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New year’s resolution workout routines don’t have to be scary

Each year, one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. That usually involves exercising more or, if you haven’t been active in a while, getting back into an exercise routine. Why should 2020 be any different? After all, physical activity, sticking to a healthy diet and not smoking are three of the best things you can do for your overall health.

“Physical activity and exercise shouldn’t only be about losing weight — they’re also key components of a healthy life,” says Geisinger orthopaedic surgeon Michael Sobolewski. “Regular exercise can reduce your risk of several chronic conditions, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.”

But if you haven’t exercised in a while, you may not want to jump right into a new, rigorous fitness routine without taking some simple precautions. “Pushing yourself too hard too soon, or too frequently, can put you at risk for an injury or a medical emergency,” Sobolewski says. “Cardiac events, like heart attacks, are rare during exercise, but the risk can go up if you suddenly become much more active than usual.”

He adds that injuries involving a strained or pulled muscle or an injury to a joint, although much less serious, are far more common.

“And that’s the sort of injury that can make you give up on your exercise resolution before you even really get started,” he says.

The safest way to begin a new physical routine without getting hurt is to start slowly and gradually increase your level of activity. This approach can also make your

fitness resolution easier to maintain in the long term because you won’t feel burned out right away. “Once you establish your routine, then you can gradually build up the intensity, duration and frequency,” says Sobolewski. “As your fitness abilities increase, you’ll be able to challenge yourself more.”

If you have a chronic health condition or are recovering from an injury, talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness routine. You and your doctor can work together to determine if your condition limits your ability to be active in any way and, if so, create an exercise plan that matches your abilities.

Make sure every workout begins with a warmup and ends with a cool down. Warming up for 5 to 10 minutes helps your body get ready to exercise by gradually increasing your heart rate and loosening your muscles and joints. Warming up can be as simple as riding an exercise bike, jumping rope or jogging in place. Cooling down at the end of a workout is just as important because it slowly brings your heart rate back to normal. And, when you incorporate stretching into your pre and post-workout plan, you increase your flexibility and possibly prevent injury. Stretch after you warm up and again after you cool down.

If you’re unsure about getting active or increasing your current level of physical activity because you’re afraid of getting hurt, it’s important to know that moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, is considered generally safe for most people. “The bottom line when it comes to physical activity is that its health benefits far outweigh the risk of getting hurt,” Sobolewski says. “Make that New Year’s resolution and stick to it. And be a healthier, happier you for many New Years to come.”

Michael Sobolewski sees patients at Geisinger Lewistown Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine and Geisinger Gray’s Woods Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Port Matilda. To make an appointment with him, or the rest of the Sports Medicine team, call 717-242-8124 for Lewistown and 814-272-6754 for the Gray’s Woods office.

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