Congratulations for deciding to start a fitness program! Exercise is tremendously beneficial for your health. However, it is important to observe proper precautions in order to minimize your risk of injury and to make your experience as enjoyable as possible. Understanding these few basic principles can get you started safely.
Warm up appropriately
The purpose of warming up is to prepare your body for the physical demands of a challenging exercise routine. This happens by increasing circulation so that your muscles can receive adequate oxygen and blood, and by increasing your body temperature so that the warm muscles can more readily stretch and facilitate movement. An ideal warm-up consists of dynamic, low-impact movements in various directions and using multiple muscles and joints.
Avoid high-impact movements that involve bouncing or jumping like jumping jacks. While jumping jacks is an excellent total-body exercise and is very appropriate as a secondary movement, it can be too jarring on the joints to be performed as a warm-up.
Similarly, static stretching (holding a stretch in one position without movement) is not practical as a warm-up. Since muscles are more pliable when they are warm, this type of stretching is more suitable for cooling down and increasing flexibility after an exercise session.
Proper breathing is an essential bodily function but, amazingly, a large number of people need reminders to breathe during any kind of physical exertion. Holding your breath while performing cardiovascular or strength training exercises can be very dangerous because it can create high levels of internal pressure, which can lead to lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, hernia, heart attack, or stroke. While performing repetitions of a particular exercise, remember to exhale with the effort and inhale during the relaxation phase. During cardiovascular exercise, simply try to be conscious of your breathing and breathe as naturally as possible.
A muscle injury or excessive stress to your heart and/or lungs can derail your fitness efforts. While exercising, definitely try to challenge yourself and step outside of your comfort zone, but also listen to your body. Always move within a comfortable range of motion for your joints and, if necessary, slow down your pace or reduce the number of repetitions of a particular exercise. Also, don’t ignore warning signs that may occur during or after a vigorous workout. If you experience any persistent signs of cardiac distress (abnormal heart rhythm, chest pain or pressure, lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea) or any lingering muscle pain (beyond 1-3 days of soreness), contact a medical professional for further evaluation.