Monday, 17 June 2013 10:33

Father’s Day Fitness Safety

By James Markwica, MS PT | Families Today

As we finally push forward to the end of spring and towards early summer, the weather is improving.  With that, your outdoor duties, chores, hobbies and leisure activities explode seemingly all at once—and oh, yeah—by the way, it’s nearly Father’s Day. 

As a responsible dad, you need to take the responsibility to improve your physical disposition and take time each day to maintain your health ensuring your physical presence. Getting in shape is obviously a difficult thing to accomplish, and maintaining it is no cake walk either—but it’s worth it to see your children and children’s children mature and produce in life.

In case you need more motivation, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic, here are six benefits of regular physical activity and a pretty good reason to get moving:  

  1. Exercise improves your mood by allowing end of the day decompression.  
  2. Exercise combats chronic diseases such as heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.  
  3. Exercise helps weight management by burning calories and dropping pounds while improving metabolism. 
  4. Exercise boosts your energy level by improving your cardiovascular strength and stamina.  
  5. Exercise improves your sleep by falling asleep faster and deeper, allowing longer periods of undisturbed sleep.  
  6. Exercise can be fun when engaged with other family members and friends.  

Additionally, regular exercise promotes physical strength and flexibility that prevent bodily breakdown. “Motion is Lotion!”  Remember, however, like you tell your kids: safety first.  Be safe and exercise safe to avoid injury.

So, it is time to get moving and you don’t know where to start. This may be the case, whether you have a history of formally working out in a gym or your home or not at all.  First of all, you need to assess your baseline or your current physical fitness level. A few simple and measurable scores can be obtained by you, such as your pulse rate before and after walking a distance, whether it is a half or a full mile. How long does it take you to walk that distance? How many push-ups or sit-ups can you do in a minute or two?  How far can you reach towards your feet while sitting on the floor with legs outstretched?  And what is your waist measurement? 

Once you have obtained measurements for each of these questions, you can begin formulating your workout program.  

Establish your goal:  What do you want out of this? Is it general fitness, recovery from a previous injury, or are you training for an event? Answering this question will help you determine your actual exercise catalog.  

Designate time out of your day: If you don’t schedule yourself the time to work out daily or a few times per week you’re likely to never do it. If it’s not on your schedule you will simply schedule something else. 

Build or plan your routine: Try to be creative and include various activities to avoid boredom. With so many options via workout classes at both small and large facilities, along with comprehensive work-out videos, it is easy to do. Make a daily log and stick to it. Use your log to track your progress.

Allow a warm-up and cool-down period: Be sure to stretch during these periods. Start slow and progress slow. What’s the hurry?

Stretching can be just as important as your actual physical workout routine, considering the benefits. Stretching not only increases flexibility, but also promotes improved range of motion in joints. In turn, your muscles are less likely to be strained before, during and after activity. Additionally, stretching improves circulation to your muscles by increasing blood flow demand. In all, working on your flexibility will directly relieve stress in tense muscles.

Here are some general but great stretches for the whole body:

‘Tree Hugger’—Place your feet a little less than shoulder’s width apart and about 12 to 16 inches from a small tree or a railing/banister.  Hold onto the tree or railing with both hands at waist height as you keep your knees locked, leaning back away from your grip.  You should feel stretching throughout your arms, upper and lower back and legs.

‘Trapezius stretch’—Sit or stand tall with one hand behind your back as you tilt your head the other way until you feel a gentle pulling in the upper trapezius in the neck. Be gentle and don’t overstretch. Hold for up to 10 seconds for three to five reps in both directions whenever needed. 

‘Door stretch’—Stand in front of a door frame with elbows at shoulder height. As your palms and elbows are resting on molding, take a few small steps forward until you feel a gentle stretch through the front of your shoulders and chest. Don’t lean forward; control your stretch with steps. Hold for 10–15 seconds for three to five reps. 

‘Hamstring Stretch’—Lay on your back with knees bent. Bring one knee up to your chest and hold with both hands as you raise your foot towards the sky. Feel a gentle stretch behind the leg holding for 10 seconds for five reps on both sides.

Now that you are on your way with a few general stretches and a self-designed workout plan, it’s time for a couple of extra safety tips to avoid injury, especially when working out outside. Take it easy when in the warmer temperatures. As the day becomes warmer, attempt to lower the exercise demand. Drink lots of fluids to replenish when sweating. And finally, dress appropriately and wear sunscreen to avoid overexposure.  Know when to say when a rest is needed.  Good luck and have fun.

If you or someone you know suffers from pain and is considering a new workout program, please be aware that it is ill-advised to begin a new exercise program without consulting first with your physician, a physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, chiropractor, physiatrist or other specialist. It is important to first get an accurate diagnosis for the cause of pain, as the specific exercises recommended will depend on the cause. 

James Markwica, MS PT is a New York State Licensed Physical Therapist at LaMarco Physical Therapy, 417 Geyser Road in Ballston Spa and 30 Gick Road in Saratoga Springs. For questions contact James at (518) 587-3256 or online at

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