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Posted on 01-02-2016

“Please consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program”

How many times have we read, and then ignored, this disclaimer, especially at the start of the new year? Most of us who decide to commit to a healthier lifestyle don’t think that this is a necessary step in kick-starting a new exercise regimen. We make our new year’s resolution to work out, stock up on bottled water, purchase some state-of-the-art gym shoes and fresh work-out clothes, ready to “go hard” at the gym. Who has time to schedule an appointment with your health care provider to get clearance to break a sweat-right? Well, one of our clients thought the same thing before she experienced a stroke during boot camp! During a routine work-out she began experiencing changes in her vision. Instead of listening to her body, she decided to continue with the work-out. Even when symptoms worsened and Emergency Medical Services arrived, she still declined medical attention until much later, after she went home. Luckily, she had a full recovery but was advised to get medical clearance before resuming her exercise regimen. This story is shared, not to scare you out of exercising, but to provide three very important recommendations:

1. Listen to your body!

The message that your body sends doesn’t have to be as extreme as having a stroke, but make sure to listen to any pulls, pain, or discomfort that you are feeling during exercise, especially if you are just starting out with your fitness program. “No pain, no gain” doesn’t mean that you should ignore your body when it has reached its limit. Discomfort doesn’t mean quitting, it just means that your fitness instructor should provide you with a modified program or that you need to take a moment to catch your breath, hydrate, and decide if you are working beyond your current capacity.

2. Consider getting medically cleared before exercising.

Most of us join a gym or start an exercise regimen without undergoing a medical clearance. However, those with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension, should seriously consider checking with a health care professional before engaging in physical activity. These conditions are associated with changes in your cardiovascular system that may put you at risk for a stroke, heart attack, and even sudden death. This certainly doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t exercise! Engaging in moderate physical activity actually lowers your risk of death and, in some cases, can lead to the reversal of some of these conditions. You should definitely discuss these risks with a health care provider before beginning your fitness program so that you develop a plan to get fit that works best for you and your body!

3. Know your risk for adverse outcomes, such as a stroke, heart attack, or diabetes.

If asked, would you know what your most recent blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar were? Do you know what your risk factors are for developing diabetes or having a stroke or heart attack? If the answer to either of these questions is “No” then your first assignment, before implementing your fitness plan, is to get this information. Know your numbers! You want to get your most recent blood pressure and determine if it falls within the normal range. You also want to make sure that you know the breakdown of your cholesterol (total, LDL=bad cholesterol, HDL=good cholesterol, and triglycerides) and your blood sugar. Not only will you know if you have an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, but you can follow these numbers as you exercise to see the positive health effects that exercise has on your body.

Whether you’ve joined a gym or signed up for a weekly boot camp, just remember to approach exercise safely! An apple a day keeps the doctor away but a strained muscle or torn ligament keeps you coming back!

Here's to a New Year and New You Crofton!

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