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Dr. Daniel Lewis Offers Warm Weather Exercise Advice

The weather is warmer and the days are longer, so Dr. Daniel Lewis knows their numbers will be greater – adults who arrive in his office with an injury borne of good intentions and lack of planning.

His message: Exercise, but have a plan in place before you start.

 “Lots of people have made New Year’s resolutions that are long gone, and when the weather picks up during the summer they want to start exercising again,” said Dr. Lewis, a family medicine and sports medicine physician with Takoma Medical Associates. “I probably see more people for the side effects of exercising than I do people who are interested in becoming more active. They come in and they’re injured because they’d been inactive, decided they’d do something about it and overdid it.”

Dr. Lewis said there’s an easy way for adults to mitigate overuse injuries – fill your prescription. Not the bottle kind but the advisory kind.

“It’s important to see your physician to determine if you’re healthy enough for exercise,” Dr. Lewis said, “and I encourage someone who has been inactive to see his or her provider or someone in sports medicine for an exercise prescription.

“Getting an exercise prescription will help you from having to fill prescriptions down the road.”

Dr. Lewis, who earned his medical degree from the Quillen College of Medicine and completed a sports medicine fellowship at Wake Forest University, pointed to an acronym – FITT – that helps define a patient’s exercise prescription. FITT translates to frequency, intensity, type and time.

In the broadest sense, those categories break down like this:

Frequency – Generally, a good exercise regimen includes at least three days of planned activity each week. Start slow, and increase your amount of activity only about 10 percent each week to avoid injury.

Intensity – Improved cardiovascular health is one of the greatest benefits of exercise, and for most of your exercise routine, your heart rate needs to be about 60 percent of your maximum heart rate, Dr. Lewis said. A general rule of thumb for calculating your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age.

Type – In short, mix it up. Vary your regimen to incorporate activities that include but are not limited to running, walking, weights, swimming and a treadmill or elliptical. “I encourage people to cross-train,” Dr. Lewis said, “because burnout is an issue with exercise and you don’t want to tire of what you’re doing. Plus, if you do the type of exercise that only works your legs or only works your upper body, you’ll have a greater chance of an overuse injury.”

Time – Count on devoting 40 to 60 minutes each time you exercise, including a good 10 to 12 minutes spent at your target heart rate. Time spent should include warm-up and cool-down, which are important to avoiding injury and maximizing the benefits of exercise.