Q & A with Dr. Elizabeth Gannon
Let’s Get Moving!
With the return of spring, it’s a great time to head outdoors. We asked Elizabeth Gannon, DO, who recently joined Primary Care Falls Church of the Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group, for some tips on starting an exercise routine — safely.
How do you motivate your patients to exercise?
I try to work with them to find an exercise they enjoy doing. If you are making yourself exercise, but do not enjoy the activity, you are not going to stick with it. I also tell them about all the benefits. In addition to reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes and helping you control your weight, exercise improves your mood and mental health. There also is evidence that exercise helps with cognitive thinking and learning and can promote better sleep if you struggle with insomnia. With older adults, regular exercise helps maintain daily activities and prevent falls; strength training reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
Should children and adults do the same amount of exercise?
Kids and teens should have 60 minutes of physical activity per day. That could include activities such as riding a bike, playing on a playground, playing a team sport or swimming.
For adults, the general guideline is to aim for some form of exercise most days of the week. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of activity per week. Strive for a mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength training and stretching. If this time commitment seems overwhelming, I recommend breaking it up into 10-minute intervals, such as a 10-minute walk on your lunch break. Some people like to do longer periods of vigorous exercise on the weekends. You can make it work for your schedule.
Is it easy to do strength training at home?
Strength training can be done using gym equipment, free weights, resistance bands or your own body weight. Body weight examples include lunges, squats, wall push-ups and leg lifts, done either lying on the floor or standing behind a chair for balance.
What are some tips for avoiding injuries?
If you haven’t been exercising, start slowly. A 5 to 10 minute walk may be all you can do. Slowly build up your endurance and time to prevent injury. When you start your activity, make sure you do a 5-minute warm-up. When you finish, do about a 5-minute cool down. Then, stretch your muscles.
Always avoid bouncing into a stretch. You want to stretch to the point where you feel a pull, but it should not be painful. Then, hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds.
How important is hydration during exercise?
Everyone’s water requirements will vary depending on your exercise, weather conditions, etc. A good rule of thumb is to drink fluids based on your thirst. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day and not just during exercise. Avoiding dehydration is especially important when you exercise.
If you become dehydrated, it can affect your performance and make you more injury-prone.
Elizabeth Gannon, DO completed a sports medicine fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University where she had the opportunity to work with high school, collegiate and professional sports teams, including DC United and the Washington Nationals. She has a particular clinical interest in sports medicine and helping patients return to their previous level of activity prior to injury.