Physical Activity 101: A few things to know before getting started
Congratulations on your decision to include physical activity in your life. Now that you’ve made this very important commitment, you’ll want to make a plan. But first, to help prepare you for success, consider these fundamentals.
Risk vs. benefit
Yes, there are some inherent risks when engaged in physical activity. Despite those risks, nearly everyone can benefit from it, regardless of age or health condition. So, be conscious of the risks, but don’t let them deter you from becoming active.
Taking your health seriously is great, but jumping into a new physical activity with both feet will probably not lead to faster results. Instead, exercise patience by taking it slow at first and choosing the types of activities that are appropriate for you as a beginner.
We encourage you to take all necessary safety precautions when engaging in physical activities. Yes, strapping on a helmet, choosing suitable activities, and wearing proper shoes are good rules to follow, but you also need to anticipate hazards that may not be as obvious. If you exercise in your home, be aware of potential hazards such as loose throw rugs, ceiling fans, and water spills. When you’re in public, practicing situational awareness is important. For example, you might want to keep your headphone volume low so you can both see and hear what’s going on around you. Or, if you’re walking after dark, you will probably want to avoid dimly-lit areas along your route (for multiple reasons). You get the idea.
O² and H₂0
This may sound crazy, but it is common for people to hold their breath when exercising, especially when lifting weights. Be mindful of your breathing to avoid robbing your body of oxygen. And hydration is equally important, as you probably already know.
Consult a pro
Go ahead, Google “exercise tips for beginners” and we bet you’ll get millions of results. Some of what you find will actually be good information, but it could take months of trial and error to figure out an exercise plan that works best for your needs. Our advice is to consult a pro. A real-life pro. If you’re in relatively good health, that pro could be a personal trainer at the local gym. If you have chronic health issues or any other concerns about becoming more physically active, start with your primary healthcare provider. Depending on your specific needs, you may be referred to a physical therapist who can help you choose appropriate activities and to perform them with correct form.
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (health.gov)
Safe Exercise (AAOS)