Improving physical fitness is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions – for good reason! 

As a fitness instructor, personal trainer, and coordinator of Regional One Health’s Post-Rehab Wellness Program, I see firsthand how exercise benefits patients. 

It can lead to better heart health, bone strength, and flexibility. It supports a healthy weight, reduces stress, and helps improve stamina, energy, and even sleep. 

If you want to get fit in 2024, that’s great! Here’s some advice on how to minimize the risk of injury while you do it. 

Our program is designed to help patients return to normal activity after rehabilitation therapy for an illness or injury, and we also see clients who want to improve their fitness with support from professionals. Therefore, we have a lot of experience with helping people exercise safely. 

First, talk to your healthcare provider about your exercise plans. Also, ask a fitness professional about the right way to exercise and fuel your body through nutrition and hydration. 

Start slow. We’ve all seen TikTok and YouTube videos and wanted to dive right in, but you must let your body adjust. You can do more as your fitness improves. 

Each time you exercise, start by warming up your muscles with stretching or light cardio activity like walking. This makes your muscles flexible and less likely to strain or tear. 

Focus on proper form to avoid injuries from overcompensation. Stay centered and balanced, and engage the core muscles in your abdomen and back. 

Be consistent – try to exercise most days rather than once or twice a week. However, you should schedule rest to avoid overexertion injuries like muscle strains and joint issues, and include a variety of exercises to target different muscle groups. 

Be alert to signs of injury. Pain that is significant or doesn’t improve is a red flag. You can expect some soreness with a new exercise program, but it shouldn’t be debilitating or persist long after you finish exercising. The same goes for excessive fatigue or weakness. 

Other warning signs include trouble sleeping, poor appetite, and getting sick more often. 

If you think you’re injured, stop exercising and seek appropriate help. 

In an emergency – severe bleeding, broken bones, etc. – call 911 or go to the ER. For non-emergency injuries, talk to a physical therapist or primary care provider and follow RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) to reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation. 

Improved fitness is worth the effort! It may be hard to start exercising, but it feels good once you’re doing it and even better when you’re finished and you can relax, knowing you did something good for your health and wellbeing. 

In the Post-Rehab Wellness Program, participants have access to state-of-the-art exercise equipment and the expertise, support, and encouragement of trainers and therapists. 

The program is located at the East Campus Center for Rehabilitative Medicine, 6555 Quince Rd. To learn more, call 901.515.5900. 

Alexavier “Javi” Seals is a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor. In the Post-Rehab Wellness Program, he works with physical, occupational, and speech therapists to design customized exercise programs based on each client’s needs and goals.