Proper preparation can help make physical activity enjoyable, effective, and safe.
For people just beginning a physical activity program, adequate preparation may be the key to persistence. For those who have been regularly active for some time, sound preparation can help reduce risk of injury and make activity more enjoyable. It is hoped that a person armed with good information about preparation will become involved and stay involved in physical activity for a lifetime. For long-term maintenance, physical activity must be something that is a part of a person’s normal lifestyle. Some factors that will help you prepare for and make physical activity a part of your normal routine are presented in this concept.
Physical activity requires the cardiovascular system to work harder. While this level of stress can promote positive adaptations, the stress on the heart can be unsafe and dangerous for certain individuals. The British Columbia (Canada) Ministry of Health conducted extensive research to devise a procedure that will help people to know when it is advisable to seek medical consultation prior to beginning or altering an exercise program.
The goal is to prevent unnecessary medical examinations, while helping people be reasonably assured that regular exercise was appropriate. The research resulted in the development of the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q). The most recent revision of the PAR-Q consists of seven simple questions you can ask yourself to determine if medical consultation is necessary prior to exercise involvement.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has developed additional guidelines to help determine if medical consultation or a clinical exercise test is necessary prior to participation in physical activity programs. Young adults classified as apparently healthy with low risk, and who answer “NO” to all PAR-Q questions, are generally cleared for moderate and vigorous physical activity without a medical exam or clinical exercise test.
For those with moderate risk, moderate exercise is generally appropriate without a medical exam or an exercise test, but both are recommended prior to undertaking vigorous physical activity. For those in the high risk category, a medical exam and exercise testing are recommended for moderate and vigorous activity. For those just beginning a program or those resuming physical activity after an injury or illness, consultation with a physician is always wise, no matter what your age or medical condition.
Consideration should also be given to altering exercise patterns if you have an illness or a temporary sickness, such as a cold or the flu. The immune system and other body systems may be weaker at this time and medicines (even over-the-counter ones) may alter responses to exercise. It is best to work back gradually to your normal routine after illness.There is no way to be absolutely sure that you are medically sound to begin a physical activity program.
Even a thorough exam by a physician cannot guarantee that a person does not have some limitations that may cause a problem during exercise. Use of the PAR-Q and adherence to the ACSM guidelines are advised to help minimize the risk while preventing unnecessary medical cost. However, if you are unsure about your readiness for activity, a medical exam and a clinical exercise test are the surest ways to make certain that you are ready to participate. Those who plan to do intensive training (particularly for sports) may want to answer some additional questions concerning whether a medical exam is necessary before beginning.
Decisions about shoes should be based on intended use (e.g., running, tennis), shoe and foot characteristics, and comfort rather than looks or cosmetics.
Shoes are designed for specific activities and comfort and performance will typically be best if you select and use them for their intended purpose. Hybrid shoes, known as a “cross-trainers,” can be a versatile option, but they typically don’t provide the needed features for specific activities. For example, they may lack the cushioning and support needed for running and the ankle support for activities such as basketball. Most shoes have very thin sock liners, but supplemental inserts can be purchased to provide more cushioning and support. Custom orthotics can also be used to correct alignment problems or minimize foot injuries (e.g., plantar fasciitis).
A very important, and frequently neglected, consideration is to replace shoes after extended use. Runners typically replace shoes every 4 to 6 months (or 400 to 600 miles), even if the outer appearance of the shoe is still good. The main functions of athletic shoes are to reduce shock from impact and protect the foot—one of the best prevention strategies for avoiding injuries is to replace your shoes on a regular basis.
Recently, two new innovations in running shoes were introduced. The first innovation is a shoe with an “all-air” sole. A “partial-air” sole has been used for several years. This feature eliminated foam from the outsole but had a midsole that included ¼ inch of foam. The Nike 360 is the first to eliminate foam completely. The shoe is lighter and uses a pocket of air from the heel to the front of the shoe based on relative need for cushioning in various parts of the shoe. The second innovation is the “smart shoe.” This new shoe, made by Adidas, uses a small computer chip to automatically adjust for the runner’s body weight, changes in stride caused by fatigue, terrain, and pace. The processor is lightweight but does add weight to the shoe because a battery is required. It is too early to tell how these technologies will shape the athletic shoe market.
Clothing should be appropriate for the type of activity being performed and the conditions in which you are participating. Similar to shoes, comfort is a much more important consideration than looks.
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All the best,