After enduring a record-breaking cold and snowy winter statewide, the arrival of spring is a welcome opportunity for many people to become more physically active outdoors.
Although it’s tempting on the first nice day to go out and play 18 holes of golf, jog several miles or tackle your entire yard clean up, experts advise starting on the slow side, even if you have been working out inside all winter long. The last thing you want is to get injured because you tried too much too fast.
Spring is a season when exercisers of various levels can get on the road to effective workouts, noted Sandra Condon, owner of New Life Health and Wellness in Marlborough.
“If they’ve been exercising indoors, then I would have them search out road races and walks,” she advised. “When they register to run or walk, that will give them a goal to get them to their next level.”
She also recommends regularly changing workout locations.
“Find a new spot to work out, run or walk,” she said. “Go to Google Maps and search for a new park or trail. They should make it a fun and different destination for themselves, so they can explore new areas while shaking up their routine a little bit.”
A wonderful way to get back in touch with nature and get some exercise is to check out one of the 70 Massachusetts State Parks’ Heart Healthy Trails, which have been established by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). These trails are approximately 1.5 miles or less in length, and are easy to moderate in activity level. Many of the trails have separate webpages with more specifics and printable maps. (For more information, visit http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/recreational-activities/healthy-heart-trails.html.) It’s also important to note that the ground may not be as firm due to all of the melting snow. Be careful also of downed branches and exposed tree roots.
Condon has found that exercising with likeminded peers typically creates an even more pleasurable experience.
“Find an outdoor boot camp, exercise class or running club,” she suggested. “If they can make it social, then they’ll want to keep going and it will be fun.”
Having a goal of participating in a particular challenge, such as “Fun Walk” or 5K also can help keep you motivated.
Many communities have established walking clubs which are perfect for exercising and socializing. Try contacting your town’s recreation department or council on aging to see if they have one. You can also check the Mass. Council on Aging’s website for a link to clubs. (Go to www.mcoaonline.com/consumer-services/pages/keep-moving-fitness-program.) Or consider starting one yourself by posting on social media or putting a notice in a newsletter.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that older adults get at least two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking or pushing a lawn mower, every week. It’s also important to do weight training/muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week to work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). This could be anything such as lifting weights, working with resistance bands, doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (i.e. pushups or sit-ups), heavy gardening (digging or shoveling) or yoga.
The good news is that you don’t have to have long workout sessions – you can do these in 10-minute increments, according to the CDC, as long as they are done at a moderate or vigorous intensity.
Another way Condon suggests to alter an exercise routine is to connect with a trainer and develop new goals.
For those who don’t usually exercise, but might consider trying it outdoors with springtime weather, she stresses the importance of a dedicated program.
“You need to mark three days into the calendar when you’re actually going to do something to get started,” she said. “Scheduling exercise time is very important.”
And even in springtime, outdoor exercisers should continue staying mindful of weather conditions.
“Be ready for all kinds of weather,” Condon said. “Wear layers that you can take off because temperatures change so much, especially in the spring.”
And if you do overdo it? The best advice is “RICE” – Rest, Ice, Compression (with an elastic bandage) and Elevation, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. If muscle pain lingers on for more than two weeks, or gets progressively worse, then it’s time to check with your doctor.