It’s pretty much common knowledge that exercise has several benefits, including:
- Improved cardiovascular fitness;
- Greater muscle strength;
- Higher energy levels; and,
- A better overall mood.
Unfortunately, exercise can also be difficult, and even dangerous, if you are severely out of shape. Regardless of your size, if you have been sedentary for a long time you are likely to have reduced muscular and cardiovascular endurance, and be at greater risk for conditions like hypertension, heart disease, and high blood cholesterol. This does not mean that you should not exercise; it simply means that you might need to ease into it more carefully than someone who has some experience with exercise. By adhering to the following tips, you can ease safely into exercise and start your journey to health.
Consult Your Physician
Before you start on any exercise program, but especially if you have been sedentary for a long time, you should always consult with your doctor. In fact, thanks to the preventative care provisions in the Affordable Care Act, you should go to your doctor at least once a year for a physical anyway.
During the physical, your doctor should check your blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate, as well as your skin tone, joint mobility, and nerve response. You doctor should also order blood tests for cholesterol and blood sugar levels, hormone levels, and a complete blood count. If you have any issues that have been bothering you throughout the year, the physical is the time to put those on the table.
Your doctor should be able to tell you whether or not you can pursue your exercise program, and whether or not you might need to make adjustments.
For example, if you have signs of coronary artery disease, he might recommend you avoid strenuous cardiovascular activity, and instead suggest a procedure called EECP to strengthen and condition the blood vessels. Once you have completed the EECP treatment, either through a hospital or a clinic like Global Cardio Care, you might then be able to move on to more strenuous exercise.
Consult With a Personal Trainer
Going to the gym can be pretty daunting if you have never exercised before. Not only do you have to learn how to use the machines, you also have to figure out at what intensity you should exercise. If the intensity is too high, you could end up hurting yourself; but if it’s too low, you won’t make any progress.
A personal trainer can evaluate your current fitness level, to help you determine the intensity at which you should exercise. A trainer can also help you decide which exercises you should do and how often, and when it’s time to increase the intensity.
Although many gyms offer personal training services, you shouldn’t just go with any trainer. Not all trainers are created equal; some have more training than others, and each trainer has his own training philosophy. Here are some tips for picking the right trainer for you:
- Watch him in action. Visit his gym and see how he works with other clients. Does he pay attention to his client the entire time, or does he spend a lot of time looking around the gym while his client works out? How does he treat clients that look like you? A personal trainer should be attentive to all his clients to make sure they are doing the exercises properly and prevent injury. Also, if he treats clients that look like you badly, he will probably also treat you badly;
- Find out his focus. A personal trainer who specializes in body building might not be the best bet if you’re looking to improve your cardiovascular fitness. A trainer with a heavy focus on weight loss might ignore the improvements to your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers if they are not also accompanied by a drop in dress size. Ultimately, if a personal trainer’s focus is different from your own, you could end up working for his goals instead of yours.
- Check his certifications. There are hundreds of personal trainer certifications on the market, but some training programs are little more than a weekend crash courses. A good personal trainer should not only know exercise techniques, he should also have a good understanding of basic anatomy and physiology, of any contraindications for exercise, of how to design programs for special populations, and of how to read vital signs and perform CPR.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American Council on Exercise, and the Aquatic Exercise Association all have reputable training and certification programs that cover these topics.