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Finding fitness without breaking your body

The summer months are finally here, and people are ready to enjoy outdoor activities after another long COVID winter. Amit Lahav, MD, orthopedic surgeon, Northeast Medical Group, urges people to ease into a more active lifestyle.

“We will always encourage people to get active,” Dr. Lahav said. “But if you do too much, too soon, you’re going to injure yourself and nobody wants that. Your body is a bit like a rubber band. If you haven’t stretched it out in a while, you’ll need to take it slow otherwise it could snap.”

Dr. Lahav suggests deciding what your personal fitness goals are before jumping into an exercise routine or outdoor sport.

“Ask yourself if you want to bulk up and add muscle, improve general fitness, or simply lose weight,” he said. “Each of those goals have very different paths. One thing you’ll want to do regardless of your goals is stretch. Stretching before physical activity, especially for the lower body muscles, can help prevent injuries.”

Once you’ve warmed up, it’s important to set a realistic pace.

“If running is your thing, I’d suggest a brisk walk your first day out,” Dr. Lahav said. “See how it feels. If you’re comfortable with that you can level-up and start alternating. Run half a mile, then walk half a mile. Eventually you’ll get to a place where you can run a mile or two without worrying about a muscle pull.”

Cardio is great for heart health and losing weight, but strength training is also very important for overall fitness.

“We’re not talking about heavy weights and power lifting, unless that’s your thing,” he explained. “Strength training is also toning the muscles. Body weight exercises like pushups, pullups or air squats are a great place to start and, in most cases, you don’t need any equipment. You can also use light weights like 2- or 5-pound dumbbells. The important thing is to get your muscles working.”

When it comes to equipment, Dr. Lahav takes a less-is-more approach. “I don’t like to tell people to spend a lot of money on gadgets, or very expensive braces. Instead, make sure you have a good pair of shoes that offer good cushioning and arch support. You don’t need to spend $200 on a pair of shoes to get something that will perform well,” he said.

Age is another thing to consider when ramping up physical activity. The older we get, the more likely we are to suffer certain injuries.

“Different injuries pop up depending on your age,” he said. “Around the knee, a younger person will have more of a problem around the kneecap. For an older person, the same activity may trigger an issue with the thigh muscle.”

Regardless of age or activity, people should pay attention to their bodies.

“Listen to your body and it will tell you when something is wrong,” he said. “For most people, you don’t need to push through pain. That’s going to lead to a visit to the doctor. Start slow and build up your endurance over time and you’ll see results and limit injuries.”

Make an appointment for a walk-in or video visit.