Dads should get regular physical activity no matter your age or stage of current fitness. It lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke, lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes, and can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. At the same time, exercise can increase your flexibility, muscle and bone strength, and stamina. Daily exercise is even good for your mental health. It helps to relieve stress and releases endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals in the brain.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 should get at least 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise. Brisk walking, bike riding, and swimming or water aerobics are good examples. If your day seems too busy for regular exercise, try breaking the 30 minutes up into 10-minute sessions. You’ll get the same benefits. In addition, the CDC also recommends muscle-strengthening exercise that works all the main muscle groups (legs, hips, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) at least twice a week. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not hard to manage once you’ve made it a habit (speaking of habits, I highly recommend reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg).
But establishing an exercise regimen is only the first step. Not only must you be committed to your regimen, but you must also be careful. Your fitness plan can come to a screeching halt if you injure yourself while exercising. Unfortunately, I speak from experience. I have fractured my ankles twice while playing pickup basketball games. I also sprained my ankle during an ill-advised football game on field that wasn’t suitable for playing sports. A few years ago, I hurt my shoulder because I was trying to lift more weight than I was capable of lifting. I lost control of the bar and it fell on me causing a shoulder injury (you can read all of details here). Don’t let this happen to you. The best way to keep from injuring yourself during physical activity is to think about prevention before you start. Here are a few things you need to remain injury-free.
Assess Your Goals
Before starting your exercise routine, determine what you want to accomplish. Do you want to improve your overall health? Perhaps you want to increase your strength and stamina. You may want to have the energy to run around with your kids or grandkids. Or maybe your goal is to complete a 5K or a marathon. Assessing your goals beforehand will allow you to design the right exercise plan that takes into account your current fitness level, time commitments, and results you want to achieve.
Check With Your Doctor
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it is so important that it bears repeating. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen. He can give you some sound medical advice that will help you to get the most out of your workouts and prevent injuries. It won’t hurt to get a thorough physical exam while you’re in his office.
If you throw yourself into sudden, vigorous activity, there is a good chance of your getting hurt. At the very least, you’ll tire yourself out so quickly you’ll lose confidence in yourself and give up. Instead, start slowly and gradually increase intensity.
It’s important to stretch your muscles before starting any type of exercise. Stretch gently to loosen up and increase flexibility and range-of-motion in your shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, hips, legs, knees, ankles, and feet. You don’t need to do a lot of repetitions, but you do need to pay attention to maintaining proper form while stretching. When you’ve finished your exercise session, stretch gently again to cool down. Simple stretches can go a long way toward preventing injuries.
Use Proper Equipment
Make to have the proper shoes for the type of exercise you’re undertaking. Many people have injured themselves because of ill-fitting or improper footwear. In addition to wearing the proper clothing, you also need to know the right way to use exercise equipment. For instance, if you’re not sure how to use an elliptical trainer, get instruction from someone qualified to teach you how to operate it. Always check your equipment for defects for using. Broken equipment can lead to severe injuries.
Pay Attention to Nutrition
To get the best performance out of your body and to protect it, you need to fuel it properly. Be mindful of what you eat. Choose a diet that includes plentiful vegetables and fruits, lean meat and fish, eggs, nuts, and legumes, low-fat dairy foods, whole grain bread, pastas, cereals, and rice, and healthy fats, like olive or canola oil. Limit processed foods and sweets, including sugary beverages. Wait about 30 minutes after eating to begin exercising.
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water before, during, and after working out. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least six measuring cups of water each day. You will need to increase your intake of liquids when the temperature rises. Exercising in hot weather without proper hydration can lead to heat-related illnesses and dehydration.
Understand your Body’s Limitations
It’s only natural to want to relive your glory days, but it’s not always easy to do the things you used to do when you were 20. If an activity causes discomfort or pain, stop immediately to prevent a serious injury. Your ego may be slightly injured, but your body will be unharmed.