Exercise Like Your Life Depends On It

by karen on January 4, 2019

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are meant to be active. Over the millennia, our bodies have not evolved to a point where we can thrive in the sedentary world we now live in.  We don’t stay healthy and fit sitting at a desks in front of a computer for hours on end, as most of us now work. Thankfully, a little effort goes a long way.

If you are regularly exercising, excellent job—keep it up. If you are not currently exercising, take advantage of the New Year to get started. The following tips should help make it a little easier to figure out where to begin, and lessen the pain of getting into an exercise routine, something that nets almost limitless benefits.

Assess your fitness level

To figure your aerobic and muscular fitness, flexibility, and body composition, record:

  • Your pulse rate before and immediately after waking 1 mile, and the time it took
  • How many crunches you can do
  • How many modified or standard push ups you can do
  • How far you can reach forward while seated on the floor with your legs in front of you
  • Your waist circumference, just above your hip bones
  • Your BMI (body mass index)

Design your fitness program

Making a realistic plan for you is the key to starting and staying with your exercise routine

Consider your fitness goals. Are you starting a fitness program to lose weight? Or do you have another motivation, such as preparing for the Tough Mudder? Having clear goals can help you gauge your progress and stay motivated.

Create a balanced routine. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of the two. For example, try to get about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week. Also aim to incorporate strength training of all the major muscle groups into a fitness routine at least two days a week.

Start low and progress slowly. If you’re just beginning to exercise, start at an easy pace and go forward. If you have an injury or a medical condition, consult your doctor or an exercise therapist for help designing a fitness program that gradually improves your range of motion, strength and endurance.

Build activity into your daily routine. 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, read while riding a stationary bike, or take a break to go on a walk at work.

Plan to include different activities. Different activities (cross-training) can keep exercise boredom at bay. Cross-training using low-impact forms of activity, such as biking or water exercise, 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. Many 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. (Click link below for printable PDF)

Nutrition Connection Exercise Tracker

Assemble your equipment

You’ll probably start with athletic shoes. Be sure to pick shoes designed for the activity you have in mind. For example, running shoes are lighter in weight than cross-training shoes, which are more supportive.

Consider visiting a few gyms before buying a membership to decide which one is right for you. Gyms aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but you may be happily surprised if you visit one in person to get a tour or complimentary training session. Be sure to choose a gym with equipment you would reasonably use, in a location you’re willing to get to on a regular basis.

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.

You might consider using fitness apps for smart devices or other activity tracking devices, such as ones that can track your distance, track calories burned or monitor your heart rate.

Get started

Now you’re ready for action. As you begin your fitness program, keep these tips in mind:

Start slowly and build up gradually. Give yourself plenty of time to warm up and cool down before and after your workouts 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 to. You don’t have to do all your exercise at one time, so you can weave in activity throughout your day. Shorter but more-frequent sessions have aerobic benefits, too. Exercising in short sessions a few times a day may fit into your schedule better than a single 30 or 60-minute session. Any amount of activity is better than none at all.

Be creative. Maybe your workout routine includes various activities, such as walking, cycling or rowing, but don’t stop there. Take a weekend hike with your family or spend an evening ballroom dancing. Find activities you enjoy to add to your fitness routine.

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.

Monitor your progress.  

Retake your personal fitness assessment six weeks after you start your program and then again every few 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. (Click below for printable PDF)

Nutrition Connection Monthly Exercise Tracker

Karen Fisher, MS, RDN, CDE is a dietitian in Reno, Nevada, happily promoting the benefits of healthy foods at her nutrition consulting firm, Nutrition Connection. Find her website at www.NutritionConnectionNV.com

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