According to a study published in July in the medical journal The Lancet, a lack of exercise causes as many deaths as smoking. While it’s not surprising to be reminded that inactivity begets weight gain — which can result in chronic illnesses such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes — it’s shocking to learn that it may be as damaging as smoking.
An increase in activity is the only thing that can counter it, and it’s pretty easy to get started. With Nashville’s favorable year-round weather and access to public parks, outdoor forms of exercise such as walking and running are accessible to all (as Mayor Karl Dean will readily tell you). We also have a multitude of gyms to choose from, including numerous YMCA locations and a variety of fitness studios specializing in activities such as yoga, cycling or boot camp.
We talked with a number of fitness experts around town. No matter what your level of fitness is, there are three things that you should consider before starting a new exercise routine.
1. Do your research. If you’re thinking of purchasing a membership, learn about your options so you can ensure it’s a place you’ll actually use. “If you do your research before you visit a studio, you will be much more comfortable when you actually attend a class, and you will be more likely to get the most bang for your buck,” says Susannah Herring, owner of Hot Yoga Plus, which has locations on Elliston Place in Nashville and West McEwen Drive in Cool Springs.
What should you consider? At a multipurpose gym like the Y, find out what equipment, classes and training choices are included with a membership. Consider if the location and peak hours — waiting for a treadmill is not fun — are convenient with your schedule. For a more specialized studio, find out what kinds of classes they offer and how much personal attention will be given to beginners.
2. Get a health screening. This is essential for anyone starting a new workout. A drastic change in your activity level could aggravate an old injury or unearth a serious condition that you may be unaware of. “Participating in a annual physical examination is always a good idea,” said Jeremy Curtis, vice president and partner at Corporate Health Partners, which helps businesses manage long-term health management through customized wellness programs. “Understanding more about your health risks — and if you’re healthy enough for a particular physical activity — is a great way to help you and your doctor understand your current status before there are problems.”
3. Come prepared. In addition to bringing a water bottle and wearing proper workout attire — ask someone at the gym if you’re not sure what that is — plan to get there early. “Arriving 15 minutes before class allows you to get the lay of the land, meet your instructor and let them fit you perfectly with equipment if necessary,” explains Sarah-Jane Hill, owner of Krank, a Green Hills studio that offers indoor cycling and interval training classes. “We track all of our new students so we can determine what each individual student needs to be stronger and to provide them with an experience that makes them want to come work out with us again and again.”