Answers to Common Fitness and Wellness Questions

Premier Physician Network doctors and advanced practice providers answer frequently asked questions about fitness and wellness.

Why is regular exercise important to a person’s health?

The long-term health benefits of exercise are positive for everyone, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesOff Site Icon (HHS).

Along with eating healthy food, physical activity is an important part of everyone’s overall health.

Exercising regularly, according to the HHS, can have many benefits on every person’s physical and mental health, including:

  • Build endurance
  • Decrease chances of depression
  • Gain strength
  • Help improve the condition of the heart and lungs
  • Improve self esteem
  • Improve sleep
  • Increase chances of living longer
  • Increase energy
  • Prevent chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke
  • Promote bone and muscle strength
  • Promote joint development
  • Reduce fat
  • Relieve stress
  • Strengthen muscles

Overall, exercising and being physically active is one of the best things you can do for your health throughout your life.

Talk to your doctor for more information about why exercising is important to your health.

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What is the recommended amount of physical activity a person should do each week?

The amount of physical activity someone needs to be healthy can be different for every person.

Before starting or changing your exercise routine, talk with your doctor and review what the healthiest choices might be for you.

The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC) recommends workout guidelines for people who are of good health and are looking to maintain their weight.

Starting out slowly, the CDC recommends working up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity each week. You can split up these workouts, as needed, as long as you end up with a total of these times every week.

Talk to your doctor for more information about the recommended amount of physical activity for you.

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What role can exercise/fitness apps play in a person’s fitness routine?

In today’s technology-rich world, there are many apps available to help build and maintain your exercise and fitness routine.

Taking advantage of exercise and fitness apps can help make the process of losing weight, maintaining your goal weight, and tracking your progress easier, according to the Obesity Action CoalitionOff Site Icon (OAC).

The OAC says that fitness apps – both ones that are free and ones that cost money to download – are great for accountability.

These apps can track your exercise for you, and also can provide great ideas for new workout routines, according to the OAC.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how exercise and fitness apps can benefit fitness routines.

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What are things people should keep in mind when considering a new exercise routine?

Dr. Allen discusses what to think about before starting a new exercise routine. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Before starting a new exercise program, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. According to the American Association of Private PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAPP), some things to consider include:

  • Talk with your doctor – Before starting any kind of new exercise routine, talk with your physician to determine what level and type of activity might be best for you.
  • Think through your resources – Your location and your budget might make a difference as to whether you invest in new fitness equipment, a gym membership, workout videos or a new pair of running shoes. You can commit to a good workout anywhere, you just have to use the resources available to you at this time.
  • Create an exercise schedule the works for you – Plan your workout routine just as you would plan any other commitments throughout your week. Determine what will work best for you – mornings or evenings, multiple short workouts or a few longer ones – and make a plan you know you can stick with.
  • Start slowly – Set multiple small goals that you know you can be proud of as you achieve them. Setting smaller goals along the way to your overall goal is a great way to see the extent of your progress rather than feeling overwhelmed by working toward a larger goal.

For more information about what to consider before starting a new exercise routine, talk with your doctor.

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What are some of the most common exercise injuries people encounter?

Fulltime athletes, newcomers to exercising and everyone in between have potential for injuries.

According to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon(NIH), the most common types of sports injuries are:

  • Achilles tendon injuries – An Achilles tendon injury is caused by stretching, tearing, or irritating the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the back of your heal.
  • Dislocations– A dislocation occurs when there is an abnormal separation in the joint, such as a shoulder, elbow, or toe, where two or more bones meet. A joint dislocation can also cause damage to the surrounding tissues.
  • Fractures – A fracture is a break in the bone that happens from either a quick, one-time injury (acute fracture) or from repeated stress on the bone over time (stress fracture.
  • Knee injuries – Knee injuries are common and can be frequently caused by ligaments and tendon injuries.
  • Ligament tears – Tearing a ligament, which is a band of tissue that connects the ends of bones together.
  • Rotator cuff injuries – The rotator cuff is in your shoulder, and it is common to have an inflamed rotator cuff or damage the rotator cuff in sports with repeated overhead motion.
  • Shin bone pain – Often known as “shin splints,” this describes leg pain that shoots along the shin bone, on the front of the lower leg.
  • Sprains and strains – A sprain is an overly stretched muscle. A strain is a twisted or pulled muscle.
  • Swollen muscles – The muscles can swell and feel sore from lack of stretching or overuse during exercise.
  • Tendon tears – Tearing a tendon, which is a cord of tissue that connects muscles to bones.

