Summer exercise calls for safety, balance

3 May 2012 | Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson

Head, shoulders, knees and toes: The human body is a complex structure of interconnected parts. Maintaining fitness and overall health can be a true balancing act. As summer approaches, the Health Promotion and Wellness team at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune is reminding people that healthy exercise is about more than challenging your body physically. It’s about safety, variety and attention to detail.

“As the weather changes, you need to use some common sense,” said Stacy Lamb, a health educator for Health Promotion and Wellness, NHCL. “You’re not going to want to exercise in sweatpants and a sweatshirt at one o’clock in the afternoon when June and July roll around.”

According to an article from the American College of Sports Medicine about heat injuries, athletes should take time to acclimatize to changes in their environment and wear proper attire. Athletes lose fluids and electrolytes as they sweat, rendering them vulnerable to heat and dehydration-related illness such as heat stroke. Those suffering from heat induced injuries may experience chills, dark urine, dizziness, dry mouth, headaches, thirst and weakness. In more serious cases, athletes may experience difficulty breathing, cramps, nausea and an increase in body temperature.

Eating a balanced diet and keeping the body well hydrated is key to maintaining health and overall fitness. For the general population, proper hydration means drinking about one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight, depending on activity levels. Additionally, making sure diets cover the various food groups can help keep the immune system strong, said Lamb.

“(It’s about) having a well balanced diet so that you’re getting the nutrients and antioxidants that you need from fruits and vegetables and staying hydrated to help with heat injuries,” said Lamb. “When you have a vigorous, high-intensity, physical activity regime throughout the week, it can suppress your immune system. That’s why it’s good to cross train and have flexibility training to help your body recover and repair along with proper nutrition.”

It’s probably not the traditional prescription people are looking for when trying to prevent disease, but a balanced work-out plan goes hand in hand with a properly proportioned plate. 

As runners hit the pavement to enjoy the summer warmth, Lamb encourages them not to forget about cross training to encourage healthy joints and prevent injury. For those that have avoided running over the winter, it means easing their way back into running. A person’s running program should never increase by more than ten percent in a week or ignore their other muscle groups.

“In general, the population doesn’t do enough strength and flexibility training,” said Lamb. “A lot of people think that they just need cardio, and yes, we do need cardio, but strength training is a very important component for maintaining fitness.”

For some people, that might mean yoga or swimming to help with breathing, lung capacity and flexibility. Low impact activities also take stress off of joints and give the body a chance to heal, said Lamb. 

“I suggest they make sure their strength training regimen is a balance between all their muscle groups” said Lamb. “Don’t forget about your hamstrings when you’re always working your quadriceps and don’t forget your shins when you’re always working your calves. Everything needs to be balanced. The same goes for flexibility training to help injury in a joint. Make sure that every muscle that is supporting that joint remains as strong and flexible as the others.”

The ACSM has an initiative that treats exercise like a medicine, said Lamb. People monitor their vital signs, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, but physical activity is another indicator of overall health. The ACSM suggests at least 150 minutes of cardio every week. They also suggest at least two days of strength training for each of the bodies major muscle groups every week.

Recent trends have lead many people to utilize work-out plans, such as fitness DVDs. Lamb suggest that people attempting these programs keep in mind that they are not always designed for sedentary lifestyles.

“You can start out doing ten or 15 minutes of those a day,” said Lamb. “I don’t recommend to anyone who is completely sedentary and out of shape to jump right into one of those programs and try and do it like it’s supposed to be done. There is a good chance of getting injured. They’re good programs, but they’re intense programs.”

In fact, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune has its own fitness professionals. The Semper Fit program, which is one of the nation’s largest group fitness programs, offers classes aboard the base for personnel looking to add some variety to their work-out routine. Health Promotion and Wellness also offers classes for healthy heart, nutrition and weight management. 

Whether it is proper hydration or maintaining a moderated work-out plan, summer fitness calls for a healthy dose of caution and planning. Increases in work outs should focus on one of the four major areas at a time: Time, frequency, intensity and type. This will help maintain the balance needed to prevent injury.

For updates and news covering various exercise topics, visit The health classes offered by Health Promotion and Wellness are open and free to active-duty personnel, retired military and their families and Department of Defense employees. Anyone interested in attending a course or seeking information can call 451-3712.