Health Column:

The Fitness Formula: It all adds up

By Cheri DeVault, MS, ATC
Blount Memorial Hospital

Getting fit can be harmful if done improperly. If you've never worked out and have health problems -- or are 45 years or older -- you should get a physical and clearance from your physician before beginning any type of fitness routine. The physical is for the identification of any health problems that you may currently have, and it also serves as a monitoring system -- one that's managed by a professional.

The next factor in the equation is the proper gear for your workouts before you start. Women should purchase fitted sports bras, and all exercisers should make it a point to purchase properly fitting shoes. Proper shoes are important for the health of feet, legs and the back.

Exercise shoes only should be worn for workouts. Following this suggestion can save on the wear and tear of the shoes.

For the experienced exerciser, shoes or insoles should be changed out or altered every six months. Now, if you're one of those experienced exercisers who put a lot of miles on your shoes, then the shoes or insoles should be changed out every three months. For the runners, consider a second pair of shoes so that each pair has a chance to dry out between runs.

Doing this also will help the shoes last longer.

One of the key components of a good workout is stretching. Most people forget to stretch, and that can lead to tight muscles and injuries in time. If you do not know how to stretch, seek a fitness professional to guide you. A rule of thumb is to stretch as part of your warm-up for exercise, and stretch as part of your cool down from exercise. The stretch should be gentle and held for 20 to 30 seconds before being repeated. The best body preservation is to stretch every day, even on
the days that you do not exercise, as it helps you to gain and maintain flexibility.

Another key component is weightlifting. A person should lift weights at least three times a week to gain strength. Part of a good weight loss program includes weightlifting because of the fact that muscle mass expends more calories than fat. Seek a fitness professional for guidance on weightlifting if you have never participated in this activity. As for the experienced weightlifter, start with lighter weights or fewer repetitions than the level at which you last stopped if it's been longer than two weeks since your last weightlifting experience.

The last component of a good workout program is cardiovascular training. This includes running, walking, swimming or circuit training. This component should be done at least three times weekly to attain the health benefits for the heart and lungs. A novice should start with 10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and work upward from there. An experienced exerciser should lower the amount of time or intensity from where he or she last stopped if it has been longer than one month.

Cheri DeVault is a certified athletic trainer at the Blount Memorial Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at Springbrook.

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