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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Exercising Safely

Exercising Safely

It’s no secret that exercise is good for you. Regular exercise can strengthen muscles and bones, burn calories, raise your metabolism, boost your energy level, help you sleep better, improve your mood, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and generally keep your body in good working order.

Like anything, though, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. When undertaking a new exercise regimen, it’s important to pace yourself to avoid overtaxing or injuring yourself, especially if your body isn’t used to much physical activity.

By following a few simple rules you can ensure that your workout sessions are as safe as they are effective:

- Ask Your Doctor: Get a thorough physical and ask whether there are any potential issues that might require extra care. Areas for concern include heart condition, chest pain, dizziness, or persistent pain in bones or joints. These conditions don’t necessarily mean you can’t exercise, but your doctor may have some suggestions to make your workout safer and more comfortable.

- Start Slowly: If you aren’t used to exercising, any physical activity at all is better than none. Be easy on yourself at first, and then gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workout over time. You’ll know you’re ready to ramp things up when activities that were once strenuous start to feel easier.

- Warm Up and Cool Down: Always begin and end each workout session with 5-10 minutes of light stretching or easy movement, such as walking (or walking in place, if you’re indoors). This will warm and loosen up your muscles to prevent injury.

- Dress For Success: Wear loose-fitting clothes and comfortable shoes. Make sure your shoes, especially, are in good repair. Old, worn-out shoes won’t reduce shocks to bones and joints as well as newer ones, and may cause blisters if they no longer fit properly.

- Drink Up: Be sure to get plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least one pint of water immediately before and after exercising, and to sip water throughout your workout.

- Build in Rest Days: While it’s important to be consistent about exercise, it’s not a good idea to go full-bore every day. Incorporate easier days and more intense days into your routine. If you do strength training, take one day off in between each strength-training day to allow your muscles to recover. Many people find it helpful to alternate weightlifting with more intense cardiovascular activities such as running or cycling. If you want to incorporate cardio fitness every day, you can add a shorter, lower-intensity cardio activity on strength-training days.

- Listen to Your Body: If you start to feel sick, dizzy, headachey, breathless, or you experience severe pain, your body is trying to tell you to ease up. Even if you’ve engaged in a certain activity hundreds of times before, it’s possible to overtax yourself, especially if you’re working out in hot weather, or you haven’t had enough to drink. Bring down the intensity. If you don’t feel better, cool down and come back to it tomorrow. If you notice a particular issue cropping up regularly, consult your doctor for advice. When you are recovering from an illness, take a few days off until you are well again. Once you’re feeling better, don’t expect to jump right back into things. Allow yourself a few days to ease back into your prior routine.

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