Make no mistake about it – we are fully entrenched in the new year. After all the shopping, meal preparation, stress, and overeating, came the annual New Year’s Resolution. The most common resolution, of course, is to exercise, lose weight or get in shape. “This is the year!”
As avid exercise enthusiasts, we’ve seen the number of gym-goers in January start to dwindle by February or March. Many people fizzle out of their exercise commitment for one reason or another. An unfortunate culprit of exercise drop-outs is injuries. While the motivation to recommit to a lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise is admirable, it can also be easily forgotten, especially when pain gets in the way.
1. Fitness vs. Health
There’s a difference between working out for fitness and working out for health. Most people work out for fitness because it’s a lot more fun than working on some of the key exercises we therapists use for restoring a person to optimal health and range of motion. However, it’s vital to know the difference, and to know that while many fitness exercise programs allow you to quickly “feel the burn,” you need to make sure you’re not causing more harm than good to your joints, muscles, and tendons. At 18 years old, we can only work out for fitness because at that point we usually 10-feet tall and bullet-proof. But as the years go by and the tires get more miles on them, we need to be more mindful of that and focus equally on exercising for our health and for fitness. If you have questions regarding fitness classes or programs, we can offer guidance.
Easier said than done. But many of us are sedentary and seated most of the day, so we all need to focus on stretching our shoulders, neck, low back, hips, knees, and ankles to improve or maintain the available range of motion we have. The truth is, most injuries can be avoided by stretching our joints and muscles to maintain our freedom of movement. Here are four simple stretches you can do right at your desk.
3. Work in a pain-free range of motion
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s an important one. It also relies on your ability to know your limits and to know the difference between pain, soreness, and fatigue. Regardless of what your friend, personal trainer, or person from the Youtube video may tell you about a certain exercise, know your body and know when and how to modify an exercise to make sure it can be done pain-free.
4. Bench-press? Think again
Follow this guide for the safest chest and shoulder exercise. Sadly, it’s become the most popular male weightlifting exercise, mostly stemming from high school. The bench is one of the worst exercises we can do for the health of our shoulders. It’s an exercise we can get away with in high school, but in our 30s and 40s, as our rotator cuff can accumulate more wear-and-tear, it’s not something we so easily tolerate. Same goes for the military press.
Here is our list of safest, to least safe basic gym chest/shoulder weight training exercises:
- (Most Safe) Push-ups: There’s no shortage of variation and progressions
- Incline bench with dumbbells
- Incline bench with barbell
- Flat bench with dumbbells
- Military press with barbell (in front of head)
- Flat bench with barbell
- (Least Safe) Military press with barbell (behind head)
5. Walk. Walk. Walk.
Find time to walk every day for at least 20 continuous minutes. The health benefits of daily walking are too high to list. We consider daily walking as one of the examples of exercising for health. It’s vital to find time to make this a regular activity because not only does it perfectly compliment the exercises we do for fitness, but it’s easier to stick with consistently and see regular health benefits.
Follow these simple guidelines and don’t let an injury keep you from your fitness or health goals. If you want to start by just walking or running, check out our article on taking your first steps.
It’s important to listen to your body. If you feel an injury starting to arise consult with one of our physical therapists for an evaluation or free consultation. The state of Michigan allows direct access, meaning you can see a PT without a prescription.
If you need more tips to help you keep your exercise routine, we’re always here to help. Make 2021 your year to feel great and take control of your health!
Note: All the photos in this post were taken pre-COVID. We’re looking forward to the days when we can get back to safely exercising next to one another.