January 7, 2004
Physical therapist urges realistic approach to New Year's resolutions
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—If your New Year’s resolution was to “just do it,” make sure you don’t overdo it, cautions Jodie Howell, a physical therapist for Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s east campus in Flowood.
“A lot of people try get-fit-quick schemes and wind up getting hurt,” says Howell. “Doing too much too soon invites overuse injuries such as tendinitis, stress fractures and plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the connective tissues under the foot.”
To avoid such pitfalls, try these recommendations:
- Learn your limitations. Howell recommends consulting your doctor before beginning an ambitious exercise program. A thorough physical can uncover problems that might be life-threatening during exercise—such as heart abnormalities. And undergoing a flexibility screening can detect potential trouble spots, such as tight hamstrings or structural problems with the feet. “If you know about these things ahead of time, you can avoid injury by choosing an exercise that fits your physique or using adaptive equipment, such as orthotics in your shoes,” Howell says.
- Make realistic resolutions. You can’t go from spud to stud overnight, says Howell. “If you’ve been sedentary, a simple walking program is a good place to start,” she says. “In the beginning, don’t worry about intensity and concentrate on establishing a routine. Try doing an aerobic activity such as walking, jogging, swimming or bike riding 20 to 60 minutes three times a week.” And don’t forget the importance of stretching and strength-training, she adds.
- Just do it right. Incorrect form is a major cause of injury, says Howell. She recommends consulting with a certified fitness expert to learn proper exercise techniques. Otherwise, you might wind up like Nanette Sullivan—a Madison nurse who learned that it isn’t wise to take your cues from fellow gym rats. She blames a nagging knee injury on the folly of trying to keep up with weight lifters 20 years her junior. “I did squats with too much weight, and way too deep,” Sullivan said. “Since then, my left knee has never been the same.”
- Think inches, not miles. Even veteran exercise enthusiasts can get into trouble when they ramp up their regimen too quickly, says Scot E. Long, an exercise physiologist and director of Corporate Wellness for the Jackson Metro YMCA. “Once your body gets use to a routine, increase your exercise by about 5 percent,” he says. “If you are at a plateau, change things up. If you’ve been walking or biking, swim and do the stairstepper.”