The benefits of exercise are immeasurable. Exercising regularly can help you feel happier, lose weight, strengthen your muscles and bones, increase your energy level and improve your brain health and memory. Lack of physical activity is a contributor to most chronic conditions and diseases, including heart disease, and can lead to substantial decreases in both your quality and length of life.

Whether you are just starting out or are training for your third marathon, it’s important to take proper steps to avoid injuries. Here are a few tips to help you safely improve your performance, at all levels.

A Tip for Everyone

Talk to your doctor. Before you start a new exercise program or take on a more strenuous exercise regimen, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor, especially if you:

  • Have been inactive recently
  • Have any injuries
  • Have a chronic health condition, such as a heart condition, asthma, diabetes or a joint or bone condition
  • Have been experiencing health issues, such as chest pains, shortness of breath or dizziness

Tips for a Beginner

If you’re embarking on a new exercise routine, good for you! You’re already on the road to better health. To ensure you don’t get sidelined by an injury, follow these essential guidelines.

  • Start slow. Exercise is a marathon, not a sprint. Overdoing it, especially early-on, may result in injury, which would be counterproductive to your goal of getting in shape. Start slow and gradually increase your activity level over time.
  • Warm up and cool down. Just 5 – 10 minutes on both ends can help prevent injury and aid your body in recovery.
  • Drink water. According to the American Heart Association, staying hydrated is critical for your heart health, and water is best. Start out hydrated, then sip water both during and after exercise.

Tips for the Intermediate

If you’ve been at it for a while, congratulations for sticking with it. You’ve begun reaping the many health benefits of a regular exercise routine. If you are considering progressing to the next level, here are some additional performance and safety tips.

  • Watch your form. As you increase intensity, including adding weight or resistance in strength training, keep an eye on your form. If your forms starts to suffer, back off until you can regain proper form.
  • Listen to your body. If you’re not feeling well, or if you feel pain, fatigue or shortness of breath, hold off on exercise for the day.
  • Don’t overdo. Over training can result in overuse injuries such as stress fractures and inflamed tendons and ligaments, all of which can send you back to the starting line. Vary your activities, and get plenty of rest between workouts.

Tips for the Advanced

If you’re exercising regularly and vigorously, you’re probably seeing the benefits of a lifetime commitment to your health and well being. To maintain your momentum, try these tips.

  • Ramp up your hydration. Intense workouts in hot, humid conditions require additional hydration. Consider drinking sports drinks with electrolytes, but be aware they contain added sugar and calories. Weigh yourself before and after your workout, to see how much fluid you’ve lost through perspiration. For every pound of sweat you lose, drink a pint to replenish.
  • Fuel your body. Proper nutrition is an essential part of any fitness regimen. Two hours before your workout, eat healthy carbs for energy, and avoid saturated fats and excessive protein. After your workout, eat carbs to aid in recovery and protein to help repair and grow your muscles. And don’t forget your veggies! They’re full of essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Getting enough sleep is crucial for athletic performance. The harder you push your body, the more time your body needs to recover. Sleep experts recommend seven to nine hours of daily sleep for adults, and nine to ten hours for adolescents and teens.

Congratulations on your commitment to your health. Regular exercise is an essential part of heart-healthy living. For additional ways you and your family can prevent heart disease, schedule an appointment with a cardiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann online or by calling (713) 222-2273.

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