January 8, 2015 by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute  
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bascis of exercise

The Basics of Exercise for Avoiding Injuries
by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute

Tips for Basics of Exercise.

    • The cardiovascular system can be “conditioned” within 3-4 weeks for most people.
    • The musculoskeletal system can take 6-8 weeks or longer to be conditioned.
    • Try to perform cardiovascular exercise 3-4x /week for a minimum of 30 minutes.
    • Strength training can be performed with a 1-2 day rest in between sessions.
    • Seek the advice of an orthopaedic Physical Therapist for exercise suggestions.

New Year’s celebrations have come and gone, and now we face the challenging of living up to our resolutions for healthy living. Sustaining a long-term fitness program involves developing new patterns in our daily and weekly routines. If we want to stay committed to maintaining new levels of exertion, we should follow essential basics of exercise to avoid injuries that can hinder our goals and even cause us to give up on commitments.

Outpatient orthopaedic physical therapy centers regularly treat patients for injuries that occurred when they tried a new exercise routine (that may have been much easier to perform at a younger age). Therapists hear the phrase “I used to do it” all of the time. After a few questions, it becomes obvious that “used to do it” was many years ago.

Unfortunately the body’s ability to perform strenuous activity changes as we age. The natural aging process causes us to lose muscle mass, gain weight due to a slower metabolism, and develop tight joints as the of soft tissue becomes less Many people will also develop arthritis in their joints. Although the aging population is treated more frequently for injuries sustained while they attempt to add a new routine to their daily schedule, anyone trying to develop a new exercise should follow a few basics of exercise to avoid injuring themselves.

If an injury occurs, seek treatment from a qualified healthcare professional. Most outpatient orthopaedic physical therapists are a great resource that can help treat injuries and restore people to their activity as soon as medically possible.

Realistic Expectations

When starting a workout routine, one of the most important things to remember is that it will take time to see and experience “real” results. While the human body can get injured and lose many physical capabilities quickly, it takes weeks and months to gain strength, build endurance (cardiovascular or muscular) and increase flexibility.

Most people want the “quick fix.” Quick fixes do not exist. Transforming your lifestyle will take time, and there is no race to the finish line. Start slowly but consistently and add new exercises as you develop more strength, endurance and flexibility. This enables the body to adapt to the new routine and in most cases avoid an injury.

Mentally it is almost impossible to go from no routine to one that takes 1-2 hours of your day. The initial phase of adding an exercise routine to a daily schedule is probably more mentally grueling than physical. Start out with more reasonable goals. EVERYONE has 15-20 minutes per day that are “wasted.” This time could be used to do something that would be beneficial for the physical make up of their body. Gradually, you can increase the workout time to longer periods as you pursue you fitness goals.

Key Steps When Getting Started

Walk don’t Run- Your body will not be ready to go out for a 3-4 mile run for a few weeks to months. Start out walking. It can be performed anywhere and can yield great results. Before you start, make sure to have good supportive shoes. Start slowly: If you don’t walk often, begin with a few blocks or 10 – 15 minutes, and add to the distance or time daily.

By the end of the first month you should be able to walk at a faster pace (try to get up to a speed that makes having a conversation difficult) and for a significant distance or time period. If you want to begin a running program, add some short distances in a “walk/run” manner and slowly increase the “run” aspect of the program.

Strength train- You don’t have to go to gym or fitness center or use “fancy” equipment to get stronger. Many people like the convenience of using a gym/fitness center for their strength training programs. This is probably the most effective way if the proper exercises are performed, but don’t let this limit your workout if you cannot afford or don’t have access to one. Here are several exercises that are easy to do anywhere and can “build” a foundation of strength while hopefully avoiding an exercise-induced injury.
Push up: Begin with wall or counter top push-ups. Progress to the floor and keep your knees on the floor. As you get stronger raise your knees off of the floor and perform a standard push up. Keep your hands approximately shoulder width apart and when you do a standard push up don’t let you butt arc upwards towards the ceiling or sink towards the floor.

Squat: You can begin with your back up against a wall or you can hold onto the back of a stationary object. Try to make your hips/butt move before you bend your knees. The butt should move backwards by tilting the pelvis forward before the knees bend. Ask your physical therapist to demonstrate this movement. You will be able to continue to lower your buttock towards the level of a chair without allowing your knees to bend and move forward beyond your toes.

Planks: Two different planks should be performed. The straight or standard plank is similar to the push up position when it is performed on the floor and the knees are not in contact with the floor. The weight of your upper body can be supported on your hands but this can be painful on the wrist joints therefore most times the weight is supported on the forearms and elbows.

Side planks are great for adding stability to the lumbar spine. Lie on one side. Push your body weight up off of the floor and support it with our forearm and elbow on the side that you are lying on. The side of your foot rests on the floor during the exercise routine. If this position is too difficult, keep the entire side of your leg below the knee on the floor during the exercise.

Flexibility: Stretching exercises should be performed daily, and each exercise should be performed 2-3 x and held at a comfortable “stretch” for a minimum of 20 seconds. The analogy of stretching “leather” and not “rubberbands” should be considered when trying to increase flexibility.

Knees to chest: Lie on the floor and slowly pull one knee to your chest and hold it there for 20 -30 seconds. Repeat several times with both legs.

Hamstring stretch: Do to the amount of sitting so many people do in this day and age, the hamstrings (muscles on the back of the thigh) tend to get extremely “tight.” To stretch them, place your heel on an object that is approximately 3-6 inches high. Keep your knee straight and lean forward at the waist. Try to put your chest on your kneecap (you will most likely not be able to do so). Do not lean forward and attempt to put your forehead on your kneecap.

Exercise can be fun and relaxing while also offering many health benefits. While your routine does not have to be overwhelming, it does need to be consistent. This should be a “life-long” routine. Missing one day is not going to harm you, but missing one week or more will put you in harm’s way of developing an exercise induced injury. Choose a routine and stick with it, and you will experience an improved quality of life.

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