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Exercise
You've had a few days to think about those New Year's resolutions, and almost certainly one of them has to do with exercise. After all, less than half of all US adults meet the physical activity recommendations as put forth by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). This is really unfortunate, since regular exercise has been shown to lessen the risk of many illnesses including:
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Colon cancer
  • Obesity
It's not easy to start an exercise program, especially if you've never exercised regularly before, or if it's been a long time since last you did. So, first things first:

  • See your doctor for a checkup before you get going
  • Be kind to your self. Start easy, set a small number of goals, maybe even just one, and make those goals easily attainable. As you succeed, set your goals a little higher, then a little higher, and then a little higher still.

    New federal exercise guidelines were recently published and go a long way towards making fitness recommendations both understandable and reasonable. Highlights include the need for both aerobic exercise and resistance / strength training:

     

     

    Aerobic Exercise

    Walk briskly for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week

    OR

    Jog for 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week

    OR

    A mix of the above two activities

    PLUS

    Resistance / Strength Training

    8-10 exercises focusing on different parts of your body

    performed on 2 different days at least one day apart



    The good news is that these goals can be accomplished without the need for expensive equipment of gym memberships, and health benefits can be gained even when breaking up aerobic activities into 10-minute sessions. Nonetheless, starting to exercise anew can be challenging, and the guidelines listed above address the minimum requirements for physical activity, not necessarily the optimal ones for you. That’s why one of my favorite fitness recommendations is to work with a personal trainer for a brief period of time. Yes, it’s both a financial and time commitment, but it can be done in a manageable way, and you’re worth it. Here’s the plan:
    • Identify an experienced trainer who has worked with people with your unique health circumstances.
    • Meet with them, explain your goals and limitations, and see if the two of you are a good fit; if not, keep looking.
    • Once you’ve found the fitness trainer you want to work with, schedule a session with them at least twice a week.
    • Keep track of the exercises, time, and number of repetitions involved.
    • Stop the personal fitness sessions after 4-6 weeks, but keep the time in your schedule for your workouts. You now have time committed to your fitness and a personalized exercise program.
    Even though I have a good idea of what I need to do to stay physically fit, I’ve worked with personal trainers myself both to jump start my exercise program, and to learn new ways to stay healthy and keep my fitness regimen fresh and interesting. I’ve also found, truth be told, that when I plunk money down and sign a contract, I’m that much more likely to keep my exercise appointment..!

    A less expensive way to be held accountable? Work out with family or friends.

    In addition to these recommendations, I believe that regular stretching and flexibility exercises are critical to overall health. That’s why I’m a big fan of yoga – you don’t have to stand on your head to do it, either. There are many different classes available, some gentle and others requiring great physical exertion, some for beginners and others for human rubber bands. Look into the various yoga classes in your area and find what’s right for you. I always recommend “splurging” for a one-on-one yoga session with the instructor first before joining a class. This way together you can discuss aims and physical limitations, and the instructor can help tailor a practice that is best for you.

    As you consider these recommendations, keep in mind that you can also get health benefits simply by increasing your day-to-day physical activity. Take the stairs on occasion instead of the elevator, maybe even park towards the back of the lot when next you visit the store. In addition, wear a pedometer. Studies have shown that doing so helps us to take more steps, steps that can be added to your overall fitness activity for the day. Download our free step tracker you can use with a pedometer to gently increase the number of steps you take each day.

    To learn more about the new federal exercise guidelines visit the health.gov web site:
    You may also be interested in Health and Fitness brochures from the American College of Sports and Medicine.

    Wishing you a New Year of peace and good health (and regular exercise!)
    Be well.
    Dr. Russ