Tag Archives: exercise

The Importance of Exercise As We Age

September is National Healthy Aging Month, a designation to raise awareness of our changing health needs as we age as well as giving attention to the positive aspects of growing older. This month, we’ll look at the role exercise can play in helping us age healthfully.

Exercise and Aging

Exercise is important at any age but can be especially beneficial for seniors. It can reduce the risks of chronic disease, improve mobility, reduce the risk of injuries and bone loss, boost mood, and help maintain cognitive function.

However, many older adults become more sedentary as they age, especially those age 60 and older. As you become less active, your fitness and strength levels decrease. With these changes, older adults can become less able to do activities they did when they were younger, so they may further reduce their activity and continue the cycle. This can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, which increases the risks of other diseases and early death.

The good news is that there is never an age when it’s too late to start exercising and reaping the benefits. Middle-aged and older adults can extend their life expectancies by becoming more physically active, no matter what their past activity levels were. Beginning an exercise program later in life can have the same benefits as participating in sports or vigorous exercise decades earlier.

Never too late to start
It may seem daunting to start exercising in middle age or later, but even as little as 20 minutes of walking per day can reduce your risks for early death by 20 percent over time. If you increase those 20 minutes to an hour or more, then you see a 35 percent reduction.

Other low-impact activities (such as yoga or Pilates) can also have benefits that can help with keeping muscles and bones strong and help with mobility as you age. Swimming or water aerobics are also good choices as they are gentle on your joints and can be helpful if you suffer from arthritis or other joint problems. The key is to find an activity you enjoy and are most likely to stick with on a regular basis.

Below are some of the benefits of exercising as you age for your health:

  • Disease prevention. Regular exercise can help reduce or delay the risk of developing diseases like cancer, stroke, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Some research has also suggested that seniors who exercise at least three times per week have a 35 percent lower risk of developing dementia.
  • Improved balance, stability, and mobility. The most common injury for seniors is falls. Regular exercise can improve balance and stability to prevent falls, as well as improving mobility for day-to-day activities.
  • Maintaining muscle mass and preventing bone loss. Muscle mass begins to decline when we hit middle age and continues to decline with each decade of life. Maintaining muscle mass is critical to keeping strong and maintaining mobility, so you can remain independent as you age.
  • Improved quality of life. Exercising regularly improves your mood and can help ease symptoms of depression.

With exercise, remember, consistency is much more important than intensity. Find something you enjoy doing and start slowly, at a pace that is easy to sustain.

Low-Impact vs. High-Impact Exercise: Which is Better?

When you think of high-impact exercise, activities like running or aerobics may come to mind, while exercises like walking or cycling are considered low-impact activities. The difference is that low-impact exercise is easier on your joints than high-impact activities. Both types of exercise are important to overall fitness, but determining which one is better is really a matter of your personal needs and abilities as well as your fitness goals.

Low-Impact Exercise
Any types of exercise or activities that are gentle on your joints and involve more fluid movement and keeping one foot always on the ground or on equipment are considered low impact. Examples include walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, Pilates, and using an elliptical machine.

Low-impact exercises are great for beginners, those with joint problems or arthritis, and for athletes who are recovering from an injury. Some people like to participate in low-impact exercise on days when they’re taking an “easy” workout day to aid in recovery from harder, higher-impact workout days.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you can still burn fat with low-impact exercise just as you can with higher-impact exercise. The key is to perform low-intensity activity for a prolonged period of time. As opposed to high-impact exercise that burns fat in short, intense sessions, to get the same benefits from low-impact exercise, you’ll need to do longer sessions. Working out a steady pace at 70-80 percent of your maximum heart rate for 30 to 60 minutes will get you into a fat-burning zone with low-impact workouts.

High-Impact Exercise
High-impact exercise is harder on your joints and involves both feet leaving the floor at the same time. Examples include running, jumping rope, and plyometrics (exercise that involves repeated rapid stretching and contracting of muscles ). High-impact exercise is one of the best ways to burn fat—your heart rate is naturally up because you’re jumping around more, which gets your body into fat-burning mode faster.

This type of exercise also improves fitness levels, strengthens your heart and lungs, and strengthens bones. However, it can also lead to injuries more easily or be painful for people with joint problems or arthritis. High-impact exercise may also be harder for people who are overweight or obese.

