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When is the best time of day to exercise? It really depends on who you ask, but more importantly, it really depends on you. We all know that exercise increases our energy, aids in protecting us from disease and promotes a positive outlook on life, yet so often we struggle to keep our fitness goals.

What will almost help people make a habit out of exercising is to work out at a time of day that you find the most convenient. Consistency is the key to success for any program, so choose a time that can fit into your schedule and doesn’t add stress.

In my 25 years as a practicing physical therapist in acute care, skilled nursing and rehab settings, I have found that it really does not matter the time of day you exercise. However regardless of time, warming up and cooling down are essential parts of any routine to condition your body and prevent injuries.

There are some activities that are beneficial and low-impact that are good for most people such as walking, stretching, swimming and yoga. Walking is an easy, cheap activity that allows your body to relax. You can also walk any time of day and take in your surroundings, and walking will actually stretch out tight hips, hamstrings and calf muscles. If you want to kick it up a notch you can progress to jogging after walking regularly for 2-3 months.

Stretching throughout the day is another way to combat tension and pain as well as the mental and physical stress we place on ourselves. You can even stretch in water or at your desk during the work day. I’m a fan of yoga, as it’s a great activity for all ages due to its strength, balance, flexibility and meditative benefits, plus it helps you de-stress.

Even if you do not know how to swim, there are many exercises you can do in water such as walking, leg lifts, stretching and cycling your legs. Once you have a lesson or two and good technique, swimming provides a great workout and is an excellent overall conditioner of many systems.

Running, cycling, and aerobic classes are not necessarily for everyone, but with proper training and gear, they are great cardio workouts. For running make sure you have proper shoes, and a helmet for cycling to avoid injury. Aerobics classes, tapes or TV shows are great for social interaction as long as you follow your own limits.

Weight lifting is also a great way to build muscle and gain strength, but form is everything. We see too many injuries due to improper form or much too heavy weights being used for certain muscle groups. Most gyms will offer personal trainers or have access to trainers. OrthoCarolina physical therapists can also help design a general strengthening routine for patients including those recovering from injury.

Donna M. Goodwin, PT, has 25 years’ active clinical experience as a Licensed Physical Therapist including a background in Orthopedics, Teaching, Acute Care, Rehab and Management. Her specialties include Orthopedics of Shoulder, Knee and Hip, Geriatric Therapy, Manual Therapy and Mind-Body connection to promote healing. Donna has been with OrthoCarolina since 2003 and received the OrthoCarolina Catalyst Award in 2011. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in 1990 with a Bachelors of Science in Physical Therapy and enjoys running, golf, meeting new people, reading and spending time with her family.

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