“It is always a good idea, when starting a fitness program, to consult medical and exercise professionals,” says Eric Coley, a registered nurse at Community Hospital and an exercise physiologist.
“It is important to get clearance from your doctor that you are healthy enough to exercise. And most gyms have trainers who can help tailor a workout to individual needs.”
One of the biggest mistakes people make, says Coley, is to start out too hard, too fast, or for too long a session. To avoid injury or overwhelm, which could end the exercise program before it has a chance to take root, Coley recommends beginning with a comfortable, easy pace or intensity that allows you to carry on a conversation as you exert yourself.
“Start by going for a walk, either outside or on a treadmill,” he says. “Go for 30 minutes, three times a week, with a goal of increasing it, over time, to 45 minutes, five days a week. Start with a low to moderate intensity and build from there. You get more done by taking a more moderate, controlled approach than if you jump right into it with weights that are too heavy, inclines too severe, or resistance too strong. You may survive it, but you won’t return to it. And injury is a great excuse to give it up.”
Because people are creatures of habit, Coley says, we like to establish routines, get into a regular program we can count on and complete with a sense of accomplishment. If it is too hard or too inconvenient, we won’t stick with it.
But if it is a program we can live with, grow with, and enjoy, we will persist and benefit from the investment.
“I look at exercise on a whole continuum,” he says. “You can work your cardiovascular system by exercising at moderate intensity, say, on a treadmill.
And then you can add intervals of shorter periods of time at a burst of higher intensity to build strength. By working with various machines, you can get a good aerobic workout while also focusing on strengthening specific body parts. The clearer you are on your fitness goals, the better your chances of creating the right exercise program to help achieve them.”