean protein is a great start to any new regimen,” James says. “However, before beginning any routine, make sure to consult your doctor to ensure a properly balanced approach.”


Get your heart pumping.

For those who are just beginning, James highly encourages walking 20 to 30 minutes per day, as it is much easier on the joints than running. Walking will put one-and-a-half times your body weight pressure on joints, whereas running puts much more stress on joints and muscles — three to five times your body weight force on the body.

If you do plan to run, try running on trails or grass instead of pavement. For those starting at the gym, options like the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike are best for cardio workouts, as they put less stress on the body.


Remember these weightlifting do’s and don’ts.

If you are looking to work out with weights, James suggests one or two strengthening exercises per muscle group with low weight and higher repetitions of 12 to 15 per set. Higher repetitions with small weights build good muscle endurance and result in less muscle soreness.


Heed any warning signs.

Lightheadedness and dizziness are ways your body tells you it is about to pass out. This may be caused by low blood pressure due to dehydration. When performing cardio, it is important to drink 10 ounces of fluid for every 15 minutes of activity, as this is the amount of fluid your body typically loses by sweating. James highly recommends hydrating the day before a high-intensity workout and drinking 10 ounces of water 30 minutes before the activity begins.

Before implementing a workout plan, consider purchasing a heart rate monitor to ensure safe workouts. James suggests exercising within 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. Calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting half your age from 205. For example, a 40-year-old’s maximum heart rate is 185 (205 minus 20), which means his or her heart rate should be between 110 and 130 beats per minute while exercising.


Learn how to prevent injuries.

Common injuries associated with cardio workouts include foot pain, knee soreness or tendonitis. Prevent these injuries by buying proper shoes with arch supports and stretching the calf, quadriceps, hamstring and hip flexor muscles before and after exercising.

When lifting weights, rotator cuff tendonitis can develop from poor posture, improperly using the gym equipment or lifting heavy weights too soon. Stretching the chest and shoulder muscles before and after each workout is highly recommended as well.

It's important to schedule an introductory session with a personal trainer before beginning a new routine. This helps ensure you are performing exercises correctly.


Know when to stretch.

Stretching before and after each workout is important, but warming up your muscles before you start can help prevent injury. You can do this by walking briskly for five minutes or performing 10 to 15 jumping jacks beforehand.

James recommends stretching the major muscle groups, including the calf, quadriceps, hamstring, hip flexor and pectoralis muscles. Each stretch should be held for 10 to 30 seconds and repeated at least five times for each muscle group.


Consider what you eat.

After a workout, James recommends a meal that consists of lean protein and nutritious carbohydrates, such as brown rice or vegetables. For cardio workouts that extend past 60 minutes, add more carbohydrates to the meal.

Learn more about exercise and fitness; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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