Ask the Expert – How do I get started?
Article by: Dr. Darrell Menard – former PEO at RMC
Q: During a recent physical my MO told me I was overweight and that my blood pressure and blood sugars were elevated. He explained the risks of continuing this lifestyle and recommended I become more physically active. I know this is important but I haven’t got a clue how to get started.
signed – MWO Lost
Dear MWO Lost: Many people have no idea how to safely adopt a more active lifestyle. The number one mistake people make when they decide to become more active is to do too much too soon. I regularly treat highly motivated patients who want to get fit instantly and end up doing more exercise than their body can safely handle. These people typically end up injured and discouraged.
The secret to successfully adopting a more active lifestyle is to “start out low and progress slowly”. If you haven’t run a step in 10 years, your first workout shouldn’t be an 8K run. Taking this approach will be painful and likely result in an overuse injury. Your body tissues need time to adapt to training stresses and this takes several months not several days. We are designed this way and no amount of stretching, yoga or dietary supplements can change this.
Start by finding a time to exercise that best fits your work schedule. Begin doing low impact activities such as walking, cycling and swimming. For example: try walking 30 minutes/day/5 days a week at a pace that allows you to talk. If you feel like a truck ran you over the next morning, you started too hard. Do this for at least a month and then slowly increase your walking time by 2 minutes/week until you get to 60 minutes/day. As you feel fitter try walking harder some days and easier on others, add some core strengthening exercises, start cross training and do some resistance exercises. Eventually, if you really want to, you can try some running and this should be progressed the way you did your walking.
The bottom line on safely becoming more active is not to overdo it when you first get started. Give your body time to adapt to the stress and strains of easier physical activity before you take on things that are more demanding. Taking this approach will require a bit of patience but it will keep you from becoming one of my patients.
Dr. Darrell Menard OMM MD, Dip Sport Med (Former Physical Education Officer – PEO at RMC)
Dr. Menard is the Surgeon General’s specialist advisor in sports medicine and has worked extensively with athletes from multiple sports. As part of the Strengthening the Forces team he works on injury prevention and promoting active living.
Strengthening the Forces is CAF/DND’s healthy lifestyles promotion program providing expert information, skills and tools for promoting and improving CAF members’ health and well-being.