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Springing into exercise: Vanderbilt expert offers advice to get back in shape

May. 5, 2014, 12:51 PM

by Trisha Pasricha

With spring in bloom, the cold weather is going away and so are excuses to avoid outdoor exercise. Many people who shied away from physical exertion during the winter may be inspired to get in shape this season.

running shoes

A few might jump in too quickly.

“It’s best to start gently, especially with exercises that require bursts of activity,” said Brad Awalt, MS, ACSM, manager of Vanderbilt’s Health Plus. “The sun is shining, so a lot of people are going to be heading outdoors to the parks or joining team sports.

“If you haven’t been exercising regularly through the winter months, your muscles aren’t conditioned, so it’s easy to overdo it in the beginning.”

Awalt has some reminders for those who have not been active through the winter.

“Always do an active warm-up first, and wear sunscreen when outside. Make sure you have plenty of water available, especially on a hot day.”

Sore muscles after a new exercise regimen may be normal, but the injury could be severe if it prevents you from carrying out basic activities. One solution, Awalt said, is cross-training, or exercises which work various parts of the body. Not only can cross-training be an effective way to decrease the risk of overuse injury, it can also improve overall physical fitness.

“One of the complaints about exercise is that it’s boring, but if you mix up the routine with cross-training, it keeps it fresh and fun,” Awalt said. “A huge advantage is that you’re hitting different muscle groups, so you can keep up activity on multiple days without aggravating injuries.”

Alternating outdoor activities in the warm weather can help improve total fitness.

“If you like weight-bearing activities, on alternate days go for a bike ride outside so you’re giving your joints a break while still getting a cardiovascular workout,” he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should get 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week, even if just 10 minutes at a time. Individuals over the age of 40 and those who have major medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or joint pain, are advised to get clearance from their physician before starting a new routine.

Ten tips for starting exercise in the spring:

1. Begin slowly and don’t overdo it
2. Start your workout with an active warm-up.
3. Be sure to take water and stay hydrated.
4. Wear sunscreen if you are going to walk, run or bike.
5. If you have an injury or pain, rest or switch to a different activity that allows the injury to heal.
6. Strive for 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week.
7. If running or walking, make sure your exercise shoes fit well and are in good shape to avoid pain or injury.
8. Wear reflective clothing in early mornings and at night to be visible.
9. Avoid poorly-lit or deserted paths when planning your route.
10. Get clearance from your physician before beginning a new exercise regimen.

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