If you are trying to lose weight, high-impact exercise will yield faster results than low-impact training, but it’s not for everyone. Some people don’t enjoy the jarring nature of running or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and some people’s joints cannot handle that much impact.

Which is Best?
Deciding whether low-impact exercise or high-impact exercise is best for you is a matter of personal preference as well as your fitness levels and any health issues you may have. Those new to exercise should definitely start more slowly with lower-impact workouts until fitness levels improve to reduce the risks of injury, as well as to make it more enjoyable and sustainable.

Once you’ve been exercising for a while, working in some days of high-intensity activities will likely produce better weight loss results if that is your goal. It will also improve your fitness level. Alternating days of low-impact and high-impact activities can be a good way to vary your workouts and reduce not only your risk for injury but also reduce boredom, which will make you more likely to stick with a regular exercise routine long term.

Taking Vacation Time Is More Important Now Than Ever

Americans work more than any other nation, take fewer vacation days, work longer hours, and retire at a later age. Many people feel that they cannot take time off and get their jobs done, or they have fears about job security. However, studies have shown that taking a vacation has much-needed physical and mental health benefits and that taking time off from work has never been more important than right now during the global coronavirus pandemic that has added even more stress to already over-taxed employees.

Business closures due to the pandemic have resulted in wage cuts and job losses for many workers. Many people are still working from home or furloughed. As a result, taking a week off or even a day off may seem like a huge burden to employees when the pressure to perform already feels greater, and vacation doesn’t seem like a priority. But taking care of your mental health during such stressful and uncertain times matters now more than ever.

Preventing burnout
Vacation time, and even time off on weekends, is crucial for employees to maintain productivity, creativity, and prevent burnout, according to Simmy Grover, an organizational psychology instructor at University College London.

Burnout is inevitable if you never take a break from work, and that means not only taking vacation days but also mentally detaching from work on the weekend and during evenings at home. Taking time off should be viewed as a time to recharge and de-stress in order to be a better employee, make better decisions, and be more productive at work. Time off will allow you to manage your stress and maintain a sense of well-being.

Vacation during the pandemic
Like most everything else, your vacation plans may have been canceled due to the pandemic. Even if you can’t take that European trip or visit Disney World, time away from work is so important right now, even if you just stay at home. Experts say the benefits of being away from work are basically the same whether you leave town or not.

You may not be able to go to many places right now, or you may not feel safe about going anywhere, but research into “staycations” shows that they have the same mental health benefits that destination vacations have.

Safe vacation ideas
If you do crave time away from home, there are some safe ways to take a vacation during the ongoing pandemic. Many people are staying closer to home and avoiding air travel, so consider exploring areas in your state that are within driving distance. A beach, lake, or mountain getaway can provide a much-needed change of scenery, and if you forgo staying at a hotel and opt for a private home rental, you can get away safely and engage in activities that still maintain social distance.

Being outdoors (while still socially distanced from others) is one of the safest places to be right now, so look into ways you can get away and participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, cycling, or even just lying on an uncrowded beach. Camping is another great option that is naturally socially distanced; just be sure to check with campgrounds on what facilities are open and whether they have any restrictions.

Pack your own food, and plan to cook and eat at your rental or get takeout from local restaurants instead of dining out. Minimize your family’s risk of infection by following all of the recommended guidelines including washing your hands frequently, cleaning surfaces often, maintaining social distance from others, and wearing a mask when in public. If you follow all of these recommendations, you and your family can still have a memorable vacation, and you’ll feel refreshed and ready to get back to work when you return.

If getting away is not an option for you, taking a day off or even a week off to just stay at home and recharge will only help your mental health in dealing with work stress and the strain of the pandemic.

 

Lower Back Pain and Exercise

Easing Lower Back Pain Through Exercise

If you suffer from lower back pain, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), nearly 80 percent of Americans will experience some level of lower back pain at some time in their lives. It is the most common reason for doctor visits and for job-related disability. Lower back pain is usually caused by injury, although some back pain can be caused by certain diseases such as arthritis, a ruptured or herniated disc, or more rarely, cancer.

