• Cindi

The Doctor said you need to start exercising - Now What?

Maybe it wasn't your doctor, maybe a friend, relative, or acquaintance suggested you should begin an exercise program. You have been thinking about it, you know you should get started, and maybe you even bought a new pair of shoes. Well, now what?

I am sure you have heard many times that getting started is the hardest part. But, it need not be. In fact, once you have made the decision that you are going to start exercising, lace up those shoes and go for a walk - and, now you have started! Congratulations.

No, that's not all, but nothing gets you closer to achieving a goal than beginning to work on it. Now, you can check that off your to-do list. You have begun, so let's keep it going.

Walking is a terrific way to begin if you have health concerns, have not exercised in a long time, or have never exercised at all. You know how to do it, it doesn't require any kind of specialized gear, and there are plenty of places to do it. Better yet, most of the places to walk are free!

How far, how fast, how often, how long? Don't be too concerned with numbers if you are just starting out. Walk as far, as fast, as often and as long as you can without experiencing pain or extreme fatigue. Each time you walk, try to go a little farther, or a little faster, or find a route that is a little bit longer. Progress!

Eventually you will want to meet the exercise guidelines established by the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine. These guidelines recommend 150 of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Don't give up if you are unable to meet those guidelines right away. Establishing and following a walking program that slowly increase the time spent walking will get you there.

Walking offers many health benefits including a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, improved cardiorespiratory functioning, weight control, and can prevent the loss of bone density associated with osteoporosis. Besides physical health benefits, a walking can reduce stress, improve mood, and ease the symptoms of depression. What else offers these benefits that is also easy to do, can be done almost anywhere, and is free?

Of course, our bodies need more than just a daily walk to stay strong, flexible, and agile. We begin to lose muscle mass in our 30s or 40s and if we fail to intervene, this loss continues throughout the aging process, leading to frailty, loss of independence, and an increased risk of fracture. A hip fracture in an older adult can lead to long-term hospitalization and many are unable to return home.

A study found that women ages 65-69 who break a hip are five times more likely to die within a year than women of the same age who don't break a hip. Muscle weakness, osteoporosis, and poor balance can all increase your risk of falling. Most hip fractures are the result of a fall.

Resistance training stops or slows the loss of muscle mass and is necessary to improve and maintain muscle strength. Resistance training, aka weight lifting, can be performed using machines, resistance bands, dumbbells, or even body weight. When was the last time you did a push up? Think of how much weight you are moving when you push your body up off the floor!

Beginning a strength training program can be much more daunting than beginning a walking program. You may have never lifted weights before, maybe you haven't been to a gym in years, or if you have been to one recently, the machines may be seemingly impossible to figure out.

Joining a fitness center provides you with access to a wide variety of equipment to incorporate into your program. Most have machines, free weights, resistance bands and other items such as kettlebells and medicine balls to use during your workout.

Intimidated? Don't be. Take your time and start slowly. As you progress, you can familiarize yourself with all of the equipment.

Most fitness centers offer an orientation which will give you an opportunity to learn how to use the machines and ask questions. If you think you want to join a fitness center, ask for a tour, and ask if they offer an orientation. Many times these free orientations are available but unadvertised. Fitness centers want your business and they want you to be happy with their service. If you don't know how to use something or have a question, just ask. You are not the first person who has joined as a beginner, and you certainly won't be the last.

If you have never followed a strength training program, or if the only experience you have lifting weights was in your high school gym, you may want to consider hiring a personal trainer. Yes, it can be expensive, but a Personal Trainer can work with you to develop a program that is safe, effective, and targeted toward your goals. This doesn't have to be a long-term commitment; many times you can learn what you need and establish a program to follow in just a few sessions. Then you take that program and follow it on your own.

Of course, you don't need a membership at a health club to get an effective strength-training workout. With just a bit of equipment and a little know-how, you can perform your workout right at home. This is a great way to save time and money, but it requires a good amount of self-discipline.

Resistance bands are great tools to use for an in-home program. They are inexpensive, portable, and take up very little room. You can also get a good workout by incorporating body weight exercises. Lunges, wall squats, pushups, planks, and crunches are just a few of the exercises you can perform without any equipment at all.

If you are unsure how to begin, there are many videos, programs, and apps available online. Search them out, ask friends and co-workers what they have used, and be realistic. Honestly, you are not going to get "stronger, healthier, and sexier in just 7 minutes a day" or whatever the newest fad is. It takes time, dedication, and persistence to improve your health and fitness level.

Even if you work out at home, you still can have access to a Personal Trainer. I offer in-home training as well as online training and there are many others who do the same. Most often you connect through an app or a video call such as Skype, and the trainer is right there leading you through your workout. Again, this does not require a long-term commitment, but is a great way to get a program designed unique to your needs and goals, to learn proper form, and to ask questions. Once you are comfortable with the program, you can follow it on your own.

Don't let fear of the unknown keep you from starting, and don't let yourself become overwhelmed by all of the options. Start with what you know - walking - and proceed from there. Establish a routine, add a strength-training program, and work steadily toward your goal. Remember, small steps add up to long strides.

I am always available to answer any questions you may have. Contact me at any time and I will help you get started.

Better Health, Better Life, Better You!

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