Start an exercise program that’s right for you

You’ve been putting it off for ages. But there is no better time than now to start exercising. You don’t have to be told the merits of exercise – that it reduces aging, and improves your health and well-being, not to mention your appearance.

When developing an exercise program, you likely have an array of questions: What should you do? How long should you exercise? Where should you exercise?

Before starting your program, set some specifics of what you want to get from your program whether it be short-term or long-term goals. Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds, train for a walkathon or try to better your health. Goals will keep you motivated and let you gauge your progress.

Any fitness plan should have aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is sustained, rhythmic activity that improves how the heart and lungs function. You can walk, jog, bike ride or climb stairs. Or, you can try rowing or swimming. You can also enroll in group activities at a gym or local fitness center. Sign up for a spinning, yoga, martial arts, swimming, kickboxing or other fitness class.

Recent medical research has indicated the importance of weight training for building lean muscle as well as maintaining bone health. Muscles are responsible for more than 25 per cent of your calorie usage. Increased muscle tissue increases the number of calories your body burns, even at rest.

You may overlook it, but it’s important to stretch. It increases your fitness performance, reduces soreness, decreases risk of injury, improves balance and decreases risk of lower back pain.

Don’t feel like you have to join a gym to get a good workout. You can always exercise at home. Hit the video store for a tape that you’ll like; you may need to buy a mat, hand weights or jump rope. Or, you can invest in a treadmill, bike or other piece of exercise equipment.

If you’re more of the outdoorsy type, head into nature – hike, walk or jump into the pool.

Whatever you do, it’s important to start slowly. If you do too much too soon, it will lead to soreness, fatigue or injuries. Gradually increase the duration and difficulty of your routine. As your body becomes more conditioned, you can increase how long and how hard you exercise.

Staying motivated

One issue that plagues many fitness freaks – boredom. That’s why you want to stay motivated. Here are some tips to follow:

Find a partner. Walk with someone, play tennis with a friend or go rollerblading with some kids. You’ll be less likely to bail on exercise if someone else is relying on you to show up.

Make exercise a priority in your life by scheduling workouts on your calendar or into your planner.

Don’t look at the scale. Exercise is more about making yourself healthy than losing weight.

Be sure to wear comfortable clothes that are appropriate for your exercise activity. If a new sweatsuit and pair of sneakers will inspire you even more, invest in new workout gear.

If you exercise alone, listen to some tunes. Make a special workout mix or buy one. Upbeat tempos are sure to get you in the spirit.

Chart your progress. Use a calendar, a handwritten journal or type up something on your computer. That way you can evaluate yourself periodically.

– Copley News Service