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Health Special: Do's and don'ts of gymming

If your New Year resolution was to get fit and head to the gym, now's the time to make good on the promise. To help you along, Soma Das invited experts for a checklist to bear in mind before you hit the gym

Who should head to the gym?
>> Any person (male/female) above 15 years of age can exercise; it can help build lean body mass, lose weight and get fit, states Dr Anjana Laungani Consultant Physiotherapist and  Rehab Specialist at PhysioRehab.

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 Nowadays, workouts are customised to a person's goal. They change with people who have medical conditions and injuries. Rashmi Joshi, Head of Operations, I Think Fitness, mentions that when a client wants to sign up at their gym, they fill a form known as PAR-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire). On the basis of that assessment, if there is any issue which requires a doctor's clearance certificate, they ask them to get it before they start exercising.

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 Dr Amrapali Patil, Weight Management expert and founder of Trim N Tone, advises that people should consult their physician before joining the gym. “One might not be aware of a hidden medical issue and it might come to the forefront during a consultation. Those with disorders such as cardiac ailments, diabetes, high blood pressure, migraine, osteoporosis, etc, must get a green signal before signing up for gym,” she adds.

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 People with suspected pregnancy, neck and back issues should also seek approval, advises Dr Vijay Shetty, Orthopedic and Arthroscopic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital.

>> Ensure you invest in the ideal gym gear, from correct footwear to required gym wear, reminds Dr Patil.

Why must you gym?
>> Adrian Leroux, Director — Fitness and Training, at Prosport, mentions that if you have a relatively sedentary working environment, it is crucial that you address your physical needs by joining a fitness facility. “Once we reach our mid-20s, we start to lose muscle strength at an alarming rate. So, we need to maintain this by doing 20-30 minute strength sessions at least two times per week. If your job entails that you sit for extended periods of time, it is important to realise that your posture will deteriorate. A well-designed programme can address this aspect.”

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 He further advises that for, at least, the first six weeks of your training, you must complete one-on-one sessions with a trainer who understands your goals.

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 Dr Laungani highlights that heading to the gym helps improve athletic ability, keep diseases at bay, especially lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart ailments and can also relieve stress, elevate your mood and cure insomnia. “Good hormones are released during a workout that increase stamina and libido,” she adds.

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 Althea Shah, fitness expert at Gold's Gym India, says that regular exercise can increase HDL-cholesterol ('good' cholesterol), and decrease bad cholesterol (LDL). “It will increase efficiency of blood and the circulation system, help fight degenerative diseases like Type 2 diabetes and boost the immune system. It also helps lower the resting heart rate and blood pressure.”

What to watch out for?
>> Dr Vijay Shetty cautions against overdoing exercises: “It is tempting when you start gymming. Many end up having to see their doctor after doing unfamiliar routines and overdoing things. These are called 'overuse injuries'.”

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 Inappropriate exercises can also expose one to heart ailments, muscular spasms, bone fracture, sciatica, arthritis, joint
dislocation, slipped disc, spondylosis and hypoglycemia, warns Dr Patil.  

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 Fitness trainer Vijay Alva states that one of the major concerns are unqualified trainers. “It is important to supervise the exercises done in the gym and only a trainer who is qualified will be able to do that correctly. It is very important to know about the trainers' qualification before signing up.”

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 If you have not trained for more than six months, Leroux advises against joining a facility or training programme, which entails maximal, high intensity training sessions as this will make you susceptible to injury.

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 “Always perform activities or exercises within your ability. Ensure that you have structured progression within your programme. Do not progress within your training too quickly as your body needs to adapt to the new load placed on it,” he suggests, also warning against group training, as important aspects of training could be compromised due to large numbers.

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 Dr Laungani recommends that people should ask for a gym tour and a one-day trial, if possible. She also warns that if the trainers aren't careful while clients do free weight training, it can lead to numerous hazards: “Infection can also spread due to sweat/dampness/use of wet towels. If free weight objects like barbells, dumbbells and weight plates are not secured to ropes or pulleys, they can fall easily.

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 Dr Mudit Khanna, Consultant in the Department of Sport Injuries at New Age Wockhardt Hospital Mumbai Central, advises that people start with lighter activities, shorter durations, and less frequent workouts to allow for recovery. “Increase your weekly and monthly exercise routines gradually. Build your weekly training activity by no more than 10 percent per week,” says Khanna.

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 Strengthening the muscles that support your joint will reduce stress on bones, he adds. “Since the knee is the most
common joint injured during athletic training, it is imperative to strengthen the muscles around your knee. Also, resist the temptation of skipping the warm up, cool down or stretches.”

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