With the growing obesity epidemic and the increase in diabetes diagnoses, it is more important than ever for everyone to be physically active; this especially includes the congenital heart community. Sometimes, along with that increase in activity, comes injuries. Injuries can sideline you and keep you from achieving your goal of over- all health and wellness.
The best treatment for exercise injuries is prevention!
Once you have decided to begin your exercise program, you need to develop a plan. A good exercise plan will include a progressive program that gradually increases your cardiovascular and muscular strength and endurance. The single most important thing you can do to ensure your success, is to not “start out” too fast. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the US Department of Health and Human Services, recommends a minimum of 150 hours of cardiovascular activity of at least 55% of your HR max. To calculate this, subtract your age form 220 and then multiply that by .55
For example, if you are 45, 120-45= 175. 175*.55= 96.3 or 96. When you are exercising for that 150 minutes keep your heart rate around 96 beats per minute at minimum.
Gradually increase your intensity over a period of week so when you are doing your cardiovascular activity you are almost breathless. Not only will starting off easy be beneficial for your cardiovascular system it will minimize the stress on your joints and help decrease your risk of overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee or hip pain.
For your resistance training follow the same model. Start off two times a week with a weight that you can move in a controlled manner for no more than 15 reps and no less than 8. If you cannot comfortably perform 8 repetitions, the weight is too heavy. Make sure you perform your repetitions slowly and in control with at least a 2 count move for both phases of the movement. Gradually increase your weight and the frequency you train. You should seek the help of a degreed professional to begin or progress a program that is optimal for you.
Picking the right equipment and attire is also key. It is hot in Florida and humid. If you will be exercising outside, do not over dress. Remember the 20 degree rule; dress as if it is 20 degrees hotter than it is. Drink your water. Heat illness is very dangerous and can sneak up on you. The proper footwear is also key to helping you prevent over- use injuries. Take the time and spend the money to have your shoes fitted specially for you at a store that specializes in athletic shoes.
Even if you do everything you can to prevent injury, sometimes, injuries still happen. Most often the injury you will suffer from will be an over use injury, or due to improper exercise mechanics. The BEST thing you can do is rest the injured area. However, just because your shoulder is injured does NOT mean you cannot do your cardiovascular activity. Just because you have shin splints, you can still ride the bike or do the elliptical, or take a yoga class. While you are resting the injured area for a minimum of 2 weeks, you can ice it, gently stretch it or foam roll the surrounding muscles. If you are not familiar with foam rolling, again, you need a professional to help educate you on the proper use for your specific injury.
Exercise is the biggest gift you can give your heart. In addition, you will sleep better, have more energy, keep your bones healthy and reduce stress. Do yourself another favor, invest in professional help and safe footwear.