How to Start an Exercise Plan

Starting an Exercise Program

With a new year come the standard resolutions we all make: Lose weight and start exercising.  Sounds good, right? Well, I want to come clean right from the start.

I hate exercising.

I am not one of those “fitness nuts” that you would expect to write one of these blog posts.  I do not enjoy jogging around the neighborhood or having the man on the DVD tell me to do another set.  I’m not saying those techniques are the wrong way to go.  They are just wrong for me.  And that’s the first point I want to make about starting an exercise program.

Enjoy what you do
There are hundreds of ways to be active—biking, climbing, dancing, kickboxing and swimming to name a few. You will have the most success if you enjoy what you are doing. I said I hate exercising. That’s true, but I love to play. Activities involving a ball or some competition suddenly make “exercise” not so bad.

What activities do you like to do or want to try? Make a list and start there. Check out the offerings at your local YMCA or recreation center for ideas. Of course, you don’t have to join a gym to exercise; most local parks are free and offer programming year-round. You can even use household items for strength training.

Include the family, or not
Some of you may need “you” time away from the family. Take it. Let your exercise routine give you that solitude.

Others may use an exercise program as a way to spend more time with their loved ones. If so, find activities that everyone likes to do or make a rotating schedule where a different person picks the activity each week. There are many exercise DVDs available with enough themes and intensities to match everyone’s needs. These are great because they offer instruction on technique that can help limit injuries. Just know that DVDs geared toward adults may not be appropriate for children and adolescents.

Start slowly
This is a marathon, not a sprint! A new exercise program should be the start to a lifetime of activity. Starting slowly and making small increases to your routine every week or month will help put you in a better position to be successful long-term. A little exercise each week over an entire year is better than a lot of exercise in just the first few weeks of January.

Healthy adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, and children and adolescents should do 60 minutes per day. Start with what you can manage and try to build up to these activity targets over time.

Know your motivation
Make a detailed list of the reasons you want to decrease your weight and increase your fitness. Be honest with yourself and tuck it away until you need it. That list can be the push you need to keep going or bring you back to the program if you start to slack off.

Brag about it
Sharing your successes with a close friend or the entire Facebook community can be very uplifting. Making small, attainable goals gives you even more victories to celebrate. And don’t forget to recognize your effort along the way—not just the accomplishments.

Take it to the next level
Once you have found what you like to do and have made exercise part of your daily routine, you are ready for the next step. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has guidelines for adults, children and many special populations regarding the intensity and amount of exercise recommended for long-term health benefits. Incorporate these guidelines into your fitness goals to bring your workouts to the next level.

Physical activity and exercise can offer great enjoyment. They have the added bonus of keeping you healthy. But here is the best news for those of us making New Year’s resolutions: There is something out there for every person and at every skill level. So get started and remember to have fun!

Travis Gallagher, AT
Travis Gallagher, AT, is a certified athletic trainer with Nationwide Children’s Sports Medicine. Prior to joining NCH, he was a clinical and outreach athletic trainer for ten years with a nationally recognized health and rehabilitation system in the Cleveland area. Travis’ main duties include Functional Rehabilitation with a variety of patient types from sports medicine to healthy weight (New U) to oncology (Play Strong). Travis encourages the use of play in his efforts to improve fitness levels and deficits brought on by disease or chronic conditions. When not working, Travis will be seen playing with his family, including his wife and three children (ages 10, 8, & 3). They love going to the pool, metroparks, bike riding and Clippers games.

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