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March 02, 2020

Exercise Rights and Wrongs or the Do's and Don't's

Life and time have taught me that there is no single correct way to exercise. Age, outcome desire, physiological makeup and other variables play into the calculations of trainers to provide the best workout regimen for you.

Based on years of experience, here are some ideas to help identify the best way for you to exercise and succeed at your stated goals.

1) Choose any approach that you will do regularly. Old saying: 80% of success in life is "showing up". Walking, yoga, pilates, group classes, strength training, sports participation etc. are all good alternatives.
2) Seek external motivation if you do not have the self-motivation to maintain an exercise program. Group classes, personal training, or a workout buddy are great approaches.
3) Focus on what your body needs. This is likely some combination of training for mobility/flexibility, strength training and conditioning/cardio.
4) Avoid exercises that cause pain and seek out exercise approaches that will reduce pain/maintain joint health.
5) In particular, seek out exercise advice if you have joint issues, such as sore knees, lower back pain, sore hips, shoulder or elbow pain, etc. There are exercise interventions that can often help!
6) Balance training is important for most folks, regardless of age!
7) Look at exercise as a long-term commitment to be healthy and stay healthy!

The other side of the question: "is there a wrong way to exercise?" I believe that the answer to this question is indeed yes. I will try to give some examples. Please note that these examples reflect my opinions and universal agreement does not exist!

1) Certain movements can lead to back issues, specifically flexion, rotation and compression of the lumbar spine verterbrae. I prefer exercises that avoid such movements. One example would be doing the McGill curl-up (you can google this) instead of abdominal crunches.
2) Movements which lead to instability of the humerus in the rotator cuff can lead to shoulder pain. For example, I prefer shoulder exercises which keep the elbow near the side of the body rather than exercises which put the arm in a "high five" position (think pushups with elbows against the side of the body).
3) Too often, I see hypermobile folks focusing on stretching exercises. They are already flexible and could focus on other exercises such as strength training.
4) Frequently, I see folks spending all their time walking or running on the treadmill. While I see nothing wrong with the exercise, these folks might benefit from other exercises such as strength training.
5) Another pet peeve is exercisers who only exercise their upper body (chest, back and arms - typically a male trait!). Every day should be leg day!

In future articles, I will give more specific suggestions for the best way to exercise for specific issues.

Be physically well,

Dave Fairhall is a personal trainer who specializes in adult fitness. Working with so many adults with a variety of fitness levels and various health conditions, he has developed a unique perspective of the best ways to exercise and achieve optimal fitness. Dave can be found at the Snap Fitness in Davidson.