Every January, millions of people make a New Year’s resolution to get back to the gym, lose weight, begin training for a marathon or tackle another lofty physical goal.
Of those millions, hundreds actually go through with it and start an exercise routine. Of those hundreds, nearly everyone begins to regret the decision as soon as they realize how out of shape they really are.
There can be a dangerous side to this popular resolution as well, as over-exertion can lead to injuries and even serious health concerns.
Elmwood Fitness Center performance program manager Ben Elder said everyone beginning an exercise routine should go in for a routine checkup to make sure they are healthy enough to exercise.
“It’s best to just go get that little checkup,” Elder said. “Just like every year you bring your car to be inspected, and they see if you’re good to keep going on the road. It’s the same thing. You just need to see if everything is working right to really avoid any major problems before you get started.”
Elder said he recently made an appointment with his regular doctor to make sure he didn’t have any underlying problems that would prevent him from training for the Ochsner Ironman competition in April.
“I hadn’t had a checkup in a year, and I took some time off for the holidays,” Elder said. “I just wanted to see what kind of health I’m in right now. What kind of things I need to be aware of before I start an exercise routine.”
Ochsner family medicine specialist Dr. James Tebbe said a routine checkup before beginning an exercise program becomes more important as you get older.
“If you’re young, fairly active and healthy, then it’s probably ok for you to start a program, but that’s not most of us,” Tebbe said. “If you’re over 40, if you’ve been sedentary, if you’re overweight or if you have a chronic medical condition – then you should definitely come in for a checkup.”
Tebbe said people become “deconditioned” after months or years of inactivity, making it extremely stressful to begin an exercise routine.
“We need to treat our bodies like we treat everything else,” Tebbe said. “You wouldn’t do a major renovation on your home without consulting an architect or a contractor. You wouldn’t overhaul your car without discussing it with a mechanic. I think we need to give our bodies the same consideration.”
Beyond a simple physical exam, Tebbe said your regular doctor can also get a feeling for the risk of injury during the checkup.
“Screening for the risk of injury is sometimes a lost art when it comes to a physical exam,” he said. “When a patient comes to me looking to begin an exercise program, I will more than likely spend more time doing a good musculoskeletal exam to screen for increased injury risk.”
A patient with weak knees will not have an easy time jogging or running in the New Year, Tebbe said, and that determination can be made at the general checkup.
Chronic health problems like hypertension, high cholesterol levels or unhealthy body fat ratios can be caught by a simple checkup, Elder said, preventing problems down the line for people trying to get healthy now.
Elder said it generally takes a long time for a new exercise routine to start showing results, during which time many people will begin to have problems if they are out of shape and unprepared.
“The biggest thing we see in the fitness center is people come in and work out three our four hours a day for two weeks and then we don’t see them anymore,” Elder said. “It takes 30 days to make a new habit but it takes three months to see any real impact from a physical fitness routine. The key is consistency.”
To learn more about Elmwood Fitness Center’s fitness programs, click here.