If you’re in an exercise rut, remember it’s not too late to start moving. Maybe you already walk regularly but would like to start running or doing other exercises. Even small efforts can lead to major health benefits, says Richard Parker, MD, Chairman, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Cleveland Clinic.
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One study found that running just a few minutes each day may significantly decrease your risk for heart disease. And you don’t even have to run very far or very fast to improve your heart health. Researchers concluded that running even 5 to 10 minutes each day is good and “is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease.”
When you start any new exercise routine, it’s important to take some precautions. Dr. Parker offers these five tips to prevent injury:
- Be sure it’s safe to start. You want to be sure whatever exercise plan you have, that your body is really ready for it. If you have a history of cardiac disease or significant medical problems, clear your exercise plan with your physician first.
- Ease into it. We hear this a lot, but what does this phrase really mean? “If you don’t know how far you can push yourself safely, get the help of a personal trainer or physical therapist. They can put together a timeline for your exercise activity,” Dr. Parker says. Also, if you decide to lift weights, start with less weight and higher repetitions.
- Cross train. You want to mix things up with different types of exercise, whether biking, running, swimming, elliptical or circuit training. “This doesn’t just help you enjoy exercise but it also helps prevent wear and tear on your body,” Dr. Parker says.
- Listen to pain. The adage, “no pain, no gain” does not apply here. If you are in pain, stop what you are doing and practice RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
- Use ice as needed. After you finish exercising, you can use ice on any injured or arthritic body areas.
Soreness vs. injury: How to tell the difference
It’s true that when you begin an exercise routine or intensify your training, you can expect soreness. So how can you tell if an injury is really a problem versus a normal result of getting into shape? Dr. Parker advises to watch for these red flags: joint swelling or loss of motion in the joint, and pain that’s worse after you exercise or worse the next day. If you have these symptoms, talk to your doctor.
To keep up with your new routine, remember: Listen to your body. “When you make exercise enjoyable, it also becomes sustainable,” Dr. Parker says.