For some, New Year’s resolutions are already a distant memory. That dream of finally getting in shape might seem out the window. If that sounds familiar, Dr. Ava Hudson, a physician at Novant Health Lakeside Family Physicians in Mint Hill, has good news for you: it’s not too late to get in shape.
Dr. Hudson is an internal medicine and pediatrics physician with a subspecialty in sports medicine. She has always had a passion for integrating the importance of healthy lifestyle choices into the care of her patients, and she enjoys helping them create a lifestyle that feels good from the inside out. This comes into play as she consults patients who want to get in shape, which means changing their diet and adopting an exercise routine. These changes can be difficult to make. Patients may start out on the right foot, but after a few weeks, many fall back into their normal routine. Dr. Hudson encourages her patients not to let setbacks cause them to lose sight of their overall goal of getting healthy and in shape.
For those who want to start or change an exercise program, the first order of business is to consult your primary care physician to determine if you have health conditions that could interfere with exercising. Once your doctor determines the appropriate level of exercise for you, the next step is to create a routine you can (and want to) stick to.
Before we set our sights on getting in shape, it’s important to understand who we are as individuals. Ask yourself, “What kind of exercise do I like to do?” and “Would I rather work out in the morning or in the evening?” and “Do I work out best at home or in a gym?” Dr. Hudson says that sometimes it’s hard for folks who want to work out in the evening to go back out to the gym after they get home from work. She suggests planning ahead by having gym clothes and tennis shoes packed in the car so you’re able to go straight from work to the gym. Anything you can do to break down those barriers to exercise will be worth it in the long run.
Dr. Hudson says the key to getting in shape is to start small.
“For adults, the goal is to exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week, with muscle strengthening exercises twice a week. But if you only have 10 minutes a day for a workout, start there.” Dr. Hudson has seen patients give up on their exercise routine because they tried to do too much too soon. “Don’t make drastic changes,” she says. “Start small.”
A workout that may not seem strenuous can cause muscle soreness if you haven’t been working out routinely. This is normal. Dr. Hudson recommends a day of rest and recovery for those muscles you may not be used to using. Your endurance will build the more you exercise and that soreness will fade, but you should always listen to your body. “If you have joint pain that won’t go away or prolonged swelling, these things need to be assessed by a doctor to make sure you’re not injuring yourself,” she explains. “And certainly if you have chest pain or shortness of breath during exercise, stop immediately and consult your physician.”
Similarly, a fitness trainer can show you things like proper lifting techniques, posture with weights, and correct use of cardio machines such as a treadmill, stationary bikes, stair masters, and elliptical machines that will help prevent back pain and joint and muscle injury. At home, Dr. Hudson suggests starting with light weights and working up as you can tolerate it.
So, what does it mean to “be in shape?” Getting in shape can mean different things to different people, and it’s important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another. Websites such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer body mass index (BMI) calculators for people to determine what a healthy weight range is for their height and gender. But Dr. Hudson reminds us that good results aren’t all about the numbers. She says, “People get disappointed when they look at the scale. I tell them to look at how their clothes are fitting. They may not be losing weight because they’re gaining muscle mass instead. Improved energy levels and endurance are good signs that you’re getting in shape.”
And of course, you can’t talk about getting in shape without talking about nutrition. Nutrition plays a huge role in getting and staying in shape while simultaneously laying the groundwork for a healthy life. Again, Dr. Hudson recommends starting small. “If you make drastic changes, they’re hard to maintain. Start by preparing your food at home and eat out less. Try for less bread and reach for more fruits and vegetables at each meal.”
“As a provider, this is what I emphasize with all my patients: Make lifestyle changes that will improve your overall health,” Dr. Hudson says. “Identify the barriers that could prevent you from sticking to your plan and figure out how you can prevent them.”
Dr. Hudson says when you have a setback, get up and try again. No one can make changes except for you, and there is no shame in trying and trying again. She tells her patients, “Slow and steady wins the race.”
Dr. Hudson is happily accepting new patients at her clinic in the new Novant Health Mint Hill medical office building, located at the corner of Albemarle Road and I-485. To schedule an appointment, please call 704-316-2310.