Lower back pain can be either acute, meaning it lasts a few days to weeks, or chronic, lasting longer than three months. It’s important to see a doctor for any new back pain to rule out underlying disease. If your lower back pain is the result of an injury, the best way to keep your symptoms under control is by staying active. Regular exercise can help the muscles in your back relax and can increase blood flow to the area.

When exercising after a mild back injury or with chronic back pain, there are some important things to keep in mind so you don’t make your symptoms worse.

Get out of bed.
When your back hurts, it’s tempting to just lie in bed and watch television. While resting for a day or two is fine, any longer will make your pain worse, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The sooner you get up and moving, the quicker you will feel some relief. Start slowly, with simple activities such as a 10-15 minute walk two times a day.

Stretch the right way.
Performing the right types of stretches and doing them correctly can really help calm lower back spasms. Do the exercises recommended here two times per day to help relieve back pain and strengthen back muscles. Click here to find eight back stretches.

Don’t push through the pain.
If certain exercises are making your back pain worse, stop doing them. Pushing into a painful position can damage tissue further and make back pain worse.

Check your posture.
Regularly slumping or slouching, especially while sitting for long periods of time, such as at an office desk, is a common reason for lower back pain. Focus on sitting and standing up straight, and make sure your desk chair is ergonomically built to support your back while working. Also, wearing high heels can exacerbate the problem as can being overweight or obese.

Avoid high-impact activities.
Running, high-impact aerobics, basketball, and other activities that place a lot of stress on your joints can make back pain worse. Avoid these types of activities until your pain gets better. Instead, focus on lower impact exercises such as walking or riding the stationary bike or elliptical machine. Swimming and aquatic exercise are also especially helpful when dealing with lower back pain.

Be careful with weight lifting.
When you’re experiencing back pain, avoid doing overhead weight moves such as shoulder presses and weighted squats. These types of weight movements can add pressure to your spinal discs and cause back pain to worsen.

Once you make these changes to your exercise routine, your lower back pain should start to improve significantly. If it does not, you should consult your doctor.

 

 

Exercising Safely with Asthma

May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Since spring is the prime season for allergy and asthma sufferers, it is the best time to educate others about these conditions.

In the US, 25 million children and adults have asthma, and approximately 21 million people suffer from seasonal allergies. Additionally, about 31 million people have some type of food allergy. While both allergies and asthma are common conditions, there are several special measures people with these conditions should take as many factors can trigger symptoms that range from bothersome to life-threatening.

When it comes to exercise, people with asthma must take special precautions, as exercise in and of itself can trigger asthma attacks. People with asthma may experience trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing, or tightness in the chest during or following any physical activity. But exercise is actually beneficial for asthma sufferers, and most people with asthma can exercise safely with proper precautions and the right treatments.

Taking precautions
For those with asthma, many factors in the environment can trigger symptoms, so it is important for sufferers to learn their individual triggers. For example, exercising in very cold or very hot temperatures, dry air, air pollution, and allergens such as pollen or ragweed can all set off symptoms or a full-blown asthma attack. Most doctors recommend that people with asthma exercise in warmer temperatures because moist, warm air is better for keeping the airways lubricated and relaxed.

However, if exercising outdoors in colder temperatures, wearing a face mask that covers your mouth and nose can help keep symptoms at bay. If allergens like pollen trigger symptoms, check your area’s pollen counts before heading outdoors to exercise, and switch to indoor activity on days when pollen counts are particularly high. For those with asthma, many factors in the environment can trigger symptoms, so it is important for sufferers to learn about their individual triggers.

In general, people with asthma should be careful not to overexert themselves during physical activities. If you experience asthma symptoms, you should stop exercising.

Best types of exercise
Some types of exercise and sports are more likely to cause asthma symptoms than others. Activities that require constant exertion such as soccer, hockey, or basketball are more of a problem than sports like tennis or baseball which require short bursts of physical exertion.

Good choices for exercise or sports for people with asthma include swimming, walking, hiking, yoga, golf, weightlifting, and using indoor equipment such as elliptical machines or stationary bikes. Swimming can be particularly beneficial for asthma sufferers because a swimmer’s position horizontally in the water can help loosen mucus in the lungs, and breathing in warm, moist air is also good for reducing symptoms. Yoga is also a great choice as it focuses on breathing and can help increase lung capacity by strengthening muscles.

