Exercise Safety Tips for Beginners

If this is the year you finally started that exercise program, here are a few beginner safety tips to keep in mind. 

1. Check first with your doctor - this is not just a legal disclaimer in workout videos. Check in with your healthcare provider (especially if you're overweight, a smoker, or have any chronic medical conditions), and make sure there are no medical issues affecting your exercise plans.

2. Start slowly - according to the Department of Health and Human Services, 30 minutes of daily physical activity is required to reduce the risk of chronic diseases in adults. This is a daunting goal for a beginner, but the 30 minutes can be done in 10 minutes intervals throughout the day. And start with exercising 2-3 times per week. Build intensity and duration gradually. Don't try to go from couch potato to world class athlete overnight.

3. Wear the right kind of gear - shoes should fit well and provide the proper support for your activity and body type. If you're taking up running, some athletic footwear stores will consider your body type when recommending an appropriate shoe. Don't forget a helmet, elbow and knee pads if you're doing biking, skating, or a contact sport; wear reflective clothing if you will be outdoors at night; and a good swim cap and goggles can make swimming less frustrating and more fun. Also, remember even if it's cloudy outside, wear your sunscreen.

ExerciseSore_woman4. Don't wear ankle and wrist weights - too much weight may put too much stress on your joints, and they can alter your normal movement raising your risk of injury. A weighted vest in which the weight is distributed evenly might be a better choice.

5. Know your limits - pain during exercise, especially chest pain, is a sign to stop, so resist any urge to power through it. Muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea, racing heart, or breaking out in a cold sweat, are all warning signs to slow down. Beginners should expect some discomfort when just starting out, and some soreness, especially the day after vigorous exercise, should also be expected.

6. Hydrate and rest - Drink plenty of water during and after your workout. Give your body the food, fluids, and rest it needs to reap all of the benefits from this new healthy regimen.

by Deanna Franklin Campbell, Mind Body Spirit columnist for Chesapeake Family magazine.