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By Mark J. Fletcher, M.D.

Exercise is important. The benefits from regular exercise are well known: improved cardiovascular health; prevention or improvement of osteoporosis; weight loss; increased muscle mass; and mental health benefits of improving mood and confidence. Exercise is good for everyone, regardless of age and health status. Our bodies are designed to exercise and will improve with proper activity.

The principles of training and conditioning are the same for all of us – from beginners all the way up to Olympic and professional level athletes. It is much easier to pick an activity that is fun when starting any exercise program. Having fun while exercising will keep you coming back, even on days that find you tired or stressed.

Most experts recommend that 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week is appropriate for general health, 45 minutes is even better.

For patients with osteoporosis – walking as little as 3-5miles per week has been shown to prevent osteoporosis and helps to maintain the bone mass you have while other activities such as hiking, dancing, and stair climbing can be as effective. Strength training will also strengthen bone as well as muscles. Examples of strength training are weight lifting, resistance tubing exercises, and even water exercise.

For patients with arthritis – Exercise has been shown to ease the pain of arthritis and decrease stiffness. Short walks, bicycling, and water exercise are great way to start if the thought of exercise with painful joints is overwhelming.

Injury is another problem faced by people trying to start exercise and the “weekend warriors” among us. When beginning any new exercise program it is important to gradually increase the volume or intensity of any exercise program to allow the body to acclimate and avoid injury. A good fitness base of moderate aerobic and strength training is essential if you plan to participate in some of the more aggressive fitness activities that are popular today.

Try to add variety by doing different exercises every other time you work out. If you are doing an aerobic exercise 2- 3 days per week, try to add weight training and stretching on other days. If you belong to a gym, a registered trainer can be a useful resource to guide you when you start. Remember to check with your primary care physician prior to starting any new exercise program if you have any significant active medical problems. There is no better time to start than right now, what are you waiting for?

Coastal Orthopaedics surgeons provide complete orthopedic treatments from head to toe in four conveniently located offices: Norwalk, Westport, Darien, and New Canaan. A new walk-in urgent care facility known as Coastal Ortho Express is now opened extended hours Monday – Saturday for sprains, injuries and pain at 761 Main Avenue in Norwalk where patients can be treated without an appointment.

Statewide doctors voted our surgeons “Top Docs Orthopedic Surgery” in CT Magazine since 2009.