If you have any of these injuries check with your physician for his or her care recommendation.

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When should an athlete see a physician for a sports-related injury?

Dr. Allen discusses when to see your physician for a sports-related injury. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

When you are in pain from an exercise- or sports-related injury, you may or may not need to professional medical care.

According to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH), you should see your physician if you have:

  • An area on which you can’t put any weight
  • An injury that causes severe pain, swelling or numbness
  • Pain or achiness form an old injury, this now also has swelling or causes instability

If you are not experiencing these symptoms, you can are most likely fine to treat yourself at home. The NIH recommends following the “RICE” method to ease pain and swelling and help speed healing.

  • Rest – Limit your regular exercise and cut back on your daily routine.
  • Ice – Use an ice pack on the injury for at least 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day. Do not use the ice for more than 20 minutes to avoid frostbite or other injuries from the cold.
  • Compression – Compression by using wraps, special boots, air casts or splints can help keep the area of the injury from swelling.
  • Elevation – Try to keep your injured area elevated above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling.

If after 24 to 48 hours your pain continues, gets worse, or you want a medical opinion about your care, visit your doctor, according to the NIH.

For more information about seeking medical care after a sports-related injury, talk with your physician.

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What is some good advice to help people who have a goal of training for a 5K?

Dr. Allen discusses good advice when training for a 5K. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Deciding to participate in a 5K run can be a great way to get yourself motivated to jumpstart a new exercise and weight loss routine.

Being disciplined and following a workout routine can help you stay focused and an on track to meet your goal in a healthy way, say Premier Health physicians.

The Couch-to-5K program – which can be found at www.coolrunning.comOff Site Icon – is one example of a free, step-by-step exercise program available on the internet.

The Couch-to-5K plan provides a workout schedule that you can follow over the course of nine weeks to help you gain the stamina to run a 5K. The plan integrates brisk walking and running to ease a new runners into a routine so they don’t get burned out or discouraged by trying to start off too fast.

The added benefit of programs like this one is that many of them come with apps that can be downloaded to your smartphone, making them easily accessible even while you’re working out.

For more ideas about how to train for a 5K, talk with your physician about a routine that might work best for you.

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What causes spasms in a person’s leg?

Dr. Ordway discusses what causes spasms in a person’s leg. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Muscle spasms are caused by nerves that malfunction, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Nerves malfunctioning, according to the NIH, can be caused by:

  • Dehydration
  • Lack of minerals in your diet
  • Muscles not getting enough blood
  • Spinal cord injury 
  • Straining or overusing a muscle

Cramps can be painful, but once the muscle relaxes, the pain will ease, according to the NIH.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what causes leg spasms.

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What can be done to reduce the risk of getting a muscle spasm?

Dr. Ordway discusses what can be done to reduce the risk of getting a muscle spasm. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

A muscle spasm – often known as a charley horse – is a common type of pain that affects many people from time-to-time, according to the American Osteopathic AssociationOff Site Icon(AOA).

To reduce the risk of muscle spasms, the AOA recommends doing flexibility exercises regularly before and after workouts. Staying well hydrated and drinking plenty of water will also help to avoid muscle spasms.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what causes leg spasms.

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What should someone do when they experience a leg muscle cramp or spasm?

Dr. Ordway discusses what someone can do when they experience a leg muscle cramp or spasm. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

If you have a muscle cramp or spasm, there are a few things you can do to help it stop, according to the American Osteopathic AssociationOff Site Icon(AOA).

If you have a muscle cramp, the AOA recommends:

  • Apply heat to the tight muscles
  • Gently stretch the cramped muscle
  • Massage the cramped muscle to help it relax

Fortunately, these kinds of cramps usually go away in a few minutes and don’t need medical attention.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what causes leg spasms.

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What is the difference among minor, moderate and major depression?

There are several levels of depression, and according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH), they include:

  • Major depression – This form of depression includes severe symptoms that can interfere with your work, sleep, eating habit and enjoyment of life. Although some people only experience severe depression once in their lifetimes, there are others who may struggle with it several times in their life.
  • Dysthymic disorder/dysthymia – Also known as a moderate form of depression, the symptoms last a long time – at least two years – but are not as severe as the symptoms of major depression.
  • Minor depression – This form of depression is similar to the others except the symptoms are not as severe and don’t last as long.

Talk to your physician to learn more about the difference between different types of depression.

