Of the millions of New Year's resolutions made each year, perhaps none is more repeated than the resolution to get in better shape. Each year, millions of people resolve to shed a few extra pounds or simply get healthier, with varying degrees of success.
According to certified fitness trainer Joy Sarbou-Jubert, owner of Global Fitness and Martial Art Club in Champlain, for those aiming to lose weight, cardio workouts and weight training should be done at least three times a week for an hour to an hour and a half each day.
"Otherwise if you do less than that, honestly you're not going to see anything happen," she explained.
One of the ways to ensure success is to exercise safely. Veteran athletes and seasoned professional trainers all note the importance of safety when it comes to exercise. Simply diving right into exercise can be a recipe for disaster, often leading to injury, especially for those people new to exercise or returning after a long layoff.
For those who have resolved to get in better shape this season, consider the following exercise safety tips.
• Don't push it. The body responds differently to exercise as it ages, and many people who were once exercise afficionados but stopped regularly exercising could likely make the mistake that they can still exercise as hard as they did in their youth. However, pushing it after a long layoff is potentially dangerous and could result in a number of injuries. While you might one day be able to return to form, initially it's best to take it easy. Stop exercising immediately if you begin to experience any of the following symptoms:
- Cold sweats
- Muscle cramps
- Pain or pressure in the chest (particularly left-chest
- Joint pain
• Maintain proper breathing or cease exercising if you can't. Whenever exercising, you should be able to walk without gasping for breath.
"Your heart rate is really accelerated. You're getting more CO2 than oxygen," said Sarbou-Jubert. "That exchange of air flow is not good."
If you cannot breathe properly, stop exercising immediately. Once your system has rebounded and you begin to feel better, if you're going to return to your exercise regimen, simply tone it down, performing each exercise more slowly.
• Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated throughout an exercise routine will increase flexibility and replace the water you lose by sweating. While some might feel this will counteract any weight loss, losing water weight is not the type of weight loss you should be aiming for. Be sure to drink lots of water before, during and after workouts.
Sarbou-Jubert added those who do not like water shouldn't look to sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade, as they will add to the calorie intake.
"Powerade or Gatorade is there to replace electrolytes," she explained. "It has a lot of replacement stuff. Bu,t when you're an average Joe in the gym, and you're coming in and you're doing your work out and you're running and you're only in here for an hour, you're giving yourself a lot of stuff that you really don't need."
• Remember the wisdom of mom and dad. Nearly everyone who ever went to the beach as a child recalls mom and dad advising them to stay out of the water after eating. That same advice you heard as a child is still applicable today as an adult. While it's acceptable to go for a light walk after a small meal, avoid strenuous exercise for at least two hours after eating a big meal.
Sarbou-Jubert explained the blood will flow away from the stomach, where it is needed to process the food, and flow to whatever part of the body that is being worked out.
"It actually slows, almost stops, digestion," she said. "That food is not going to be processed. It's just sitting there ... Now your digestive system has to wait its turn."
• Wear appropriate attire. When working out, proper attire isn't whatever looks good on you. It's important to purchase sneakers that support weight-bearing activities and tops that promote movement but aren't too loose. If jogging outdoors, be sure to wear a knit cap in colder weather or a baseball cap in warmer temperatures. Both of these will help you maintain a proper body temperature and ward off harmful side effects such as cold, flu or sunburn.
• Stretch, stretch, stretch. Professional athletes make their living with their bodies, and they stretch extensively before each and every game. Just because you don't earn a ballplayer's paycheck doesn't mean you can avoid stretching. Stretching helps prevent muscle pulls, strains and other injuries, so make sure an adequate stretching routine is a part of your workout.
"What's going to help to prevent injury is getting the blood to the area that's going to be used," Sarbou-Jubert explained. "People that are not used to working out or have never worked out, it's especially important for them to stretch, even afterwards. Because they're the ones that are going to end up a lot more sore than someone who's in the gym all the time."
• Consult or hire a professional. Those who have had an extensive layoff from exercise might want to employ a personal trainer, at least until they get comfortable with a routine. In fact, many fitness clubs offer a handful of free personal training sessions to new members to ensure all members start off safe and avoid injury. Take advantage of such sessions if they're available. If not, hire one of the club's personal trainers, even if it's only for a few sessions, at the onset of your routine.
"For some people, personal training is good because it makes them accountable for what they're doing," Sarbou-Jubert said. "Some people have to have someone else pushing them along to continue to do it. And the thing is, no program is going to work unless you're consistent."
Overall, the most important advice Sarbou-Jubert had to give was to not be afraid to walk into a gym.
"The hardest part is getting through the door," she said. "Once you're through the door, talk to someone, have them show you around and just do it. Because you know what? You've got one life and you've got to stay healthy."
Sarah L. Cronk contributed to this report.