Turning Resolutions into Lifestyle Changes

By: Dr. Maria Cuomo, PT, DPT

For many people, incorporating regular exercise into a daily routine is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. New year, fresh start  – makes sense to start anew and focus on becoming a better version of you.  However, now that we are several weeks into the New Year, has your resolution become a lifestyle change? Research performed by The University of Scranton has found that only ~8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions are actually successful. The better question is: how can you be one of them?

Anyone and everyone can exercise, but busy lifestyles, injuries, and medical conditions can interfere, especially for anyone who is attempting to start exercising for the first time. If you have been unsuccessful in fulfilling your New Year’s resolution and we are only a few weeks into 2018, now may be the time to regroup.  The list of benefits one can experience from regular exercise continues to grow. Improved cardiovascular health, decreased risk of diabetes, heart attack, and cancer just to name a few.  With this in mind, the timing of when we start exercising is less important than whether we start at all. Here are a few tips on how to safely turn exercise into a part of your life that you look forward to for its many physical and psychological benefits.

Preparation/planning is key. Research on establishing lifestyle change has found that the planning phase of establishing a new habit is important for it to be successfully incorporated into your life. Creating short-term, realistic exercise goals is essential. This will help you measure progress and avoid discouragement while also preventing injury. Based on your goals, you should consider whether or not to purchase a membership to a gym or any specialized equipment to begin your regimen. Will you be exercising alone or as a group? You should also determine how many days per week you will need to exercise in order to achieve your goals. The American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM) guidelines recommend 30 minutes of exercise 5x/week as the minimum effective dose to experience the benefits of exercise. Most of the time you will need to explore several options to determine which form of exercise works for you.

Start slow! Progression is key to any exercise program. If your friend who exercises regularly invites you to an intense/advanced, hour-long indoor cycling class and you have never clipped into a bike or exercised before, this is probably not the best way to start your journey.  While exercising with friends is great and encouraging, it might be better to start a different routine together first. Gyms and studios offer beginners classes for a reason. It is important to begin with the basics. Focusing on form and proper biomechanics will help you get the most out of your workout and avoid injury. Most group fitness classes encourage participants to take as many beginners classes as they need before advancing to avoid injury. Once you have a strong foundation, then you can incrementally increase either the frequency or intensity of the exercise. This will help you see results.

Listen to your body! Recovery and cross-training should be part of any well-balanced exercise routine. Pushing your body to the limit and beyond is a recipe for injury and feeling defeated. When exercising, you may feel sore for 24-48 hours post-workout, which is completely normal. If soreness persists greater than that time period, then it is definitely time to give your body a break. Establishing a regular rest-day or an active rest day that emphasizes more restorative forms of exercise including stretching, walking, or yoga will help you stay on the right path and avoid injury.

If establishing an exercise routine for yourself has not produced the results you expected, then you may consider the assistance of a qualified healthcare or fitness professional. An assessment provided by your local physical therapist can help identify any muscular and biomechanical imbalances that may be resulting in pain or predisposing you to injury. If appropriate, physical therapists can create a plan individualized to your needs and prescribe therapeutic exercises that you may need to incorporate into your exercise routine. Physical therapy is intended to be a short-term, medical necessity-based program that will educate you and transition you to exercise independently. After discharge from a physical therapy program, you may also be recommended to consult a personal trainer and/or nutritionist to achieve your fitness goals.

Let’s make changes in 2018 that will lead to a healthier life!

Dr. Maria Cuomo is the Physical Therapist for ProClinix Sports Physical Therapy & Chiropractic in our Ardsley office.

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