So, you’ve gotten a clean bill of health from your doctor and you are ready to get moving. If you’ve been sitting on that couch most of your life, you’ll need to know the right way to exercise and how to do it safely.
“If you are joining a gym, doing a boot camp or watching an at-home DVD, it’s important to know basic movements and how to do them so that you don’t cause injury,” says Kenneth Clarke, owner and personal trainer at Fitness Together in Silver Spring, Md.
Clarke says the basic and very natural movements you need to know are:
Squats, moving from a standing to seated position with legs apart.
Presses, pushing things away from you using your arms or legs.
Pulls, using your arms to pull things toward you.
If done in good form, Clarke says, these movements can lead to building leaner muscles, burning more calories and getting stronger. But if done incorrectly, they can lead to shoulder, hip or knee injuries.
Clark says if you haven’t been moving at all, the most important muscle to get in shape is the heart, suggesting some cardiovascular activity like walking on a treadmill or using a stationary bike.
“A lot of this is about working in movements as opposed to doing specific exercises that target one muscle at a time,” Clarke says. “These are movements where we are using several muscle groups at one time.”
A squat is a perfect example, according to Clarke, because it works your gluteus maximums, or butt muscles, legs and core muscles in your abdomen and back.
No matter what you are doing, the American College of Sports Medicine suggests 150 minutes of physical activity per week, which can be sliced into different chunks of time. Clarke recommends a bit more, 30 minutes of activity four times per week, for someone really looking for results. He adds that your workout time should be scheduled just like a meeting or a doctor’s appointment.
“By nature, none of us wants to let anyone else down and if you have an appointment, you’ll do everything you can to make that appointment,” Clarke says,
Besides getting in the most exercise that you can, safely, setting realistic fitness goals is probably the biggest key to success, according to Clarke. If your goal is to lose weight, expect to lose no more than one to two pounds a week.
If it’s just getting in better shape, you may set a goal to walk for 10 minutes and then add a few minutes from there. You’ll need to set short-term goals like these, along with mid-range goals like running a 12-minute mile, and long term-goals like fitting into your favorite dress.