Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Beginning an Exercise Routine

Starting an exercise routine to improve your health can seem like a daunting task at first. But the truth is that the benefits of exercising are limitless. Exercise increases strength, improves balance and can also positively affect people’s mood through the release of endorphins. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day (such as brisk walking) most days of the week. Or, you could opt for 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity (such as jogging or running), three days a week. Incorporating strength training two days a week also helps to build lean muscle.

When beginning an exercise routine, keep these tips in mind:
  • Overdoing it during your first workout will leave you sore and discouraged, so pace yourself. Start slow with achievable goals and work your way up. You will most likely see better results.
  • Don’t be in a hurry – perform each movement slowly and hold the end position for several seconds.
  • You build muscle by using resistance, so if you move too quickly, momentum will be doing all the work for you.
  • Try to do one set of 10 repetitions for each exercise. If you can’t, don’t worry! Start with fewer repetitions and work your way up as you gain endurance.
  • Work out until your muscles get tired, but not until they get sore. If you happen to overdo it and your muscles get sore, ice the area with repeated cycles of 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off.
  • Go for short, but frequent, walks if you can – they’re good for your legs, back, lung function and cardiovascular health. Once your endurance builds, you can switch to taking longer and less frequent walks as part of your exercise routine.

Do you have questions about your exercise routine? Check out the answers to common questions below.

Q. How often should I stretch?
A. You should stretch at least 2-3 times per week before, after or during exercise. Be sure to stretch all muscle groups from head to toe and hold them for 15-30 seconds.

Q. What if I get short of breath or feel discomfort?
A. Listen to your body and rest. Stop exercising and call your doctor if you have any irregular heartbeats, chest pain or any other cardiac symptoms.

Q. What if I don’t have time for exercise?
A. Think about your schedule and find places to work it in. You could even substitute multiple short workouts each day in place of longer ones if you can’t find time for one dedicated workout.

Q. I don’t like to run. What other vigorous-intensity workouts can I try?
A. Alternatives include swimming laps; playing tennis (singles); bicycling more than 10 miles per hour or uphill; and circuit training, which combines strength, endurance and aerobic exercises. It’s always good to switch up your exercise routine so you don’t get bored.

Q. What are some moderate-intensity workouts other than walking and doing chores?
A. Try dancing, playing basketball, or water aerobics.

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