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Starting Up Your Exercise Program

Many people put off starting an exercise program because they feel they don’t have enough time or energy to work out. Actually, you don’t need to exercise three hours a day or work yourself to the point of exhaustion to stay fit.

A good exercise program can be tailored to meet your interests and can take as little as 30 minutes a day, three times a week. It’s up to you to choose the kind of exercise program you’d enjoy. Walking, swimming, playing golf or doing aerobic exercises are all great ways to stay fit. The important part is to get started and stick to it!

You can develop your personal exercise program in three easy steps:

STEP 1 – Warming Up
Stretching before exercising is an important part of your workout. Stretching warms up your muscles and makes them more elastic while decreasing your risk of injury from strains, sprains and torn ligaments. You should stretch for at least five to 10 minutes and include all of the major muscle groups, particularly those that you are about to exercise.

While stretching, hold a mild stretch for about 10 seconds and relax your muscles. Don’t bounce or rock while stretching. Breathe slowly and evenly as you stretch.

STEP 2 – Choosing an Exercise
This is the best part! Pick an exercise or sport you enjoy and have fun. It doesn’t matter what you do, the important thing is to increase your heart rate and maintain it for the duration of your workout.

Your heart rate is the amount of times your heart beats per minute. Each person also has a target heart rate, a specific number of heartbeats per minute which should be achieved during exercise.

Follow these simple steps to see if you’ve reached your target heart rate.

1. During your workout, take a minute to check your pulse by lightly pressing the underside of your wrist (radial pulse).

2. Starting with zero, count the number of beats you feel in 30 seconds and multiply that number by two. This is your heart rate.

3. Check the following chart to see if you’ve reached your target heart rate. First, find the age closest to yours and see if you fall into the target zone.

If your pulse is below your age group’s target zone, push yourself a little harder. If you’re above the zone, slow down.

Need some help selecting an exercise activity? The chart below can help you pick one according to the exercise level you want to achieve.

Light (300 calories/hour): walking, bowling, fishing, golf, table tennis
Moderate (435 calories/hour): calisthenics, badminton, dancing, volleyball, softball
Heavy (540 calories/hour): jogging, competitive tennis, skating (roller or ice), water skiing, basketball

STEP 3 – Cooling Down

After your workout, a cooling down period is a good way to relieve muscle tension and prevent muscle soreness. Light jogging, walking and stretching are effective ways to cool down. Take five to 10 minutes to cool down, catch your breath and return to a resting heart rate. Pay extra attention to the muscles you just used by massaging them.

If you spend 10 minutes to warm up, 30 minutes to exercise and another 10 minutes to cool-down three times per week, you’re on your way to a healthier, happier lifestyle for just two and a half hours per week! Remember, the hardest part of working out is getting started. Once you get going, you’ll find that exercising can become a regular part of your lifestyle.

Besides losing body fat, exercising regularly has many other health benefits, including:
• Toned muscles
• Improved posture
• Stronger bones
• Decreased stress
• Lower blood pressure
• Improved sleep
• Higher energy level
• Increased self esteem

Before you start any exercise program, it is very important to check with your physician, especially if:
• You’re over 40 years old and haven’t exercised regularly
• You are overweight
• You have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of heart disease or diabetes
• You have problems with your back or joints
• After starting your exercise program, listen to your body and slow down if you experience pain. Check with a physician if the pain persists.

Bonus tips:
• The best time to exercise is before a meal
• Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any results immediately. It usually takes about six weeks for results to show.
• When you are out jogging or walking, stay away from isolated areas and go with a partner.
• Proper breathing is an important part of exercise. Taking deep breaths and exhaling completely will rid your body of carbon dioxide waste products and help you avoid getting side pains.
• Swimming is the most complete form of exercise because it provides an excellent cardiovascular workout, affects each major muscle group and reduces strain to joints and ligaments.