Whatever activity you choose, it’s important to build up your endurance over time and do it regularly.  It’s also important to use your inhaler or any other medications your doctor has prescribed to help control your asthma before or during exercise. Always make sure to have your inhaler with you or close by when exercising should you begin experiencing an asthma attack.

Exercise-induced asthma
Another special consideration is a condition known as exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB). People without diagnosed chronic asthma can experience asthma symptoms that are triggered by exercise. With this condition, airways in the lungs can narrow with strenuous exercise and cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, and poor athletic performance during or after exercise.

Usually in EIB, symptoms begin soon after beginning exercise and can last 60 minutes or longer if not treated. It’s important to see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms during or after exercising, as EIB can start at any age. Just as with chronic asthma, many different environmental factors can trigger EIB symptoms including dry air, cold temperatures, allergens, or air pollution. EIB is more common with activities that require long periods of deep breathing such as running or soccer.

EIB can usually be managed effectively, and sufferers can continue participating in sports or exercise by taking medication before exercise to prevent or reduce symptoms. Most people are prescribed an inhaler containing medications that can be used approximately 15 minutes before exercise to control symptoms. These medications can also be used during exercise if symptoms arise.

 

Fit for Two: Exercising During Pregnancy

May is Women’s Health Month, a reminder to women to prioritize their health and build healthy habits for life. And there is never a more important time in a woman’s life to be proactive about her health than during pregnancy. In addition to eating right, taking folic acid, staying hydrated, and getting good prenatal care, exercising while pregnant can also have many health benefits.

Some of the many benefits of exercise during pregnancy include increased energy, better sleep, and a reduction in backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling. Other benefits are improved mood, better posture, increased muscle tone, strength, and endurance. Some studies have shown regular exercise while pregnant may reduce your chance of developing gestational diabetes. Regular activity may also help you cope better with labor and delivery and will make it easier to get back in shape after your baby is born.

Check with the doctor!
Before beginning a new exercise program while pregnant or continuing your regular workouts, it’s important to discuss your plans with your OB/GYN. Most of the time, exercise during pregnancy is beneficial for both mom and baby, but if you have certain conditions, your doctor may advise you not to exercise. Conditions such as heart disease, lung problems, problems with your cervix, repeated vaginal bleeding, and high blood pressure as well as some pregnancy complications (including being pregnant with multiples, preterm labor, or severe anemia) may make it unsafe to exercise.

How much?
If you’ve been cleared to exercise throughout your pregnancy by your doctor, the official advice of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is to aim for 30 minutes of some sort of physical activity at least five days per week. While that may seem daunting, keep in mind that activities such as doing housework or yard work also count. You can also break up that time into several mini-workouts throughout the day.

Pace it for pregnancy
Most women can continue their regular exercise routines during pregnancy, although there may need to be some modifications. If you haven’t exercised in a while but want to incorporate some activity during your pregnancy, it’s important to start slowly and build up to the recommended 30 minutes per day.

Walking is a great exercise for beginners and perfectly safe while pregnant. Activities like swimming, riding a stationary bike, and low-impact aerobics classes are also safe to do. If you do regular strength training, it is better to use lower weights during your pregnancy. Prenatal yoga is also a great choice to do during your pregnancy—there are many DVDs or videos available online, or you can usually find in-person prenatal yoga classes at studios in your area.

Exercises to avoid

While most physical activity is safe to do while pregnant, there are a few things you should avoid:

  • Sports with a high risk of falling or abdominal injury—such as skiing, ice skating, horseback riding, or contact sports.
  • Sports that involve altitude change. Unless you already live in a high altitude, you should avoid any activity that takes you above 6,000 feet. Conversely, scuba diving, which can cause decompression sickness to your baby, is off limits while pregnant.
  • After your fourth month, you should avoid all exercises that require lying flat on your back for long periods of time as it can restrict circulation to you and your baby.
  • Hot yoga or exercise in very hot weather.

It is important to watch for any warning signs that there might be a problem when exercising. Stop exercising and consult your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, headache, dizziness, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

Regular exercise while pregnant can help you cope with physical changes in your body and help you build stamina for what lies ahead as long as you follow your doctor’s recommendations and carefully listen to your body.

