The snow has melted and cooped up Wisconsinites are eager to step out in nature and start exercising outdoors again. Exercise has all kinds of health benefits, including controlling weight, lowering risk of chronic disease, strengthening bones, and even improving mental health and mood. However, when getting back into a walking or running routine or other exercise, it’s easy to push yourself too hard and put yourself at risk for injury. Keep in mind that easing into a routine can set you up for a healthy spring and summer.
If you were sedentary this winter, consider your health and equipment before you start exercising outdoors in spring. If you have any existing health issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or a history of heart disease, it is important that you make an appointment with your primary care provider to ensure you are ready for vigorous activity. You’ll also want to make sure you have good quality, well-fitted athletic shoes and proper clothing that will allow heat to dissipate. It is recommended to change running shoes every 300 to 400 miles, so take a look at those treads before pounding the pavement.
In terms of beginning an exercise regimen, plan balanced workouts that include cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training. Ideally, throughout the week, you should complete aerobic exercise (such as walking, jogging or swimming) three times per week and anaerobic exercise (short duration and high intensity such as weight lifting, push-ups, sprints or intervals) two to three times per week. The duration of each should be 30 to 60 minutes. When it comes to getting in shape, it’s best to include a variety of activities to reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
To maintain proper mechanics and keep the body healthy, it is crucial to include exercises that strengthen the core and hips as well as maintain flexibility in the legs. Lower extremity injuries are often connected to weak hips, back and abdominal muscles. Yoga, pilates and simple exercises such as bridges, planks, crunches, leg lifts and donkey kicks can be done at home in little time and help to keep the muscles strong. Completing hamstring and calf stretches or working a brief dynamic stretching routine in before or after your workout will allow you to sustain or improve flexibility and decrease the chances of chronic aches and pains.
Now that you know how to be safe, get out there and get active! If, at any point during your physical activity, you believe you might have a sports-related injury, make an appointment with your primary care provider or with a sports medicine/family medicine physician