Health Q&A - Starting an exercise program

June 10, 2002|By Christine L. Moats

Q: When starting an exercise program, what are some guidelines to follow?

A: Here's the checklist before you get going:

-- Check with your physician prior to starting an exercise program.

-- Start slowly and increase your exercise time slowly. Doing too much, too soon can hurt you, particularly if you have been inactive.

-- Wear proper shoes, clothing or equipment for any activity you are involved in, i.e., walking or running shoes, helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, etc.

-- Make sure your muscles are warmed up before you stretch or begin to exercise. For example, take a 3 to 5 minute walk, march in place or pump your arms lightly before getting started.


-- Always wear identification when exercising.

-- Exercise should not hurt or make you feel overly tired. You might feel some soreness, a slight discomfort or a bit weary but you should not feel pain. You should feel good after exercising.

-- Measure your exercise by time not distance when getting started.

-- Slow down or rest if you need to.

-- If possible, exercise with a friend.

-- Avoid exercise in extreme temperatures.

-- If you experience shortness of breath, extreme fatigue or pain, then stop what you are doing.

-- Exercise at a pace that is comfortable for you. You should be able to talk while exercising.

-- Do activities that you enjoy.

Q: What is the F.I.T. plan?

A: An F.I.T. plan stands for frequency, intensity and time of exercise:

Frequency of exercise: 3-7 days per week (aerobic exercise)

Intensity of exercise: 50-85 percent of maximum heart rate

To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. That number should be your maximum heart rate. If you are just starting an exercise program, you want to stay at the lower half of your target heart rate initially. If you take medication that blunts your heart rate response such as a beta-blocker, you will need to use the "talk test" to determine how hard you are working. You should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising.

Time (duration) of exercise: 20-60 minutes.,

Christine L. Moats is wellness coordinator at Washington County Hospital.

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