Support Your New Year’s Healthy Lifestyle Goals – Choose a Paced, Provider-Approved Approach to Exercise

Author: Rahim Haikal, M.D., F.A.A.F.P., Family Medicine and Occupational Medicine, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Katy

By Jan. 1, many have committed to a New Year’s resolution in hopes of leading a happier, healthier life. One of the most common resolutions is to exercise. Yet history shows that most people give up on fitness resolutions within weeks of starting. There are a variety of reasons for why this occurs, including not having clearly defined goals, trying to do too much too fast, fading motivation and willpower, and other real and imagined barriers.

This year, start 2022 off right and avoid a setback by following these doctor-recommended tips on how to successfully ease into a sensible, sustainable exercise routine.

  • Set small, achievable goals: Don’t start your first day/week/month of exercise at a high-intensity level. Start with smaller, achievable goals and gradually work your way up. Once your initial goal is met, increase your commitments at an incremental pace that accommodates your age and fitness level.
  • Warm up before exercise, cool down, and stretch afterward to prevent injury: Three of the most important aspects of exercise are often overlooked – warming up before a workout, cooling down, and stretching afterward. Warming up helps wake up muscles and decreases the likelihood of injury. Cooling down helps reduce cortisol levels – the stress hormone – and safely reduces heart rate. Stretching after a workout helps relax muscles you just worked, avoiding cramping, and minimizing soreness later. Building in time to warm up, cool down, and stretch is proven to help reduce the incidence of exercise-related injuries and may help keep your plans to stay active from being sidetracked.
  • Listen to your body: While muscle soreness can mean a workout was effective, be aware of your body during a workout. A muscle that feels pulled or a sore joint could be a sign to slow down and stop. If the pain persists, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider for evaluation to keep you in tip-top condition and to prevent a potential derailment of plans for a healthier you.
  • Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine: Starting a new exercise plan is exciting, and while motivation and spirit are certainly needed to get moving, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider before starting to ensure your overall health is ready for an exercise regimen you’ll be able to safely maintain.