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5 Steps to jump-start your fitness program

By Lynn Allison  From Newsmax


One of the best ways to start your New Year off on the right foot is to plan a fitness program to benefit both your physical and mental health. According to U.S. News & World Report, 60% of us make New Year’s resolutions and 80% of them fail by February. Dieting and exercising top the annual list of changes we intend to make in the new year, but these goals historically fall by the wayside in a short time.

The American Psychological Association says the key to making your resolutions stick is to keep them realistic.

“Don’t make items on your bucket list into resolutions,” Dr. Judy Kuriansky, a renowned clinical therapist and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to a Healthy Relationship,” tells Newsmax. “You may want to run a marathon, but that’s a huge undertaking if you haven’t exercised before and totally unrealistic. Break your resolutions down to smaller, more attainable goals.”

Physical activity can reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve your balance and coordination, help you lose weight — and even improve your sleep habits and self-esteem, says the Mayo Clinic. And the good news is that you can start and stick to your fitness program by following these five steps:

  1. Assess your fitness level. Writing down key measurements will help you create a starting point so you can clearly track your progress. For example, measure your pulse rate before and after walking one mile; establish how many pushups you can do in one minute; see how far you can reach in a forward standing or sitting bend; and record your body mass index.
  2. Design your fitness program. You may want to have a fitness professional create a workout program just for you, but if you want a DIY plan, keep your goals in mind. First, check with your doctor to make sure that there is nothing wrong with your heart or blood vessels, notes Dr. Gabe Mirkin, author of The Healthy Heart Miracle. If overall fitness is the main reason you are starting a new exercise routine, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Choose an activity you like, such as walking, biking, dancing, or swimming. “Start out at a relaxed pace until your muscles feel heavy and then stop,” says Mirkin. “For the first several weeks you may be able to exercise only for a few minutes. Increase the amount of time gradually until you can exercise 30 minutes a day.” Mirkin recommends adding resistance training to strengthen your muscles. Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least twice a week, says the Mayo Clinic. Choose a resistance that will tire your muscles after 12 to 15 repetitions.
  3. Get your equipment ready. Having the proper shoes is important. Running shoes are lighter in weight than cross-trainers so choose the right footwear for your activities. You may want to invest in fitness equipment for the home so visit a local retailer and try the various machines to see which ones you prefer. Simple resistance bands are an inexpensive way to incorporate strength training. You can purchase yoga and Pilates mats just about anywhere, including Walmart.
  4. Get started. Once you’ve established your plan and assembled your equipment, get started by warming up your muscles for at least 10 minutes before engaging in your workout activity. Start off slowly and listen to your body. “If your muscles are tired, take a break,” says Mirkin. Make sure you stay well hydrated before, during and after exercising. Mayo Clinic experts say that three 10-minute sessions of aerobic activity may be more manageable than a 30-minute session for some people. Any amount of activity is better than none at all.
  5. Monitor your progress. There are many fitness apps that help you track your progress. Retake your initial fitness assessment six weeks after you begin your program and then again every six months. You may notice that you need to increase the amount of time you exercise to keep on improving or change your workout strategy to be more effective. If you lose motivation, set new goals, or find other activities. Find a workout buddy so you both stay on track. Starting a fitness program is an important decision and one that can reshape your health for a lifetime.

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