Laurel Dierking, MEd, NFPT

First of all, give yourself a pat on the back for thinking and moving toward better health by looking for credible information! One of the most challenging parts of exercise is knowing where and how to begin. Fortunately, there is a wealth of information available to you to help you get started. Knowing which method of exercise is best is not only up to your personal preference and your goals, but also your current state of physical health and limitations. Starting a new aerobic routine does not only involve physical activity but also proper nutrition, hydration and flexibility.

No matter what your current physical condition is, you can begin with daily stretching. Start today, even if you only do that! Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Flexibility not only enhances your range of motion, but also improves muscle tone and strength while reducing stress and strain on the joints. Keeping your muscles loose and limber also aids in injury prevention. Stretching regularly will help prepare your body for aerobic exercise and will reduce soreness from your new routine. Flexibility is an invaluable, and often neglected, piece of the collective exercise puzzle.

Get Organized
Beginning an aerobic exercise routine involves planning that is determined by the time available to commit to training, your goals, as well as your physical limitations. Start by dedicating a realistic amount of time each day to physical activity or stretching. Ideally, you would work up to between 15 and 60 minutes of consistent aerobic exercise 3 to 5 times each week. If you are affected by obesity, start with low impact activities such as swimming, biking, Pilates, step aerobics or walking, to limit or reduce strain on your joints. Training with a partner is a great way to hold yourself accountable for your exercise.

If you still are not sure about how to begin and need a regimen planned for you to be accountable and more efficient, a great way to start would be to complete metabolic test with a certified health and fitness professional. More specifically, the VO2 test is a metabolic exercise test done in a professional setting that measures your current state of heart health. From this test, the health professional is able to determine what range your heart rate must be in to most efficiently burn fat or carbohydrates. This information is all-important and allows for optimal efficiency when you do take the time to exercise!

Once you have remained consistent with your routine for four to six weeks and you notice that the work is becoming easier, it will be time to progress and switch up your routine. Throughout your exercise regimen it is important to increase the intensity gradually. Changing your routine makes your body work different muscles, builds strength, and also allows for a fresh, exciting change of pace. So, do not get stuck doing the same exercises every day. You can further your progress and avoid a plateau (your body adjusts and becomes familiar to your regular routine, limiting new muscle growth and development) by increasing the intensity, frequency, duration and method of your exercise. For example, if you have been walking, try jogging for short intervals followed by a longer rest (walk) interval, until you can jog for the full desired time.

Keep in mind that in order for your body continue to become more healthy, you must remain mindful with your diet and nutrition. Fueling your body properly could make or break your achievement of physical goals, energy levels, running times, and strength building. Stay focused and allow your body the nutrients it needs to recover and adapt to your new workload.

Ensure Success
As your routine changes and you reach your goals, you are given an exciting opportunity to create new goals for yourself! Don’t hold back. Push yourself and allow your body to surprise you. Your body can work much harder and longer than your mind will tell you it can. Don’t give up after the first inkling of fatigue or frustration. Allow your body to adjust and be patient with yourself. Journaling, meditation, and consistency are also great ways to ensure your success.

Above all have compassion for your body, no matter where you are with your health. Take control of your mental and physical health outcomes and develop your spirit along the way by being open to new opportunities and challenges. With faith in yourself, you cannot fail. Go get after it!

About the Author:
Working within the health field for three years, Laurel Dierking MEd, NFPT, is passionate about cultivating body, mind and spirit awareness through holistic health practices. As a Health and Fitness Professional and yoga instructor at JKFITNESS, Laurel strives to guide individuals on a path to self-awareness, long-term functional fitness, and weight-loss management.

Disclaimer: Before starting any exercise program, please consult with your healthcare provider. This blog post does not reflect the views of the OAC, the National Board of Directors or staff. Information contained in this blog post is not based on scientific research and has not been validated. The OAC does not endorse any merchandise or program mentioned in this blog post.