New Year’s health resolutions – how to maintain momentum without getting injured

New Year is a time many Australians make resolutions to get fitter, lose weight, eat better and reduce their drinking – but all too often injury and dwindling motivation mean those resolutions can quickly fall by the wayside. The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) has some tips to help Aussies pursue and maintain their health goals safely in 2019.

It’s well known that exercise and physical activity reduces your risk of developing several diseases including type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as having immediate benefits for your mental health and sleep. However moving too quickly into intense exercise, particularly when starting after a long period of inactivity, can pose a few hazards.

Catherine Etty-Leal, APA musculoskeletal physiotherapist says “Some injuries that are common in people hitting the gym after a long period of inactivity are back pain, pulled muscles and tendinopathy – all of which can quickly put a stop to your New Year’s resolutions, no matter how good your intentions may be.”

“For the most part, many of these injuries are due to the obvious: a rapid increase in exercise volume and intensity from previous sedentary levels of physical activity. However, these injuries can be prevented with an appropriate exercise plan.”

Catherine’s tips for keeping safe AND keeping your resolutions include:

Do exercise you enjoy – and can manage

For those who have been very sedentary previously, your best form of exercise might be walking the dog around the block every day until you feel like you can step it up. The greatest health benefits accrue by moving from nothing, to even small amounts of physical activity.

Make sure you warm-up correctly

Warming up is an important part of your exercise routine as it helps prevent injury. The best way to warm up is to spend 5-10 minutes doing some brisk walking or jogging. You should feel a little clammy once you’ve finished warming up.

Focus on lumbar and abdominal stability

General exercise like walking, running, or swimming is a great way to work all parts of your body, including your core. If you are doing exercise with higher loads (like a gym-based programme), putting some core strengthening exercises into your programme can help ensure all the parts of your body are balanced with each other. Good balance is an important part of injury prevention.

Mix it up

If your New Year’s goal is to run a marathon or half marathon, do more than just run. Running more than three or four days per week can put undue stress on your knees and hips and can increase your risks of injuring those joints. Take a day off between runs and lift weights or do extended stretching exercises. This holds true for whatever exercise program you decide to follow. If you do the same thing every day, you can hit a plateau in your fitness level and will expose yourself to greater injury risks, or simply lose interest.

Don’t go it alone

Your physiotherapist can help design a fitness program just for you. They will consider your goals – losing weight, improve your bone density and strength, control your sugar levels, reduce your risk of falls – as well as your current level of physical fitness and any injuries or health conditions preventing you from being as active as you’d like.

Catherine says “Most importantly, listen to your body. If you feel an injury or niggle, see a physiotherapist and let them assist you maintain your New Year’s health and fitness resolutions.”  

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