Most people have started an exercise program at one time or another. In January, the gyms are filled with “New Year’s Resolution” workout programs, which usually last until about the 2nd or 3rd week of January. After that, status quo seems to be adequate.
For those serious about starting an exercise program and maintaining it, here are a few tips to help you get started:
1. Have a complete physical. It is important that your doctor check you out thoroughly before you start an exercise program to ensure you don’t have any bones, ligaments, tendons, or other areas of the body that are weaker and would need to be monitored or cared for prior to starting exercise. Your doctor will tell you which programs you can do and which ones you should avoid.
2. Once you are cleared by your doctor, start off slowly. Three days a week of cardiovascular activity at 30 minutes per day is a great way to begin if you have not exercised in the past 12 months. Cardiovascular activity is important for heart health. Some “start-up” activities include:
- Brisk walking.
- Parking further away from work than normal and walking in.
- Walking up the stairs at work, the mall, or home vs. the elevator.
Remember that you don’t have to do all 30 minutes at once. You can take 3, 10 minutes walks each day (one in the morning, one at lunch, and one in the evening), and that will get your heart pumping and will help get your exercise program underway.
3. Strength Training. After about 3 weeks of 30 minutes, 3 times a week, add some strength training to your routine. This will help you to ensure your muscles gain strength, and will also help you burn fat (even while resting). Strength training is an excellent combination to cardiovascular activity because it still gets your heart pumping, but also ensures your bones and muscles increase in strength, which will help you have more energy on your cardio days. Adding 2 days at 30 minutes per day is an excellent start.
(You’ve already increased your activity level from 0 to 150 minutes per week!)
4. Increase your cardio activity. After 4 weeks at this level of activity, increase your cardio days to 4 or 5 per week, or to 3, 60 minute cardio workouts. As you are able to increase your cardio activity, you will also increase your heart health, burn more calories, and develop leaner muscles as you go. Some great activities to continue include:
- Brisk walking.
- Light jogging.
- Rowing (machine or in the water, if you have that ability).
- Stair-step machine or treadmill.
5. More Strength Training! Once you’ve been exercising at this level for about 6-8 weeks, increase your strength training to approximately 3-4 days per week at 30-40 minutes per day. The stronger your torso, legs, and arms, the stronger and better able you will be to do the cardio activities.
(At this point, you have increased your exercise level from 0 to 150 minutes per week to up to 300 minutes!)