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How To Establish And Maintain A Physical Fitness Program


MoHow    Posted By   Dr. MO  You know exercise is good for you, and that it’s in your best interest to make this the year you start and maintain regular physical activity. But do you know how good getting 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week really is?

A recent US Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health found that regular physical activity:

  • Reduces the risk of dying from heart disease
  • Reduces the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and colon cancer
  • Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Helps control weight and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints
  • Helps maintain function and preserve independence in older adults
  • Putting in 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times a week would cut the amount of chronic diseases and health costs by almost half. That’s how powerful physical fitness is.

If you’re interested, but aren’t sure how to begin, here are some thoughts from from Dr. Pamela Peeke, an assistant clinical professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and some suggestions on how to keep going from Dr. Peeke and me, Dr. MO.

Dr Peeke says it’s best to start out by walking (or doing some other type of aerobic exercise) and then add strength training later. Good forms of aerobic exercise including walking, biking, swimming and jogging. In addition to aerobic exercise, it’s important to incorporate strength training into your program. She says it’s imperative to do both because lifting weights not only builds your muscles, but also raises your metabolism, causing you to burn more calories.

Starting a program as a New Year’s Resolution in January is one thing, maintaining  momentum is another matter entirely. So here’s some advice to help you keep going all year long.

1. Check with a doctor before beginning an exercise program. This is especially important as you get older or if you have a history of health problems.

2. Start slowly. This will help you achieve the most benefits with the least risk, especially if you have not been physically active for some time.

3. Get up and move! Incorporate exercise during the day, even while you’re at work. If you sit at a desk most of the day, get out of your chair at least once an hour and walk around. Use the five-minute-per-hour rule. Look for ways to just get up and move. Some suggestions: Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk down the hall instead of using the phone or e-mail, or take a walk during a morning or afternoon break.

4. Find an exercise buddy. Get a friend involved and be each other’s motivators, or join a group. The advantage to this approach is that you know other people are counting on you and you don’t want to let them down.

5. Find the right kind of exercise for you. Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit your personality.

6. Strength train safely. When beginning a strength-training program, it’s important to work with an expert (such as a trainer) who is knowledgeable about equipment and proper exercise methods. You need someone to show you safe techniques for what to do.

7. Make the time to exercise. Pick a time of the day when you’ll always have time to exercise and stick to it. Don’t make excuses not to exercise. Instead, try setting a schedule for the week that indicates which days you’ll exercise.

8. Make exercise fun. If you buy home equipment, put it in front of the television. That way, you won’t get bored when you’re exercising.

9. Write down why you want to exercise. Keep this list somewhere very visible to regularly reinforce your motivation.

10. Set weekly goals with enticing rewards. Establishing attainable short-term goals gives you something to work toward and a feeling of accomplishment when you reach them. Take time to celebrate your achievement. Avoid food rewards, especially if weight loss is your goal. Instead, reward yourself with a movie or a massage.

11. Keep an exercise log. This is a good way to keep you consistent and it will help you review your goals and remember why you’re doing this in the first place.

12. Make stretching a part of your workout routine. Most experts recommend stretching after exercise while the muscles are warm. Stretching is important because it keeps your body in good alignment and prevents injury.

13. Wear comfortable shoes with good support when exercising. Nothing can derail an exercise program faster than a foot-related injury caused by poor footwear.

14. Practice the “talk test. Basically, this means that when you are exercising, you should be able to speak about three words at a time. If you cannot get three words out at a time, slow down. If you can carry on a normal conversation, pick up the pace.

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