What You Need to Know Before Setting Your Fitness Goals: Q&A with a Physician
Dr. Rob Kidnie is a Family Medicine Resident at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Prior to becoming a physician, he spent thirteen years as an Army Officer. He has completed multiple marathons, as well as several military Ironmans. He is a health and fitness advocate and has a strong interest in Sports Medicine.
What do you think about wearable technology? Any specific devices or apps you recommend for tracking progress?
I’m a big fan of wearable technology. Most of these devices allow users to join online communities and share fitness accomplishments. Research has shown that gamification of one’s fitness does have positive effects on achieving goals in general. I have been using a Garmin Forerunner 405 to track my runs since 2009 and love it. I have yet to upgrade to one of the newer Bluetooth enabled GPS watches that can send and receive texts and play music. If you’re like me and want to keep track of your miles leading up to a race and don’t enjoy running with a phone, something like a Garmin GPS watch or Apple Watch will do this and record a whole bunch of other helpful information. Other less expensive watches can pair with your phone and use that connection for GPS; these devices will meet the needs of many fitness-minded individuals (think FitBit). And the most affordable option is a device that uses an internal accelerometer to measure steps and a few other basic metrics. If you’re just getting into fitness, these will definitely do the trick. Because they’re electronics and get updated every year, they frequently go on sale; I recommend waiting until the next big sale before you splurge.
With low-intensity training such as yoga, what are the positive impacts for long-term well-being?
Several randomized control trials suggested yoga is a therapeutic option for depression and has positive effects in people with anxiety disorders, particularly panic disorder. Studies have shown symptom reduction with one 60-minute session per week. 30 consecutive focused minutes per week, with 15 minutes focused on breathing techniques and 15 minutes on the postures will allow those with limited free time to get the most out of yoga. The other benefit is that yoga is generally very accessible to individuals of all fitness levels.
While activities like yoga often come with a stigma of being boring or anticlimactic, it may surprise many that professional athletes, like Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and LeBron James of the LA Lakers, practice yoga. And if that’s not intense enough for you, the US Navy SEALS frequently incorporate yoga into their fitness regimens.
Is it possible to lose pounds and get fitness results by doing weightlifting, but no cardio?
Truthfully, there are very few absolute contraindications to exercise. And the reality is that if you suffer from a chronic condition that has limited your mobility for some time, you’re likely to benefit the most from incorporating exercise into your daily routine. If your joints hurt, your doctor may recommend to walk 150 minutes per week. This might include starting with a Physiotherapist and performing very focused, supervised exercises to regain some mobility before attempting them solo. If you’re already able to move around safely on your own, but suffer from knee pain, I am a big advocate of water aerobics. It’s like a fitness class in a studio, except it’s in a pool, so much of the weight is taken off your joints. If you’re limited by a medical condition like asthma, it’s especially important to see your doctor before starting an exercise routine to get your symptoms under control first.
If you’re conflicted about whether or not to incorporate strength or resistance training in your effort to lose weight, consider this: muscle burns more calories than other forms of tissue in the body. So the more muscle mass you have, the more calories per pound you will burn and the easier it will be to lose weight. Moreover, the American Heart Association recommends strength training at least two times per week. And we’re not talking body building either – strength training can be done in the privacy of your own home with your own body weight (think push-ups, squats and crunches). If you’re completely new to strength training, it may be worth speaking with a certified professional the first time to learn how to perform the exercises correctly and avoid potential injury.
And remember that what you eat is as important as how you exercise. If weight loss is your goal, it is important to consider your diet, and for the most part, the same principles apply to those with chronic diseases as those without: consume an appropriate number of nutritious calories every day. The key is making changes that you can sustain over the long term.
How do you avoid dizziness and nausea during or after high-intensity workouts? What can you do to prevent those spells from happening?
Dizziness and nausea are your body’s way of telling you you’ve pushed too hard. Most of the time, the dizziness and nausea are signs that your body isn’t getting enough oxygen to the organs and your organs are stressed out. Listen to your body and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. If you’re gasping for air while on the treadmill or doing a long set of burpees, you may want to dial down the intensity. A bad cramp can also be a helpful cue that is generally hard to ignore.
Whatever you’re doing, finding a pace that is both sustainable and challenging is the key. If you want a more objective measure, you can use your heart rate as a guide. Standardized heart rate zones were developed for the average individual based on age. By occasionally checking your heart rate during exercise and staying below the ‘Anaerobic Zone’, or 85% of your maximum heart rate (208 – 0.7 x your age), you will generally ensure you avoid nausea and dizziness.
Nonetheless, even if you’re cruising along at 50% of your maximum heart rate, if you suddenly start experiencing nausea, dizziness or chest pain, stop what you’re doing and seek medical attention.
When planning a family, what are some of the ways to prepare your body for pregnancy and delivery?
The best thing to do is ask this question before you become pregnant. Waiting until you’re pregnant to make healthy lifestyle changes is going to be significantly more difficult than doing it months in advance. Fatigue, cravings and nausea – realities for many pregnant women – are going to make starting an exercise routine or making good nutritious choices very challenging (but certainly not impossible).
Conveniently, the same recommendations for preparing your body for pregnancy apply to general health and wellness guidelines – with a few additions. The activities that apply universally include:
1) 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise.
2) Eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and fish and that minimizes processed foods.
3) Getting 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep.
Admittedly, given the regular demands of life, these goals are often easier said than done. I would encourage women to try to use the prospect of a little bundle of joy as a motivator and make an extra effort to prioritize their own health and wellness prior to becoming pregnant.
There are a few recommendations that are unique to pregnancy, too:
1) Stop birth control – this may sound obvious, but it’s necessary. The sooner you stop it, the more likely you are to conceive, though different methods lose their effectiveness at different rates. For most forms of birth control, however, a women’s cycle (and her ability to conceive) will return within 6 months of stopping the contraceptive.
2) Multivitamins – Eating the diet described above will ensure you have most (if not all) of the nutrients your body needs to grow a tiny human; however, taking a daily prenatal multivitamin carries essentially no risk and guarantees you’re getting your daily recommended doses.
3) Folate – This B vitamin is an exception. Studies have shown that the rate of certain birth defects, called neural tube defects, are greatly reduced by achieving optimal maternal levels of folate. As a result, physicians recommend ALL women of child-bearing age take a folate supplement. Most pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant should take a supplement containing 0.4mg of folate, but some women need more. Have this discussion with your doctor if you’re trying to become pregnant.
4) See your doctor – if you’re planning on becoming pregnant, schedule a visit with your doctor. You will have an opportunity to review your vaccination history and address any additional health concerns you might have.