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What happens to the body when someone exercises, and how does it help depression?

It’s commonly known that exercise has great physical health benefits, but exercise also has many mental health benefits.

When a person exercises endorphins, are released in the brain. These chemicals act as natural painkillers, relieve stress and improve sleep, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of AmericaOff Site Icon (ADAA).

Exercise can help maintain mental fitness by reducing stress and fatigue, making you more alert, and improving concentration, according to ADAA. It also can boost your self-esteem.

Many studies done by various organizations spanning back to the 1980s show that exercise plays a big enough roll in easing depression that in most cases it can be used hand-in-hand with or instead of antidepressant medications, according to Harvard Medical SchoolOff Site Icon.

For more information about how exercise can help with depression, talk with your doctor.

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What type of exercise helps depression?

Dr. Allen discusses exercise that helps depression. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Various studies in the last few decades have shown exercise to be addition to or substitute for antidepressant medications, according to Harvard Medical SchoolOff Site 

Icon.

One of the studies indicated that aerobic activities – such as brisk walking for 35 minutes a day, five days a week, or an hour a day three times a week – made a marked difference on mild to moderate depression symptoms, according to the school. People who walked fast for only 15 minutes five days a week or did stretching exercises three times a week did not feel the same positive effects on their depression symptoms.

Overall the studies have shown that frequently doing aerobic exercise seemed to be more effective than more mild activities, such as stretching, when working to fight depressions.

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What is an adult amateur athlete, and what are some sports they typically are involved in?

Many adults choose to stay athletically involved as they age.

Being an adult athlete can mean many things, say Premier Health physicians. It could mean you are an adult who enjoys playing sports and chooses to play for fun as an amateur.

It also could mean you are choosing to take your game up a notch and really take on the challenge of competition.

Many adults in the 50s and beyond are choosing to train to become tri-athletes or to run a marathon. Others play soccer, tennis, racquetball, softball or bowling, say the physicians.

For more information about amateur adult athletes, talk with your doctor.

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What is your core?

When we talk about your core, we’re talking about the muscles in your midsection – between your nipples and your knees, Premier Physician Network (PPN) providers say. 

This collection of muscles, which includes your abdominals, trunk, back, hip, and pelvis muscles, all play a huge part of our health and well-being. 

Talk to your doctor to learn more about your core.

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Why is it important to strengthen your core?

Building strength in your core helps you to stay strong and avoid injuries, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) providers. 

Having a strong core will improve your balance and stability and lead to less back and hip pain.

Whether you’re an athlete or just doing everyday activities, core strength can help protect your musculoskeletal system.

The core muscles serve as a central link connecting the upper part of your body with the lower part, according to Harvard Medical SchoolOff Site Icon (HMS).

Talk to your doctor for more information about the importance of strengthening your core.

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What type of exercises can strengthen your core?

There are four basic kind of exercises that can help to strengthen your core, according to  Premier Physician Network (PPN) providers.

Those four types are:

  • Curl ups – Laying on your back, you curl your trunk up off the floor just enough that your shoulder blades come up off the floor. This activated your abdominal muscles. Then you lay back down and repeat.
  • Planks – You get in a position like you’re getting ready to do pushups. But instead of pushing up and down, you hold the position by supporting your body on your forearms. Hold yourself in that position for at least one minute.
  • Side plank – Similar to the plank but you support your body sideways, which activates the side areas of the core. Support your body with your forearm while the other arm is positioned on your hip. Hold for at least one minute and repeat on opposite side.
  • Quadruped – For this move, you get on all fours like you’re pretending to be a dog. Then you extend one arm forward and the opposite leg back. You repeat this with the opposite arm and leg. This activates the gluteal, hip, abdominal, and back muscles.

For more ideas of core strengthening exercises, talk with your doctor. Always speak with your doctor before starting any new exercise regime.

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What types of tasks or everyday movements can benefit from a strong core?

Having a strong core can help with a variety of activities we do every day.

 Premier Physician Network (PPN) providers say a few of those daily activities include:

  • Bathing
  • Carrying
  • Lifting
  • Standing
  • Sitting
  • Twisting

Having a strong core can help you through the movements to complete all your daily activities from caring for a young child or an elderly parent to carrying groceries, or even washing dishes.

For more information about what everyday movements a strong core can benefit, talk with your doctor.

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Thanks to these Premier Physician Network’s doctors and advanced practice providers for answering these common questions about fitness and wellness:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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