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Improved Health Includes Exercise

Improved Health Includes Exercise

Step By Step

If you ask Russell Nord, MD, Washington Township Medical Foundation (WTMF) orthopedic surgeon and medical director of the Sports Medicine Program, the path to physical fitness could start at your own front door. For Dr. Nord, exercise is a key component of good health, and putting one foot in front of the other is a good way to work toward that goal.

Why Exercise?

Physical activity has been shown to improve quality of life, both physically and mentally. It helps with physical strength and bone health, and can lead to weight loss, better sleep, clarity, focus—and just feeling better about yourself. It’s one of the best things you can do for your overall health. People who exercise tend to have better health outcomes in other areas. That said, Dr. Nord understands beginning an exercise program can be intimidating.

“The human body is built for exercise,” Dr. Nord said. “It can do incredible things if given time and rest. The goal is to very gradually increase whatever the exercise is. That might be the amount of weight that someone is using, or the amount of distance they're walking, running or biking, or the speed at which they're doing it.”

First Things First

It’s easy in the blush of New Year’s resolutions to proclaim you’re going to exercise every day. That first burst of enthusiasm can go by the wayside quickly if you don’t have a plan.

“Think about your fitness goals,” Dr. Nord explained. “Want to lose weight? Become more flexible? Run a marathon? Then write it down. Having a specific goal will allow you to measure your progress, which will help keep you on track.”

While this holds true for athletes trying to get to the next level, gym rats or weekend warriors, it’s even more important for someone just starting out in a new exercise program. “If you’ve been sedentary, don’t expect to run for a mile on your first day out,” Dr. Nord advised. “Get up and go for a five-minute walk and see how you do. You don’t want a big shock to the system and you don’t want to be overwhelmed to the point where you don’t want to return to that activity.

“If you have an injury or a medical condition, talk to your health care or fitness professional,” he suggested. “Together you can design a fitness program that slowly and steadily improves your range of motion, strength and endurance.”

Next Steps

After you’ve decided to give exercise a try, the next step is deciding what kind of exercise will work best for you. People wonder, “What kind of exercise is best for me? What do I want to accomplish? How much time, equipment and money will be required?”

Dr. Nord recommends looking at your lifestyle, your occupation and your interests to find a place to start. It’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone. People tend to gravitate toward what they’re good at and we all need to fight that natural inclination.

“For example, if you’re on your feet all day at work in a large warehouse, walking wouldn’t be ideal exercise – it would be more work,” Dr. Nord explained. “In that case, maybe an elliptical, stationary bike or weight training would be a better choice. Start with the basics–low weights or short distances–then gradually increase. “Start slow and go forward slowly,” Dr. Nord said. “Aim to increase your activity level by no more than 10% a week.

“Make a balanced routine,” he continued. “Pairing cardio exercises with strength training is important. Choose a cardio exercise such as an elliptical and pair it with strength training working all major muscle groups. One set of each exercise is enough for health and fitness benefits. Do each on different days and gradually increase as your body allows.”

Keeping It Going

It’s important to know what your body is capable of before you begin, and just as important to pay attention to it as you progress. Dr. Nord recommends building activity into your daily routine by scheduling exercise just as you would any other appointment.

“Watch TV or listen to a podcast while you’re on the treadmill or exercise bike,” he said, “or go for a walk during your lunch break at work.”

If you find yourself getting bored by one-note exercise routines, change it up with different activities. Cross-training can include low-impact activities combined with strength training over several days. Or, you could add 10- to 30-second bursts of high-intensity activity to your regular routine, such as a quick run during a walk. Just make sure to give yourself time to recover after each session.

Avoid These Pitfalls

Many people think they need to go to a gym or join a fitness club to be successful at adding exercise into their daily activities. Not so, per Dr. Nord.

“Exercise doesn’t have to be formal,” he said. “Whatever exercise you choose, you need to have the proper technique, the correct equipment and the right mindset. The human body is very adaptable; it’s important to start carefully. I can’t emphasize enough how important the 10% rule is – don’t increase your activity level by more than 10% a week. Remember, exercise is a marathon not a sprint. The main point is to enjoy what you’re doing. Exercise should be fun; it’s not a punishment. If that’s how you feel when you exercise, try something else. There’s something for everyone in the exercise realm.”

To learn more about Dr. Nord and other WTMF providers, visit the Find a Doctor section of, or scan the below QR code. To learn more about the Sports Medicine program at WHHS, see