It's resolution season.
That means exercisers — both newbies and seasoned pros — are hitting the trails and filling the gyms.
But when that new fitness program you're itching to try says to check with your doctor first, do you really need to?
If you're young, in fairly good health and aren't too far removed from your last exercise regimen, it might be OK if you skip the doc. But it's always a good idea to check, said Dr. Michelle Benes, a family physician with CHI Health.
"As people get older and the longer it's been since they exercised, it probably is a good idea to come in and make sure they're starting on an exercise program that fits their health status," Benes said.
Doctors will look for issues with blood pressure, heart murmurs, abnormal pulse, swelling in the legs and signs of asthma, Benes said.
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It's also a good time to look for any underlying illnesses. Some issues, such as asthma, might be exacerbated by certain workouts. Other conditions, like nerve disease, might cause balance issues, heightening the risk for falls.
Exercise might improve other conditions, Benes said. Fibromyalgia sufferers will find they do well with warm- water workouts. People struggling with back pain can be guided toward exercise targeting the core and abs rather than heavy weights.
Benes suggests bringing up fitness routines at an annual physical. Doctors then can discuss other health factors, such as diet, sleep, alcohol consumption and screen time.
To start, she recommends that people consider a simple walking program. Cycling or aerobics might be too much out of the gate, and that could lead to injuries.
"Starting slowly is a better option if you decide to get into any exercise program," she said.
It's important that gym-goers share any chronic or underlying illnesses with trainers when working out, too. The trainers then can tailor a workout to best benefit the individuals.
For example, someone with arthritis might share which joints bother them. Then they can work to strengthen the muscles around those joints rather than putting more stress on the joints.
Benes offered the following tips to people getting into new workout routines:
- Start slow. "It doesn't take very long to get out of shape. It does take a lot longer to get back in shape."
- Set realistic expectations. If you have been out of the gym for a few years, don't expect to be able to lift the same amount of weight or run at the same speed.
- Listen to your body and don't get competitive with fellow gym-goers. An injury will only set you back.
- Stick with it. It takes time to make exercise a habit, so don't quit too soon.