Exercise: Where to begin?
By Nancy Oliveira, MS, RD, and Mark Erickson, CPT
Your doctor has prescribed you to exercise, but where to begin? Despite fitness facilities and specialty exercise studios popping up on every corner, you may still be unsure how to start and what is the right program for you. Try these tips:
Go with your gut: What appeals to you most? Are you refreshed after walking in your neighborhood listening to upbeat tunes on your iPod, or do you feed off the energy of a crowded Zumba dance class? Do you enjoy the full-body strengthening and stretching of yoga, or prefer an intense but easy to follow class like spinning? Maybe you have the most fun at home with a WII Fitness System. The goal is simply to get moving but to do it consistently. You’re more likely to stick with a routine that fits your personality.
Match your routine to your schedule: Don’t choose a gym miles out of the way. Even if it’s a fabulous facility, you probably won’t stick with it. Choose one located on the same route as your home or office and be sure the hours and class times match your schedule. What are pockets of time that you can fully dedicate to 30-60 minutes of exercise? It may be early morning before your family wakes up or your work lunch hour. Determine the time, how often you want to exercise, and make it a habit. Mark it in your calendar if necessary!
Visit and trial: Ask if you can visit a facility for one day or trial a class to see if you like the atmosphere and staff. Some places offer one-week trial memberships. Make sure you like the space and that it offers enough exercise options to fit your schedule before committing to a contract.
Don’t give up on the first try: Research says it takes five times to do a routine before it becomes a habit. Also, trainer and instructor personalities vary widely. If you were intimidated in a yoga class or didn’t “click” with a trainer, try again with someone else, which could be a completely different experience!
Create a well-rounded routine: Many people only do cardio (e.g., jogging) because they believe it burns the most calories, but adding strength training will boost your metabolism even more effectively and promote strong bones—in fact, your metabolism remains elevated for up to 48 hours after strength exercise! Yoga and Pilates lengthens tight muscles, improves balance and posture, and increases core strength. Research shows yoga may even help to reduce back pain. Including different exercises along with stretching reduces the risk of injury caused by repetitive movements and helps decrease boredom.
Consult with a certified fitness expert: Personal trainers can create an individualized regimen (done at a gym or at home) that ensures you are exercising properly with your medical conditions and are maximizing your physical capacity. They will also instruct you on correct form to prevent injuries.
Nancy is an outpatient dietitian at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital and an AFAA-certified and Zumba-certified exercise instructor. Mark is a Level II trainer at Healthworks Fitness Centers and a NASM-certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, and performance enhancement specialist. He appeared on the Dr. Oz Show as a trainer for the Wedding Weight Loss Challenge and has led hundreds of clients to be fit and forever change the way they view exercise.
Want more motivation? Attend Nancy and Mark’s free exercise workshop “Breaking Out of Your Exercise Rut” on Tuesday, January 24 from 1-1:45 pm in Huvos Auditorium at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, 1153 Centre Street, Boston, MA.
For more information and to register, call 617-983-4593.