As the weather warms up and the days become longer, many of us are feeling more inclined to become more active and take advantage of these lovely spring days.
The World Health Organisation recommends adults engage in at least 150 minutes – but preferably 300mins (or 5 hours) – of moderate to vigorous activity a week to gain and maintain better health. This is great advice. However, it is important that when you begin to increase your exercise time, you do so safely to avoid injuries. This is especially important with the health issues some people may have encountered over winter and as many of us have been less active with social distancing restrictions over the past 6 months.
Every person responds differently to an increased load of activity and exercise. One main factor to this is age. For instance, a typical 18-year-old body should cope well with increased physical demands or increased loads. Comparatively, a person aged 50 or older will often need more time to adjust to an increase in exercise. This is because the integrity of ‘older’ muscles and soft tissue around the joints takes longer to adapt.
Niggles and pain can sometimes appear when we start to exercise more. I’ve treated plenty of enthusiastic over-50’s who have accidentally overdone it by exercising too hard before they’re up to it.
A systematic approach to returning to, or increasing exercise, will help prevent injuries and pain.
Here are a few tips to do this safely and avoid injuries:
- Start slowly: Increase your activity levels incrementally. Start by increasing the time of your activity, then increase the load or reps; just not all at once. For example, if you have decided you would like to run 5 kms, start with 1-2 km in distance at a walk and run. Over a few weeks, increase the distance up to 5kms. Then, start to increase the amount of running time over the 5kms, and decrease the walking time. The same principle applies to increasing weights at the gym or any exercise regime. Finally, once you have reached your goal of running the whole 5 km, then you can start looking at increasing your speed and cadence.
- Plan: It seems common sense, but when people want to achieve something, they often focus on the end goal without considering the best way to get there. Plan it out, day by day, week to week. Write up a schedule with the dates – week by week and what you would like to achieve
- Pay attention to your body: If you start to feel any pains or aches, reduce the amount or intensity of your exercise a little until the pain disappears. Try to increase again slowly and systematically. If the pain keeps returning, go and see your physio for advice and treatment as needed.
Wishing you a great start to the spring season, Deb.