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Exercise - How Should I Start?

Don't wait! Any exercise is better than none, but before you start, there are a few things you need to do. It is very important to ask your healthcare provider, if you can enroll in an exercise program. This is especially important if you haven't been active, if you have any health problems, or if you're pregnant or elderly.

Start by sneaking exercise into your daily routine. If you can, park a little further away and walk to your destination. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Go for a walk during your lunch break. Even if those are small activities, it is always better to just start by pushing yourself a little more.

A good goal for many people is to work up to exercising 4 to 6 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. Remember, though, that exercise has so many benefits that any amount is better than none.

Start out slowly. If you've been inactive for years, you can't run a marathon after 2 weeks of training. Begin with a 10-minute period of light exercise or a brisk walk every day and gradually increase how hard you exercise and for how long.

Most importantly, choose something you like to do. Make sure it suits you physically, too. Get a partner. Exercising with someone else can make it more fun. Vary your routine. You may be less likely to get bored or injured if you change your routine. Walk one day. Bicycle the next. Consider activities like dancing and racquet sports, and even chores like chopping wood.

Choose a comfortable time of day. Don't work out too soon after eating or when it's too hot or cold outside. Don't get discouraged. It can take weeks or months before you notice some of the changes from exercise.

Make exercise fun. Read, listen to music or watch TV while riding a stationary bicycle, for example. Find fun things to do, like taking a walk through the zoo. Go dancing. Learn how to play tennis.

Start every workout with a warm-up. That will make your muscles and joints more flexible. Spend 5 to 10 minutes doing some light calisthenics and stretching exercises, and perhaps brisk walking. Do the same thing when you're done working out, until your heart rate returns to normal.

Pay attention to your body. Stop exercising if you feel very out of breath, dizzy, faint or nauseated, or have pain.

Exercise Program
A good exercise program has a mixture of stretching or warm-up activities, aerobic and strength training. Aerobic exercise is the type that moves large muscle groups and causes you to breathe more deeply and your heart to work harder to pump blood. It's also called cardiovascular exercise. It improves the health of your heart and lungs. Examples include walking, jogging, running, aerobic dance, bicycling, rowing, swimming and cross-country skiing.

Strength training exercises, builds strength and muscles. Calisthenics like push-ups are weight-training exercises too. Lifting weights is a weight-training exercise. If you have high blood pressure or other health problems, talk to your family doctor before beginning weight training.

The best exercise is the one that you will do. Walking is considered one of the best choices because it's easy, safe and cheap. Brisk walking can burn as many calories as running, but is less likely than running or jogging to cause injuries. And it doesn't require any training or special equipment, except for good shoes.

Regular exercise has a number of benefits. It reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes and obesity. It also keeps joints, tendons and ligaments flexible and reduces some of the effects of aging. It helps on your mental health well-being, you start sleeping better, and increase your energy.

So from now on:

  • Make exercise a habit.
  • Stick to a regular time every day, it helps.
  • Commit yourself to exercise. Any exercise is better than none.
  • Keep a daily log or diary of your activities.
  • Check your progress. Can you walk a certain distance faster now than when you began? Or is your heart rate slower now?

Adapted by Editorial Staff, September, 2005
Last update, July 2008

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