Dancing for Exercise

Let’s Dance! Incorporating Dance Into Your Workouts

If you’ve grown bored with your regular workout routine, try mixing some dance moves into your workouts. Not only is dancing fun, but it can also burn up to 600 calories per hour, which is about the same or more than going for a swim or a run for the same amount of time.

Dance It Out
Dancing is one of the best things you can do for your body. In addition to burning calories and building muscle, according to Dance Magazine, research has also shown that dance improves mood, reduces stress, increases energy, lowers anxiety, slows cognitive decline, increases confidence, and much more.

A 2017 report from the University of Brighton in the UK found that dancing demands a lot of energy output because it involves movement in all directions. Dance involves much accelerating and decelerating which the body is less able to do in an energy-efficient way, so your body is having to work harder than if you were running or swimming, for example. Because dancing involves a lot of starting, stopping, and changing directions, it burns a lot of energy even though the dancer may not be covering a lot of ground.

Dance engages muscles in different ways than traditional types of exercise. Dancing uses less repetitive movements than exercise such as running or weightlifting, so it keeps your muscles from adapting as they would to repetitive movements, and this can strengthen and tone your muscles in new ways. It also improves balance, which is really important as you age to help you avoid injury.

Shake Your Booty
Now that you know all of the benefits dancing can have for your body and mind, how can you incorporate dancing into your exercise routine, especially if you think have two left feet? The good news is that you don’t have to be able to turn perfect pirouettes or move like Beyoncé to reap the benefits of dance.
Here some ways you can add dance into your weekly workouts:

  • Sign up for a dance class. Many dance studios offer adult classes in ballet, tap, jazz, and hip-hop dance as well as many other styles of dance. Enrolling in a beginner’s class will help you learn the type of movements and teach you correct form. You can also take partner dance classes such as ballroom dancing, salsa, or swing dancing, which are great ways for you and your partner to spend time together learning something new and doing something good for your body.
  • Take a fitness dance class. While fitness dance classes are different from traditional dance classes offered at dance schools, many gyms offer some type of dance fitness class such as Zumba, Barre, or Cardio Dance. These classes are high-energy and focus less on form and technique and more on getting your heart rate up and exercising specific muscle groups.
  • Purchase a dance DVD. If you don’t belong to a gym or don’t want to pay class fees, there are many dance DVDs available that you can do at home. You can find DVDs for everything from Zumba to classical ballet to belly dancing. Plus, you might be less self-conscious about your dance moves when grooving in the comfort of your own home!
  • Use a dance video game. If you have kids, chances are you have some sort of video game system. There are many dance video games that are easy to follow that you can do with your whole family.
  • Hit the dance club. Plan a regular night out with your partner or friends to hit the dance floor. Dancing is a great social activity,  and spending a night grooving on the dance floor with friends can work up a sweat and count as a workout.

To enjoy the benefits of dance, don’t worry about how you look or if you are doing certain dance moves the right way—just get moving to the music and have fun. The best part about dance is that it doesn’t feel like exercise because it’s so much fun!

8 Ways to Avoid Exercise Injuries

Avoiding Exercise Injuries

Whether you’re just starting out with an exercise routine or are a seasoned athlete, injuries can and do happen. But exercise injuries don’t have to be inevitable. There are simple steps you can take to exercise smarter and reduce your risk for some of the most common fitness injuries such as strains, sprains, and muscle tears.

1. Have an annual physical.
There’s a reason it’s recommended that you see your doctor before starting a fitness program. Any new activity can place stress on your body, especially your joints and heart. Your doctor can perform a fitness test using a treadmill as well as other tests to check your cardiovascular system and to determine if you have any limitations.

2. Use a personal trainer.
If your gym offers the services of a personal trainer, take advantage of it, especially if you are new to exercising. A qualified trainer can help you avoid many of the bad habits that affect even seasoned athletes, and teach you how to concentrate on form when performing exercises. Even just a few sessions with a personal trainer will be beneficial to show you how to perform exercises correctly to avoid injury.

