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Exercising safely and wisely

This is an excerpt from ACSM Fitness Book, Third Edition, by American College of Sports Medicine.

Most people, even those diagnosed with a chronic illness (with a physician’s clearance) can exercise safely if some precautions are taken before, during, and after exercise. You can do the following both to ensure your safety while exercising and to maximize your health benefits. Regardless of your initial level of fitness, the following precautions should be observed:

  • Drink extra fluids. Drink a glass full of water before you exercise and another after you have finished. Drink additional water every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. Carry a bottle of water or sports beverage with you during your aerobic exercise if your exercise program exceeds 45 minutes. Many people like to drink a sports drink before and during exercise. Feel free to do this if you do not experience gastric distress.
  • You do not need to take any extra vitamins or other supplements when exercising. A well-balanced diet provides most of the nutrients that a healthy, active person needs. Additional vitamins, proteins, amino acids, or other products are not usually necessary, and they typically do not improve your performance. If you question the completeness of your diet, an inexpensive multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement may be a good idea.
  • Follow your doctor’s recommendations concerning any medications you may be taking. Special precautions should always be observed for anyone taking medication prescribed by a physician. While just about anyone can benefit from regular exercise, check with your doctor if you are taking medication and want to start an exercise program.
  • Pay special attention to any discomfort you may feel during exercise. It is normal to feel a slight stiffness or soreness the day following your first or second exercise session. This discomfort should disappear in a day or two. However, if you experience any sudden pain while performing the exercises listed in your program, stop that exercise immediately and go on to the next one. During your next exercise session, try all the exercises again. If you still have pain or discomfort while doing a particular exercise, stop doing it until you consult with your doctor. Note that a pain or discomfort in the chest should not be ignored, because this could be an initial signal of developing heart disease. If upon exertion you feel a pain or tightness in the chest, consult your doctor right away for further evaluation before continuing your exercise program.
  • Adjust your exercise regimen when you are not feeling well. When you are sick, your body needs its resources to fight off the illness. Take a few days off from your exercise program. If this time period is less than a week, you can resume your regular exercise program.
  • On days when you are too busy to complete your exercise program, complete whatever portion you can, even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes. On days that you know are going to be busy, try to deliberately increase physical activity throughout the day. Remember that an accumulation of increased physical activity contributes to your overall health. An example might be to take the stairs instead of the elevator or to park your car farther from the front door.

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