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What should I consider before beginning an exercise program?

Emilia Klapp
Nutrition & Dietetics

Before you begin an exercise program, you should undergo a physical, especially if you have an existing medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes, or fibromyalgia. Depending on your condition, a doctor may want your exercise regimen to be tailored specifically. Also bear in mind these tips:

  • Begin training gradually, catering to your fitness level. If you push
         too hard at the start, your muscles will be sore for days and
         you may feel sick. This also could sap your motivation. -- If
         you are uncertain about where to begin, consult a fitness
         trainer who can help fashion a program to your needs.
  • Try to join a program to add a social element to your regimen.
         Exercising in solitude takes discipline.
  • Exercise with someone who is in about the same shape as you are.
         You may get discouraged otherwise.
  • Vary your routines to keep from getting bored, such as walking
         three miles every other day and lifting weights on the days you
         don’t walk.
  • Consume adequate antioxidants such as vitamins C and E to
         protect against free radicals.
  • Choose activities you enjoy. If exercise isn’t fun, you won’t do it
         for long.

Before starting an exercise program it's important to understand why you are starting to exercise,  how you feel about starting to exercise, what scares you about starting to exercise, where is exercise in your list of priorities, what kind of exercise do you enjoy and how will you continue to exercise when life gets in the way. Write these things done. 

One reason people stop exercising is because they aren't mentally prepared to exercise so it's important to evaluate what is going on mentally so that you can be clear when you get started. For example, if you realize you are feeling a lot of anxiety about starting an exercise program, recognize that and see if you can get to what's behind that. What is the anxiety about? When people aren't able to recognize this and other mental barriers, they aren't able to deal with it and soon after starting an exercise program they stop. Why? Because of the unresolved anxiety or other mental barriers. 

The next step upon awareness/realization would be to come up with some strategies for dealing with the mental barriers so that you are able to move forward. Step by step goal setting can be helpful with that. What do you need to do everyday to move forward?

Before starting an exercise program, there are several things that you should possibly consider. If you have never exercised, it’s been a long time, or you’re over the age of 40, a thorough physical by your primary medical provider is strongly advised to make sure that you are physically ready to participate in regular exercise. Beyond that it’s important to consider why you’re beginning an exercise program, what your eventual goals are, and what possible obstacles, there might be to you continuing your exercise program and how best to overcome these obstacles. If you have clearly defined and manageable goals it makes it more likely you will stick with your exercise program and be motivated to continue to reach manageable goals.  

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.