As we age, our bodies go through a series of changes that make being physically active challenging and painful to do. We find that our joints don’t move the same way, our muscles can’t take as much pressure as they used to, and too much activity can wear and tear on our bones. One way to combat the lasting effects of getting older is by exercising.
Exercising is the best way to keep your bones and muscles working properly for as long as they can. While there’s a whole world of exercises at your disposal, there are a few that could put you at risk of serious injury. So, how do you know if exercising is safe you, and how do you determine which exercises are dangerous?
In this article, we’ll discuss how you can find out if increasing your physical activity will be safe or detrimental to your health. We’ll also review why it’s important to know where you are physically and how to determine your fitness level. Lastly, you’ll learn how to set fitness goals for yourself, and you’ll discover the importance of creating goals for yourself.
How to Determine if Exercise is Safe for You
Before you create a workout routine, you first need to determine if it’s safe for you to be exercising. Chronic diseases and weak bones and muscles can put you at risk of serious injury. The best way to find out if exercising is safe for you is to complete an in-depth questionnaire and, if needed, consult with your doctor.
The Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) is comprised of detailed questions that will help you decide if you should meet with your physician before you change your physical routine. This test can be taken by anyone from ages 15 to 69. If you are over 69, consult with your doctor before you become more active.
The PAR-Q will ask you various questions regarding your heart, bones and joints, chest pains, and your physical reaction to physical activity. If you answer YES to one or more of the questions, it’s recommended that you either call or meet your doctor in person to discuss changing your physical routine. You should also tell your doctor about taking the PAR-Q and share your results with him/her. Together, you guys can even find exercises that you like that are safest for you.
If you answer NO to ALL of the questions, you can be kind of sure that it’s okay to make adjustments to your workout routine. The safest way to do this is is to start slow. Find exercises and complete reps at a level that you’re comfortable with. From there, you can gradually up the ante until you’re satisfied with your routine.
NOTE: Don’t change your physical routine while you’re sick or recovering from an illness. It’s safest to wait until you feel better to change your routine. Also, if you’re pregnant, consult with your doctor before you become more active.
How to Know How Fit You are Now
So, let’s say that you get the green light to create a workout routine. Before you do that, you should check to see where your fitness level is currently at. The way you do this is by completing a fitness exam that can be found in the Growing Stronger Guide by Tufts University. This exam will give you a good idea of where you are and point you in the direction that you should go in.
The test is based on a point system where you rate your questions rather than give a specific answer. The points are as follows:
- 1 point = Rarely
- 2 points = Sometimes
- 3 points = Usually
- 4 points = Always
There are seven questions on the exam. They ask about how you feel physically as an individual and compared to people who are around your age. The exam is divided into four columns so that you check you’re at physically on the third, sixth, and twelfth month of your workout journey. By checking in with yourself every few months, you’ll be able to track your progress and makes notes about your physical activity.
Once you’ve answered all of the questions in the START column, tally up the points and find out your fitness level using the evaluation key. To summarize:
- 15-29 points: Low fitness level, but there’s room for improvement in a lot of areas.
- 30-39 points: Low-to-moderate fitness level, but there’s room for improvement in a few areas.
- 40-49 pints:Moderate fitness level, but there’s room for improvement in like, 1 or 2 areas.
- 50+ points:Advanced fitness level; you can improve and maintain fitness
After you’ve added up all of the points from every column, you can see how your fitness level improved or stayed the same over the course of a year.
Why is gauging your fitness level important?
It can keep you from over-exercising
If you don’t know where you’re at physically, you run the risk of injuring yourself while you’re working out. It’s very easy to over-exercise, and doing so can cause injuries that take a longer time to heal the older you are. Symptoms such as exhaustion, frequent injuries, long-lasting soreness, and dragged out rest times can all be indications that you’re doing too much. Monitoring your fitness level can prevent all of that from happening. Here are some helpful tips to keep you in the realm of adequate exercise.
It can help you set workout goals for the future
By keeping a monthly checklist of how you’re progressing through your exercises, you can see what activities need to be adjusted, and you can plan accordingly for the future. You can also set goals that you aspire to reach and track how well you’re doing on reaching those goals.
A fitness level checklist will hold you accountable for the goals that you set. It’s an in-your-face reminder of the progress you’ve made and the progress that you hope to achieve. It will also reinforce why you decided to become more active in the first place.
It will let you know when it’s time for a change
If you track your fitness level long enough, you’ll begin to notice patterns in areas that aren’t working for you. From there, you can make the proper adjustments and find exercises that’ll help you get the most out of your workout.
How to Define Your Exercise Goals
Outlining your goals will help you decide what it is you want to accomplish and determine what steps you need to take to reach those goals. Writing them down can help you sort through your thoughts, and it tends to be easier to reach goals when you have them laid out in front of you. One of the best ways to do this is by identifying your short and long term goals using the SMART method. SMART stands for:
- S - Specific
- M - Measurable
- A - Attainable
- R - Relevant
- T - Time-based
Specific: This means specifying exactly what it is you want to accomplish by becoming more active. Being specific can help you determine what type of exercises you should do. It can also help you pinpoint what areas of your body you’d like to improve on.
Measurable: Creating a measurable goal means that you identify exactly how you’ll feel when you reach your goal. It urges you to create lifestyle changes that promote good health and safe physical activity. Doing this can make the steps needed to achieve your goal clear.
Attainable: Set realistic goals. Deciding if a goal is attainable is completely up to you. This causes you to be honest with yourself and forces you to consider outside factors such as:
- Do you have the time to do all of the exercises you want?
- Is there enough space in your house for more activity? Do you need to join a gym?
- Do you have all of the tools necessary to perform certain exercises?
This is not to say don’t reach for the stars. But, do so with a realistic mindset.
Relevant: This will help you figure out if what you’re working towards is actually what you want. As a result, your objective becomes more clear and you can determine if the goals you’ve set will really help you complete your objective.
Time-based: Create deadlines to motivate you to stay on track and meet your goal in a reasonable amount of time. Keep your deadlines realistic and don’t beat yourself up too bad if you don’t meet your cut-off time. The great thing about creating a time-based goal is that it can be easily adjusted to better suit your schedule. So, don’t worry about it!
Remember to write these goals down. A handheld copy of your goals will serve as a constant reminder of the things you want to accomplish, and it’ll help you stay on track.
The importance of creating exercise goals
Creating exercise goals are important for the following reasons:
- 1They keep you on track. Creating an exercise goal is similar to creating a shopping list. You put items on the list to help you remember what you needed from the store, so you’re not wandering around like a lost puppy trying to find what you need. It’s the same idea when creating exercise goals. You’ll know exactly what you need to do, and you’ll reduce the risk f going off course.
- 2They keep you motivated. Short term goals keep you focused on immediate things you want to accomplish that will help you meet your overall long term goal. As your goals are met, you can cross them off your list with a new invigorating desire to reach new goals.
- 3They make exercising efficient. Without an exercise goal, you can wind up focusing too much on one area of fitness when you should be focussing on different areas. Exercise goals are documented proof of what you’ve already accomplished and reminders of what you hope to achieve in the future. They can keep you from wasting time on exercises that aren’t pushing you to your goals.
- 4They help you keep track of your progress. By creating an exercise goal, you’ll be able to see how you’re progressing and if there are faults in your workout routine that can be improved. If you don’t monitor your progress, you won’t have a sure way of knowing if you’re reaching your goal or if you’re wasting time.