Why exercise? What a completely loaded question!!! The health benefits are of regular physical activity are entirely too many to list – lower blood pressure, increased cardiovascular capacity, increase muscle strength, decreased pain, increased function, lower risk for disease, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, many people simply don’t get the recommended daily amount of physical activity. These days, it seems like there’s a lot more driving and a lot less walking; a lot more sitting and a lot less standing; a lot more sedentary and a lot less activity. There seem to be those among us who desperately want to be more active – who want to start an exercise program but simply don’t know where to start. I’ve received quite a few questions from Tone and Tighten readers along this exact subject – many of you want to start exercising and desire to do it safely, but don’t know where to begin. This post is just for you! Below I offer my four steps to safely and effectively start a workout/exercise program.
1. First and foremost – Get checked out by a doctor. Before starting any regular exercise routine, it is important that you are cleared by a medical doctor to do so. Go in and get your physical; your doctor will check your heart rate, blood pressure, lungs, and many other key elements that will determine whether or not you are in fact healthy enough to start a exercise program. Make sure you tell him/her what your intentions are for this visit – that you desire to know whether or not it is safe for you to start to work out. Make sure you do not walk out of his/her office without a firm answer to this question! (Come to think of it, it’s time to schedule my physical…)
2. Start with a goal in mind. Weight loss? Get big and ripped? Tone and tighten? Just play with your kids without getting out of breath? There are lots of reasons why people wish to start a regular exercise program – what are your goals? Your end results should determine your plan of attack when thinking about and designing an exercise routine. I would encourage you to write this goal down somewhere. Writing goals down makes them real – no longer are they just thoughts and aspirations but something you can look at, reflect on, work towards, and ultimately achieve. An important element to setting good goals is to set a realistic date. Give yourself a timeframe and work to accomplish your goal by that date. That being said, it is important to set realistic time frames. It is not feasible to drop 20 pounds in two weeks. Rather, push that date out to 8-10 weeks and make slow, consistent, incremental progress. Realize that most fitness goals will take time, and set your goal dates accordingly.
3. Start light. When it does come time to begin your exercise program, it is important that you start (relatively) light. One of the most regular methods of injury that I see in my physical therapy clinic comes from sedentary people who try to do too much too soon. I love high intensity training (P90X, Insanity, HIIT, etc.), but this type of training is not for everyone… especially beginners! Start at a decreased intensity and progress from there. Remember your goals are to be worked toward and don’t necessarily have to be accomplished in one day! More to come in step 4…
4. Progress gradually. Once you have started, progress slowly. For example – if you’ve made a goal to be able to walk 2 miles in 4 weeks, start with half a mile week one, progress to 1 mile in week two, week three progress to 1.5 miles… etc. Make your progression gradual to give your body a chance to adapt to the changes/stresses that you are putting on it. The second the most common problem that I see in the physical therapy clinic is progressing an exercise routine too rapidly. Take it slow, realize that these things do take time, and set yourself up for maximum success!
Follow these simple steps before starting any exercise program and I promise that you will set yourself up to meet your goals this year and realize your potential!
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