3. Know your limitations.
Knowing your body and your personal limitations is one of the best ways to avoid injury. It’s important to avoid activities that push too hard on any weak areas you may have. For example, if you have knee issues, you’ll want to avoid using a stepper or running on a treadmill; if you deal with hip problems, a spinning class could exacerbate your problem.

4. Listen to your body.
In addition to knowing your body’s limitations when working out, it is never normal to feel pain. Pain is a signal from your body that you are placing too much stress on a certain muscle or joint, and continuing to exercise when you feel pain risks injury. If you feel pain at any point during exercise, even a muscle cramp, you should immediately back off and rest that muscle. You can switch activities or work a different muscle group; for example, if you are feeling pain in your ankle, then move to working out your arms.

5. Warm-up.
You should always take the time to stretch and warm-up before exercising. Even if you’re in great shape, your muscles and tendons will be tight before you begin exercising. If you don’t warm up, you risk injuring muscles by straining them or even rupturing a muscle or tendon. Spend several minutes stretching or walking before jumping into your exercise routine. Warm-ups go a long way in preventing injuries.

6. Start slowly and work up gradually.
If you’re just starting out, it’s important to begin an exercise program by gradually building up intensity as your fitness improves. Start with moderate activity for 20 minutes, three times per week, and build from there by slowly adding time to your session and more frequency to workouts.

7. Wear proper clothing and shoes.
Many sports injuries are the result of improper footwear. Investing in a good pair of sneakers that are designed for the sport or exercise you are doing will protect your feet and ankles, and help prevent injury. Likewise, proper workout clothing is essential for comfort. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find workout wear that provides protection and is designed to wick away sweat and prevent overheating.

8. Fuel your body.
Working out on an empty stomach will be harder on your body. While you don’t want to work out immediately following a meal, eating the right foods two hours before a workout will give your body the proper fuel it needs to perform. Hydration is just as important.  Drink 16 oz. of water at least two hours before working out, and sip on water during your workout to keep from becoming dehydrated. After working out, replenish with more water. Hydrated muscles are less likely to become injured.

 

Does Exercise Help Fight Off Colds and Flu?

Help Prevent Colds and Flu with Regular Exercise
Regular exercise is good for our bodies and well-being, but research also shows that regular, moderate exercise can also help our bodies fight off germs during cold and flu season. The key, though, is the word moderate—in contrast, more intense exercise and endurance training have been shown to have the opposite effect on the immune system.

Moderate Exercise Boosts Immunity
A research study found that staying active decreased the odds of catching a cold by nearly half, and even for those who exercised regularly and still caught a cold, the infection and symptoms were less severe. Lead researcher Dr. David Nieman, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University in North Carolina and a former president of the International Society of Exercise Immunology says, “Bouts of exercise spark a temporary rise in immune system cells circulating around the body that can attack foreign invaders.”

Research shows moderate amounts of aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, or cycling during peak cold and flu months help boost the body’s defenses against viruses and bacteria. Moderate exercise is considered to be 30 minutes, four to five times per week.

But in people who engage in prolonged exercise, such as marathon running, research has shown it can suppress certain parts of the immune system. Those who engage in fitness exercise seem to have better resistance to colds and viruses than those who participate in more intense endurance training. For example, athletes running 60 miles a week have double the odds of sickness, compared to those who run less. Research shows that more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after the exercise session.

Should You Exercise When You’re Sick?
If you’re feeling under the weather, you may not feel like exercising at all, but if you are a regular exerciser or are training for a 5K, for example, you may feel like missing your workout will put you behind.

Deciding whether or not to exercise when you are sick depends on certain factors. According to David Pyne, a sports scientist, and researcher with the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise at the University of Canberra, athletes do what’s known as the “neck check” when determining if they should continue with regular training or rest for a few days when sick.

The “neck check” means that if your symptoms are from the neck up and not too severe—such as a runny nose or sore throat, and you don’t have a fever—then moderate exercise won’t make you worse and actually might be beneficial.

However, if your symptoms are more severe and are below the neck, like chest congestion or muscle or joint aches, or you’re running a fever, you should avoid exercise until your symptoms subside. Exercising with more severe cold or flu symptoms can prolong your illness and make you feel worse.

