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Starting a fitness program may be one
of the best things you can do for your
health. Physical activity can reduce
your risk of chronic disease, improve
your balance and coordination, help
you lose weight - even improve your
sleep habits and self-esteem. And
there’s more good news. You can do it
in just five steps.
1 Assess your fitness level
You probably have some idea of how
fit you are. But assessing and recording
baseline fitness scores can give you
benchmarks against which to measure
your progress. To assess your aerobic
and muscular fitness, flexibility and
body composition, consider recording:
• Your pulse rate before and after you
walk 1 mile (1.6 kilometers)
• How long it takes to walk 1 mile (1.6
• How many pushups you can do at
a time
• How far you can reach forward
while seated on the floor with your
legs in front of you
• Your waist circumference as
measured around your bare
abdomen just above your hipbone
• Your body mass index
2 Design your fitness
It’s easy to say that you’ll exercise every
day. But you’ll need a plan. As you
design your fitness program, keep these
points in mind:
• Consider your fitness goals.
Are you starting a fitness program
to help lose weight? Or do you
have another motivation, such as
preparing for a marathon? Having
clear goals can help you gauge your
• Create a balanced routine.
Most adults should aim for at least
150 minutes of moderate-intensity
aerobic activity - or 75 minutes of
vigorous aerobic activity - a week.
Adults also need two or more days
of strength training a week.
• Go at your own pace.
If you’re
just beginning to exercise, start
cautiously and progress slowly. If
you have an injury or a medical
condition, consult your doctor or a
physical therapist for help designing
a fitness program that gradually
improves your range of motion,
strength and endurance.
• Build activity into your daily
Finding time to exercise
can be a challenge. To make it easier,
schedule time to exercise as you
would any other appointment. Plan
to watch your favorite show while
walking on the treadmill, or read
while riding a stationary bike.
• Plan to include different
Different activities
(cross-training) can keep exercise
boredom at bay. Cross-training also
reduces your chances of injuring
or overusing one specific muscle
or joint. Plan to alternate among
activities that emphasize different
parts of your body, such as walking,
swimming and strength training.
• Allow time for recovery.
people start exercising with frenzied
zeal - working out too long or too
intensely - and give up when their
muscles and joints become sore or
injured. Plan time between sessions
for your body to rest and recover.
• Put it on paper.
A written plan
may encourage you to stay on track.
3 Assemble your
You’ll probably start with athletic
shoes. Be sure to pick shoes designed
for the activity you have in mind.
If you’re planning to invest in exercise
equipment, choose something that’s
practical, enjoyable and easy to use.
You may want to try out certain types
of equipment at a fitness center before
investing in your own equipment.
4 Get started
Now you’re ready for action. As you
begin your fitness program, keep these
tips in mind:
• Start slowly and build up
Give yourself plenty
of time to warm up and cool
down with easy walking or gentle
stretching. Then speed up to a pace
you can continue for five to 10
minutes without getting overly tired.
As your stamina improves, gradually
increase the amount of time you
exercise. Work your way up to 30 to
60 minutes of exercise most days of
the week.
• Break things up if you have
You don’t have to do all your
exercise at one time. Shorter but
more-frequent sessions have aerobic
benefits, too. Fifteen minutes of
exercise a couple of times a day may
fit into your schedule better than a
single 30-minute session.
• Be creative.
Maybe your workout
routine includes various activities,
such as walking, bicycling or rowing.
But don’t stop there. Take a weekend
hike with your family or spend an
evening ballroom dancing.
• Listen to your body.
If you feel
pain, shortness of breath, dizziness
or nausea, take a break. You may be
pushing yourself too hard.
• Be flexible.
If you’re not feeling
good, give yourself permission to
take a day or two off.
5 Monitor your progress
Retake your personal fitness
assessment six weeks after you start
your program and then again every
three to six months. You may notice
that you need to increase the amount
of time you exercise in order to
continue improving. Or you may be
pleasantly surprised to find that you’re
exercising just the right amount to
meet your fitness goals.
If you lose motivation, set new goals
or try a new activity. Exercising with
a friend or taking a class at a fitness
center may help, too.
Starting an exercise program is an
important decision. But it doesn’t
have to be an overwhelming one. By
planning carefully and pacing yourself,
you can establish a healthy habit that
lasts a lifetime.
July/Aug 2014