By Dr. Kathryne Buege
Hello Spring! The sun is shining, the grass is green...OK, let's not push it. The grass is still snow-covered and it's freezing, but there are subtle signs of spring all over. A local seasonal ice cream shop opens in 20 days, and my favorite farmer's market opens in 2 weeks. Spring equinox, spring training, spring break - I can't help but get an extra "spring" in my step thinking of the warmer weather headed our way! With March being National Nutrition Month, why not take an opportunity to get ready to be active and eat healthy. Check out some nutrition ideas here on MASH's Facebook page.
The first sunny day we had above 40 degrees, I took my dog for a long, much-needed run and walk. Living in a hilly terrain, we had a great workout. The next day I felt all of my 40+ years: every joint in my body was on fire and shin splints flared up that took a few days to heal after rest and ice. I used to walk that path at least 1 to 2 times per week in the summer and fall, and after a long winter hibernation my body was in exercise shock. Having said that, here are a few tips to remember before you "March" into exercise like a lion and come out like a fatigued, beat up lamb.
Pleasant temperatures and the visual interest of your surroundings can not only motivate you to exercise, but also help you to enjoy it more. But what should you do once you are outdoors?
Walking & Hiking
These are my favorite outdoor exercises because they are easy on the joints and allow me time to think and reflect on the day and the days ahead. Experts recommend walking for 30 minutes, 5 days a week at a brisk pace (about 4 MPH) to help ward off chronic illness. The risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure go down in response to just increasing your level of physical activity. If you are trying to lose weight, shoot for 60 minutes of walking most days of the week.
Running & Jogging
When I need to lose weight, my body responds to the calories I burn faster running than to any other exercise (although I have not tried any of the newer exercise programs such as P90X). The con to running is it puts more stress on the joints - knees, ankles and hips. The key is to start slowly! Increasing your distance by no more than 10% each week is what most experts advise.
Bike riding, rollerblading and outdoor workout routines, such as using a park bench for dips or push-ups, are great to firm up and challenge your body outdoors. Because your body is constantly confronted by inclines, declines and obstacles, you may burn fat at a different pace. Swimming is less stressful on the joints and, depending on the intensity, an excellent way to tone and define your muscles. I'm always surprised at the way my daughter looks at the end of summer after swimming for just a few months.
Regardless, remember to stretch and drink plenty of water! If your body is sore, take some time to rest and don't be afraid to ask for help. When in doubt, seek advice from your healthcare provider. Think spring!