After a bout with the common cold, once symptoms have resolved, you can safely resume your regular exercise routine. But if you’ve had more severe illness or the flu, it’s important that you return to exercising gradually. Ease back into your routine with light exercise on the first day or two after an illness, and gradually work back up to your normal routine.

Keep the Germs Away
In addition to regular moderate exercise, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent colds and flu:

  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Get a flu vaccine annually.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently.
  • Wipe down counters and other surfaces (phones, remotes, doorknobs, light switches, etc.) with a strong cleaner.
  • Keep your hands out of your mouth, ears, nose, and eyes.
  • Stay home if you’re sick!

Exercise 101: Starting an Exercise Program for the New Year

If you’ve made it your New Year’s resolution to start an exercise program, you’re not alone. The majority of New Year’s resolutions are fitness-related, with 65 percent of those who make resolutions vowing to exercise more, according to Inc. com. Perhaps you aren’t just wanting to exercise more or run a 5K, but instead, you’ve never really exercised much before and want to start being more active, but aren’t sure where to begin.

Here are some tips to get you started on an exercise program so you can make a lifestyle change, and not just burn out after a couple of weeks and quit by the end of January.

Get a checkup.
Before beginning any sort of exercise program, it’s important to check with your doctor first. If you’ve been inactive for a while or are over 45, you should consult a doctor to make sure you don’t have any underlying health conditions or limitations that could put you at risk for injury during exercise.

Choose an activity you enjoy.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily have to mean a strict, time-consuming workout at the gym. There are so many different types of exercise that it’s best to start with something you enjoy doing, so there’s a better chance you’ll stick to it. You can always try something new later on after your fitness has improved. Activities such as walking, dancing, biking and even gardening are good ways to get started moving, especially if you’ve led a mostly sedentary lifestyle in recent years.

How much exercise?
For heart health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. If you can’t do a full 30 minutes, even as little as 5-10 minutes will still offer benefits, and you can increase the duration as your fitness level improves.

As a long-term goal, the American College of Sports Medicine’s current recommendations for physical activity include at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week. You can achieve the 150 minutes any way that works best for you—for example, you can work out for 30 minutes five days per week, or do a 40-minute workout every other day.

Set realistic goals.
Create an exercise plan that has clear, achievable steps and goals. For example, set goals to exercise for 30 minutes three times per week to begin. After a few weeks of sticking to that plan, increase to four days and increase the duration of how long you exercise. Continue to build on this type of schedule as your fitness improves. Once you’re exercising regularly for as many days as you can, you can also set more long-term goals, such as completing a 5K.

Create a habit.
You are more likely to stick to an exercise program if you can make it a regular habit. If you schedule your workout at the same time every day, such as after or before work, you’ll be more likely to stick to it long term. Use your online calendar or a print calendar to schedule your workouts into your day just like you would other appointments. Set reminders on your phone or use fitness trackers if that keeps you motivated.

Stay hydrated.
Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day to keep your body properly hydrated. If you’re exercising in hot temperatures, it’s also important to replenish fluids during exercise, and always drink water after you finish your workout to help your body recover.

Warm up and cool down.
Be sure to always warm up before each workout. Stretching your muscles will help prevent injury, increase flexibility, and help reduce muscle soreness after working out. Similarly, cooling down after a workout is equally important. Light walking or stretching after a workout can help return your breathing to normal and help reduce muscle soreness.

Listen to your body.
If you’re just beginning and are not used to strenuous exercise, start slowly and pay attention to your body’s limits. If you feel any pain or discomfort during a workout, stop and rest before continuing. By starting slowly and building up the intensity of your workouts over time, you’re more likely to stick with it and less likely to injure yourself.

Reward yourself.
Regular exercise has all kinds of wonderful benefits for our bodies including increased energy, improved sleep, improved emotional health, weight loss, and improved overall health. But these types of benefits are long-term rewards. To motivate yourself to stick with an exercise program long term so you will reap these types of health benefits, it’s important to give yourself short-term rewards when you reach a fitness goal or even after completing a week of workouts. These rewards can be anything you enjoy such as a hot bath, watching a show on Netflix, a manicure/pedicure, a new pair of sneakers or new workout clothes. Just make sure you only allow yourself the reward after you exercise.