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Slow and Steady

Staying hydrated before, during and after a workout can help prevent heat injuries. Drink lots of water when you’re not exercising, too. Photo courtesy Flickr/Thad Zajdowicz

Staying hydrated before, during and after a workout can help prevent heat injuries. Drink lots of water when you’re not exercising, too. Photo courtesy Flickr/Thad Zajdowicz

When I entered the exam room, a patient told me, "I'm going to get my summer body back!" She was a 32-year-old teacher who was coming in for her routine yearly physical. She was a mother of two, and told me that she was determined to regain her pre-pregnancy figure. Her main objective was to have medical clearance to start an intensive exercise program that a local trainer was leading. The patient indicated that she wanted to get back into the dress she wore to her sister's wedding four years prior when she weighed significantly less. After the extensive physical, which included various lab tests, I told her that it was safe to start her mission to drop the pounds.

Every year, I have many patients with similar goals. As a physician, I make it a point to inform them of the risks when attempting to drop an unreasonable amount of weight in a small amount of time. I always remind them that the weight gain did not occur overnight, and that healthy weight loss will also not be successful in a short timeframe. Ideally, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise program is a lifestyle decision that we should maintain year-round. But those who don't participate in a year-round healthy lifestyle must remember that weight loss is a marathon and not a sprint.

A 2007 article from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition says that a decrease in body water from normal levels (often referred to as dehydration or hypo-hydration) provokes changes in cardiovascular, thermoregulatory, metabolic and central-nervous function, which become increasingly greater as dehydration worsens.

Similarly, greater fluid loss exacerbates performance impairment that people often report with modest dehydration; therefore, it is important to hydrate before, during and after exercise. In many cases, heat injuries are preventable when people practice good hydration when exercising and avoid prolonged exposure to elevated temperatures. I advise scheduling outdoor exercises during early morning and early evening hours when the temperature is cooler.

Mayoclinic.org says that overuse injuries can happen when you try to take on too much physical activity too quickly. Improper technique can also contribute to overuse injuries, including tendinitis, joint injuries and stress fractures. I remind my patients to listen to their bodies, and not push themselves to the point of injury. I advise them to stop exercising if they experience pain, and allow time to ensure the pain resolves.

If the pain persists, seek a medical evaluation. If a person doesn't have a great deal of experience with physical exercise, he or she should invest in a personal trainer to ensure proper technique to avoid injuries. It is also good to get a medical evaluation prior to starting an exercise program to ensure that the person is physically OK to do it. Lastly, exercise without good dietary choices usually makes for poor results.


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