Dr. Erik Mitchell holds a model of a knee joint at Valley Health Orthopaedics in Front Royal.

FRONT ROYAL — It’s never too late to get healthy.

Dr. Erik Mitchell, who on a recent day at Valley Health Orthopaedics in Front Royal saw patients ranging in age from 5 to 82, said health and safety are important at any age.

Specializing in the treatment of sports injuries, he said getting or staying healthy at a later age is entirely possible. Still, there are considerations people should make if they want to pursue more activity than they’re used to.

First, contact a primary care physician before starting a new exercise plan or changing around your diet.

“The benefits of exercise are tremendous, but you have to go low and slow,” he said.

It’s also good to consult a dietitian or nutritionist for specific dietary needs, he said.

Next, people should make sure they’re safe while starting a new workout plan. Ease into exercise, stay hydrated and eat enough of the right foods to help prevent injuries.

“We know what’s important is hydration for sure,” Mitchell said, “and I think a well-balanced diet is important, too.”

“There’s a bunch of fad diets,” he said. But he doesn’t recommend any. Instead, he said to focus on getting enough protein, plenty of water and enjoying a generally balanced diet.

“Hydration requirements are different for each individual,” he said.

He drinks 120 ounces of water a day and said he feels hydrated enough. But he also said it could vary from person to person based on their weight, health and activity level.

“If you’re at a point where you’re thirsty, you’re dehydrated for sure."

People should increase water intake when they exercise, he added. “You have to definitely incorporate more fluids when you begin an exercise program.”

In general, he said, a comprehensive exercise routine includes four elements: an active warm-up, strength training, resistance training and a cool-down.

Accomplish those four things, he said, and “you know that you’re basically taking part in a program that’s safe and effective.”

Though genetics play a role in a person’s health, Mitchell said hydration and food choice are also hugely important to good health.

“Diet is the critical key aspect of any weight-loss program,” he said.

It’s even more important than exercise, which he said can only go so far in helping a person lose weight. Even with vigorous activity, he said, a person can only lose so many calories through exercise.

“We know fundamentally, what you eat, that plays the biggest impact,” he said.

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