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Get fit in a year: Let's get physical

May 03, 2010|By ANGIE DAVIS / Special to The Herald-Mail

To many people, getting a yearly physical is little more than a necessary hassle.

However, asking your doctor if you are healthy enough for exercise is one aspect of a physical exam that is often overlooked.

From a physical exam, a doctor can determine if you have any limitations on which exercises you may or may not do and can give you guidelines on what areas of your health need improvement.

If a doctor determines that you are able to exercise, there are a few simple steps to finding a routine that is both fun and beneficial.

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The key to workout success is finding a regimen that will entertain and motivate you to continue. If you enjoy dancing, try a Zumba class. If you like to bike, try a spinning class. If you enjoy lifting weights and using the cardio equipment, try joining a gym.

It is important that you find something you enjoy so that you will be motivated to continue. Exercise buddies also help hold you accountable and sometimes give you needed motivation to continue.

There are three parts of a workout - warm-up, exercise and cool down - and each part plays a critical role in the overall routine.

Warm-up. A warm-up is designed to loosen the muscles of the body and prepare them for exercise through gradual increase in activity. Stretching and controlled joint movement releases synovial fluid, which reduces friction between bones while light walking raises the pulse, which enables oxygen to travel in the blood faster.

Exercise. There are literally hundreds of ways you can exercise but a combination of cardio and strengthening has been proven to yield the most benefit. There are exercises suitable for everyone, including people with arthritis or joint injuries.

Sometimes conventional exercises on land can exacerbate the pain associated with these conditions, but exercise done in water provides a more resilient atmosphere.

Also, you do not need to buy expensive equipment for a good workout; you can get a good program just using your own body weight for resistance.

Lastly, it is important to avoid doing the same routine every time you exercise. Your body will hit a plateau and see fewer changes if you do not change things up.

Cool-down. The cool-down is the most overlooked part of a workout, but its importance cannot be overstated. By gradually reducing your heart rate after exercise the body is able to remove lactic acid in muscles, preventing cramps and stiffness. Light walking and stretching after an exercise are both effective cool-down techniques and should be done for five to 10 minutes after a workout. Also remember to keep yourself hydrated during and after exercising to also assist with decreasing muscle soreness and cramping.

Next time you visit your doctor for a physical, be sure to ask if you are healthy enough to begin a workout regimen. Work with doctors to determine what aspects of your health the workout should target. After that, find something that you love, and keep at it until you reach your goals.

Angie Davis is a physical therapy assistant as Washington County Hospital and a certified personal trainer.

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