Eleven Tips for Exercise Success

You’ve heard it so often that you may tune it out, yet it bears repeating: You can gain good health and youthful fitness with regular exercise. Here are 11 tips to help you achieve exercise success.

1. Set Realistic Goals

Be realistic about your exercise goals if you are starting a program. You’ll be discouraged if you expect to achieve too much too soon. Exercise should be a gradual, but challenging, process. Weight loss, muscle strength, and endurance can be achieved with regular exercise over time.

2. Maximize Workout Time

The American Academy of Sports Medicine recommends 30-45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 5-6 days per week. You may want to begin with 3-4 days per week. Cardiovascular exercise is defined as achieving 65-85 percent of your maximum heart rate. An efficient workout can be completed in 30 minutes if you achieve and sustain your heart rate goal. A 50-60 minute workout at a slow pace is less beneficial.

Note: Your maximum heart rate = 0.67 x your age.

3. Exercise with a Friend

Use the buddy system to motivate yourself and a friend to exercise regularly. But keep in mind that your goal is to exercise, not catch up on the latest news. If you can carry on a conversation while taking a stroll in the park, or walking side-by-side on a treadmill, you are probably not getting a good workout.

4. Wear Good Shoes

Your shoes are your most important piece of equipment. There are two criteria in selecting shoes. First, the shoes should be designed for the specific exercise activity. Second, the shoes must fit properly. Many back and lower extremity injuries (hips, knees, ankles and feet) are the result of improper shoes.

5. Vary Cardiovascular and Strength Training Exercises

Cardiovascular exercises, such as walking or using an elliptical machine, can become boring. Add variety to your exercise program. For example, include weight training, yoga or spinning classes. These help maintain cardiovascular fitness while also maintaining muscle tone and strength. A combination of cardio and strength training is essential for overall fitness and weight control.

6. Use Exercise Equipment Properly

An elliptical machine or stairclimber should be used to increase your heart rate. These machines are designed for cardio fitness, not resistance training. For example, a stair machine set at a high resistance may require too much effort that can lead to injury such as a strained back. Lifting weights is a slower-paced exercise, and working out with Nautilus equipment or free weights requires a controlled, steady movement. Quick, ballistic weightlifting is a common cause of injury.

7. Listen to Your Body

There are times when pain or injury interferes with exercise. Therefore, listen to your body. Do not push yourself through pain. If necessary, seek medical advice and treatment. But do not let injury discourage all exercise. Changing your exercise routine can maintain fitness while recovering from injury.

8. Hydrate with Plain Water

Exercise requires hydration with plain water. Sports drinks and commercial flavored water have added sodium and sugars with unwanted calories and artificial additives. Electrolyte replacement is unnecessary when exercise does not exceed ninety minutes.

9. Stretch After Exercise

Stretching is an important part of a regular exercise program. It helps prevent injury and maintain muscle strength and tone. However, stretching should always be done when the muscles are warm, after a cardiovascular workout. Stretching warm muscles maximizes flexibility. Stretching before workout may result in sore muscles and potential injury.

10. Track Nutrition

A well-balanced diet is the foundation of your exercise program. Complex carbohydrates, such as multi-grain breads and cereals, are essential for stamina. Protein is the building block for muscle strength. Stamina and strength decrease with age, but proper nutrition can significantly delay this decline.

11. No Excuses

There are many excuses not to exercise. “I don’t have time.” “I’m too tired.” “I get bored easily.” But these are only excuses. Exercise is a proven method of preventing disease, reducing cancer and improving overall and mental health. A regular exercise program leads to a healthy, youthful, and more energetic life. Exercise starts when you do.

Mary Anthony, DO

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