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New year, new exercises: Ways to stay fit, and avoid injury, while getting in shape

Posted at 7:08 AM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 08:08:44-05

The start of a new year is always a popular time to hit the gym and try to get healthier.

Dr. Christopher Weber, a specialist in internal medicine and bariatric medicine at Ascension Columbia St. Mary's at Germantown, said exercise and losing weight is "always at the top of the list" of new year's resolutions he hears from patients.

He said newcomers to exercise, or people beginning a workout routine after an extended time away from physical activity should start slowly.

"You don't want to do too much to start with because then you're at risk of overuse injuries and things like that," Weber said.

Weber said the ideal chunk of time you should devote to exercise each week is probably smaller than you think.

He said a great start to getting healthier is walking.

"The general recommendation for exercise is 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity, like walking, so pretty simple, but fast enough that your heart rate goes up."

Weber said it's good to gradually work your way up to resistance training with elastic bands.

"The American College of Sports Medicine also recommends doing two days of resistance training a week, and what that means is something that stresses your muscles a little bit," Weber said.

There are three basic exercises someone looking to get back into shape can do he said: body-weight squats, elastic band rows, or elastic band pushes.

Start by aiming for two or three sets of 12-15 repetitions of each exercise.

Weber said a little muscle soreness after performing such exercises is normal, but any joint or bone pain is a red flag.

Proper form is critical to avoiding injuries - especially in people new to exercise. He said most gyms have personal trainers and/or fitness professionals on hand who can walk people through proper form.

"Good form keeps all the joints in line, and it puts stress on the muscles, and not on your joints."

For example, it's important to tighten your core/midsection area and not lean too far forward when performing body weight squats.

"Anytime you're using the legs, you want to be careful with your lower back," Weber said. "When you lean too far forward, you can have your lower back doing the work, and not your legs."

Weber also mentioned that good nutrition, not rigorous exercise, is much more effective as a way to lose weight.

He said some people tend to crave more food, and eat more, when they begin to exercise.

"Get away from sugar. Get away from fast food," Weber said.

He noted most reputable "diets," such as intermittent fasting, The Whole30, or the Keto Diet, can be effective.

"All of them work, so it's all about which one can you stick with," Weber said.

He also said "studies show it's hard, almost impossible, to out-exercise a sedentary lifestyle."

Weber said a 30 to 60 minute workout is not likely to offset an inactive rest of the day.

"Focus on minimizing your sedentary time," Weber said. "Get up, move around as much as you can throughout the day, and if you want to add the exercise into your daily routine later, absolutely do that. But you've got to do both of them."

Weber also said, even if it's not a quick way to lose weight, the benefits of exercising are bountiful.

"Exercise is the most magical treatment we have for all sorts of things," Weber said. "You want to sleep better, have a better move, prevent chronic diseases and some cancers, all of that stuff is linked to exercise," he said.

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