Summer has arrived, and, if you’re like most Americans who made a New Year’s resolution to get fit and didn’t stick to it, you might be thinking about getting fit now. Although you might be searching the Internet seeing lots of ads for quick-fix fitness solutions, keep in mind that a fitness routine should be personalized to your individual fitness level and your goals.
The good news about getting fit is that you don’t need to fall for the gimmicks or even join a gym (although this can be helpful). All you need to do is assess your current fitness level, design your fitness program, and stick to a routine.
To assess your current fitness level, first consider your overall health. If you haven’t exercised for a few years, are significantly overweight, or have a chronic health or heart condition, you should talk to your doctor and have a medical evaluation before you start exercising. If you think you’re in good health, assess your general fitness level by doing some simple tests: take your pulse before and after a brisk walk, track how long it takes you to walk one mile, see how many push ups or sit ups you can do at one time, measure your waistline at navel level, or calculate your body mass index.
Next, consider why you want to start a fitness program. Are you trying to lose weight? Are you preparing for a race? Or do you just want to enjoy the health benefits of being physically fit? If you are trying to lose weight, you should talk to your doctor about safe weight loss techniques. Write down your goals and stick to them. Having a fitness buddy and setting benchmarks for success will help you commit to a consistent workout routine and achieve your goals.
When designing your own fitness routine, you may be wondering what type of exercise you should include and how much you need. The American Heart Association recommends that adults get a minimum either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week plus two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities. Workout routines should also include daily stretching to improve flexibility and prevent injuries.
Moderate-intensity aerobic activities include brisk walking, water aerobics, riding a bike, pushing a lawn mower, or playing doubles tennis. Vigorous intensity aerobic activities include jogging or running, swimming laps, riding a bike, playing singles tennis, or playing basketball. Strength training exercises include lifting weights, using a resistance band, doing push ups or sit ups, manual labor, and yoga or pilates.
Sticking to your routine is the most important part of improving and maintaining physical fitness. Choosing activities that make you enjoy will help you maintain consistency in your workout. If you hate jogging, try cycling or using an elliptical trainer. If you hate lifting weights, try a yoga or pilates DVD. Make it a point to exercise before work or immediately after, before you have time to think about doing other things. Having a buddy and setting “workout dates” will also help you stay committed to physical fitness.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Start with easy activities and build up slowly to avoid getting injured and having to sit on the sidelines for several weeks. If you miss a day or two, don’t beat yourself up either, just get back on track the next day.