Resolving to Work Out More this Year? Follow These Tips to Stay Safe

By on January 5, 2017
Resolving to Work Out More this Year? Follow These Tips to Stay Safe

By Dr. Charles Vega in partnership with McNeil Consumer Healthcare –

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions. A physical fitness regimen is a perennial favorite among resolutions, which is wonderful. Exercise not only reduces body weight and burns fat, it can also lessen the stress and anxiety we feel. The healthiest and happiest people I know do some form of physical activity regularly.

Resolving to be healthier and work out more is especially important for older adults. It can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Importantly, it can also help you maintain your independence as you age and improve your mental health and mood. So if you weren’t considering it before, the New Year may be the perfect time to commit to a fitness routine! Of course, talk to your healthcare professional before starting or changing any exercise or physical activity program.

Don’t be surprised when your new routine comes with occasional aches and pains. I remind my patients: as you move your body in new and different ways, it’s normal to have sore muscles. Remember, there is no need to go run a marathon if you have not exercised in 20 years. Gradually increase your activity to prevent injury.

Some muscle soreness or joint pain is inevitable. You may reach for an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever when you feel pain, but remember: an OTC that was right for you in the past may not be the most appropriate choice for you now.

Many people believe their current OTC is the right choice for them, simply because they’ve used it in the past without side effects. However, they may not be considering the many factors that can influence how an OTC works in their bodies. Depending on the pain reliever, there may be an increased chance of side effects with certain health conditions, age, and other medications you’re taking. For example, if you have had stomach ulcers or bleeding, have cardiovascular risks, or you are over the age of 60, some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, or stomach bleeding.

People over the age of 60 should pay extra attention when treating aches and pains from a new exercise routine. A national survey from the U.S. Pain Foundation found that nearly 3 out of 4 people age 60 and over do not consider their age when choosing an OTC pain reliever. This is a concern because age can increase the risk of harmful side effects if OTC pain relievers are not chosen and used correctly.

Here are important tips to help you stay safe and healthy as you manage the aches and pains from your new fitness routine:

  1. Listen to your body. Know when to stop your work out or take a break, and always speak to your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.
  2. Take the time to choose the right OTC pain reliever for you. Think about your full health profile, including prescription and OTC medications you take and any medical conditions you have. The most important thing to do is read and follow the Drug Facts label every time you reach for an OTC medicine. No matter how many times we’ve looked at them, Drug Facts labels change, and so does our health. When used as directed, OTC pain relievers provide safe and effective relief; however these medicines come with potential risks.
  3. Check the ingredients in your medicines. Many prescription and OTC medicines share the same ingredients so it’s important to always check the ingredients in your medicines and take only one medicine with the same kind of active ingredient at a time. Taking more than one medicine with the same kind of active ingredient at a time can cause harmful side effects.

Following these simple rules can help keep you safe. I look forward to seeing you at the gym in 2017! Happy New Year!

You can find more information on the safe use of OTC pain relievers at


Dr. Charles Vega is a family physician in California, where he created a patient-centered medical education program at the UC Irvine School of Medicine. He has partnered with McNeil Consumer Healthcare for this initiative.

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Resolving to Work Out More this Year? Follow These Tips to Stay Safe