Keys to a Successful Exercise Program
- Build up your activity level gradually. For example, if you are inactive now and want to begin walking regularly, you might begin slowly with a 10- to 15-minute walk, three times a week. As you become more fit, you can increase the sessions to every day.
- If you choose a fairly vigorous activity, begin each session slowly. Allow a five-minute period of stretching and slow movement to give your body a chance to "warm up." At the end of your workout, take another five minutes to "cool down" with a slower exercise pace.
- Listen to your body. A certain amount of stiffness is normal at first. But if you hurt a joint or pull a muscle or tendon, stop the activity for several days to avoid more serious injury. Most minor muscle and joint problems can be relieved by rest and over-the-counter painkillers.
- Pay attention to warning signals. While regular physical activity can strengthen your heart, some types of activity may worsen existing heart problems. Warning signals include sudden dizziness, cold sweat, paleness, fainting, or pain or pressure in your upper body just after exercising. If you notice any of these signs, stop the activity and call your doctor immediately.
- Check the weather report. On hot, humid days, do outdoor activity during the cooler and less humid parts of the day. Wear light, loose-fitting clothing and drink lots of water before, during and after the activity. On cold days, wear one layer less of clothing than you would wear if you were outside but not exercising. Also wear gloves and a hat.
- Keep at it. Unless you have to stop your regular physical activity for a health reason, stay with it. Set small, short-term goals for yourself. If you find yourself becoming bored, try doing the activity with a friend or family member or switch to another activity. The health rewards of regular physical activity are well worth the effort.
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