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‘Start low & go slow’ – How to begin an exercise regime from scratch

The New Year is a great time to focus on becoming fit and healthy.

Nobody will dispute that exercise (movement) is good for us. Due to our more sedentary occupations and lifestyles – even the act of getting up off the ground, climbing a ladder or cleaning out a bottom drawer may be a monstrous task. So think of the benefit of exercise (movement) as improving our ability to do daily tasks and sprucing overall health and well-being – not just minimising those tuck-shop arms and muffin tops!

As a Biomechanical Podiatrist I treat many patients who (due to yucky foot and lower limb pain) have become very inactive for a very long time. Once we have worked together to manage or resolve their pain, they have more energy, a positive head-space and are now ready to embark on some regular exercise. So here’s some advice I will often give to my patients:

Have a goal in mind – Do you want to enter the Townsville 5km, walk around the block without getting winded, or finish a 100-rep circuit without vomiting??? Have a goal that is clear, realistic and concise.

Start Low & Go Slow – If you have not exercised for quite some time, do not expect to race up Castle Hill on your very first go, even if you used to do it in a breeze. When people commit to starting an exercise program they are often so pumped up and excited that they do ‘too much too soon’. If walking is your exercise, start with a short walk (20 mins) and increase the time by 10-15% each week.

Rest days are good! – To begin with I would recommend having a rest day every 2nd day. This is particularly so if coming back from injury. Rest days allow your body to recover and repair. After 2 weeks of exercise you may reduce your rest day to 2 on, 1 off. After 2 more weeks of exercise you may only need 1 rest day per week.

Alternate training – Mix it up! Keep your body guessing! Where possible you may consider aqua aerobics, yoga or tai chi, light weight training etc. Alternating your training styles means you are using different muscle groups, different energy systems, different loading patterns. This greatly reduces your risk of over-use injury, achieves greater results and keeps things interesting!

When commencing an exercise program (whether that be following an injury, or starting from scratch for the first time) being SENSIBLE is the key.

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