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Wednesday, May 03, 2017 5:00 pm

Ease Into Exercise To Benefit Mind, Body, and Soul

It’s time to break out those new sneakers and start an exercise program for a healthier mind, body, and soul. The calendar and weather are finally in sync, so there are fewer reasons to delay getting outdoors to begin low impact physical activity such as walking. If you have any health concerns, or it has been a long while since you have engaged in regular exercise, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider before you initiate a new exercise program. It’s better to be aware of any precautions and follow recommendations so as to avoid injury and make the experience pleasurable.

Break out those new sneakers! (Photo credit: Erin O'Connell Bednarczyk)

Break out those new sneakers! (Photo credit: Erin O’Connell Bednarczyk)

Assess Your Health Fitness

Before you begin walking (or your preferred activity), consider making time to take a quick assessment of your health and fitness. You may want to know your current state of aerobic ability, exercise tolerance, flexibility, weight, waist circumference and body mass index (BMI). These benchmarks will be useful in gaging your progression to goal and help define your fitness outcome. In addition, this information can be a useful motivator in promoting continued commitment to your exercise program.

  • Measure and record how long it takes you to walk 1 mile.
  • Measure and record your pulse rate immediately before and after walking 1 mile.
  • While standing with feet planted firmly below hips, bend forward and gently reach for your toes (do not bounce). Measure and record distance from finger tips to floor.
  • Weigh yourself upon awakening and record results.
  • Measure and record your waist circumference (at bellybutton).
  • Calculate body mass index (BMI) and record your results.

Create a Fitness Plan

Based on your fitness assessment you can select the most appropriate activity duration and level of intensity to ensure an enjoyable and safe experience. Exercise should be something you look forward to, rather than dread, if you want to be successful in permanently incorporating it into your lifestyle. Key points to keep in mind:

  • Start “low and slow” gradually increasing duration and intensity.
  • Allow time for muscle recovery, particularly following prolonged, intense training workouts.
  • Locate or create a team or buddy group, it’s easier to remain enthusiastic among friends.
  • Alternate your environment, route, and routine to keep boredom at bay.
  • Change it up! Cross-training is helpful in many ways for total body/mind workouts.
  • Modify your exercise plan to suit your body and your schedule. If necessary, find a new activity.

Tips for Success

While it’s true you begin reaping the benefits of regular exercise fairly quickly, it can be a challenge to remain committed. This is where retaking the health and fitness assessment recommended earlier proves helpful. Seeing the improvements in your numbers can be highly motivating! Regular physical activity strengthens muscles (increasing tone and balance), influences mental health (improving memory and reducing stress), and nourishes the soul (improves overall mood and human connection). To ensure fitness success:

  • Get regular, adequate sleep.
  • Eat a healthy, nutritious diet.
  • Drink enough water (non-caffeinated beverages) to fully hydrate (clear or light yellow urine).
  • Wear comfortable clothing (in layers) and replace worn sneakers (footwear) as recommended.
  • If it hurts…Stop. Learn to listen to your body. Seek out an expert opinion from a sports trainer, physical therapist, healthcare provider, or other knowledgeable source if discomfort persists.
  • Give yourself (your teammates/training buddies) kudos for making the effort.