It’s important to think about what you would like to accomplish with an activity program. Would you like to trim a few pounds, play with your children more, or even reduce your risk of a chronic illness? Whatever your reason, by setting realistic goals and a little planning, you can successfully make physical activity part of a healthy lifestyle. Follow these guidelines to help you get started:

Discuss with your physician. Talk to your physician about activities that would be safe for you. Especially if you have any health conditions or concerns.

Set personal fitness goals. Setting goals can get you on the track for success. Goals need to be specific, realistic and important to you. Break them into both short term and long term goals. Short term goals span over the next few weeks. While long term goals include a few months or even years. Write your goals on paper, then regularly review and update your goals so that you can build on your success.

Assemble your equipment. Think about what environment is comfortable for you to be active. Explore a local gym or community center or choose to stay at home with hand-held weights and DVD’s. Be sure to wear appropriate shoes and clothes for the activity.

Assess your current fitness level. Most people have some idea of just how fit they are. But a few simple assessments for a baseline can help you set realistic goals. These assessments can also be replicated every few months to show the progress you are making. The assessment is based on guidelines from the National Institute on Aging.

·     Aerobic: To assess your aerobic fitness, take a brisk walk. Pick a fixed distance, on a track, in your neighborhood or at the local shopping mall. Using a watch or stopwatch, record the amount of time it takes you to walk a fixed distance. Record your pathway and the time it took you to complete the distance.

·     Upper body strength: To assess your upper body strength count the number of arm curls you can perform in 2 minutes. Sitting in a chair with good posture, begin with arms hanging at your side and a light weight in your hands. By bending your elbow, lift weight towards the shoulder then return to start position. Complete this movement as often as you can in 2 minutes and record.

·     Lower body strength: To assess your lower body strength count the number of chair stands you can do safely in 2 minutes. Sit on a chair that is braced against a wall, with your feet on the floor at shoulder width apart. Move from a sitting to a standing position as often as you can in 2 minutes and record.

·     Flexibility: If you’ve had hip or back injury, talk with your physician before you do this test. To assess flexibility, sit securely toward the front of a sturdy chair, and stretch one leg straight out in front of you with your heel on the floor, toes pointed upward. Bend the other leg so that your foot is flat on the floor. Slowly bend forward from your hips and reach as far as you can toward your toes. Record the distance for each leg.

·     Balance: To assess balance, time yourself as you stand on one foot without assistance, for as long as possible. Be sure to stand near something sturdy, like a countertop, in case you lose your balance. Repeat the test with both feet and record the length of time balanced.

·     Body composition: Body composition can be measured in both body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.

Body mass index (BMI) is calculated from a person’s weight and height. It is used by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and The World Health Organization as a way to help define obesity.

To calculate your body mass index (BMI), click here to see the BMI calculator.

·     If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the “underweight” range.

·     If your BMI is 18.5-24.9, it falls within the “normal” or healthy weight range.

·     If your BMI is 25.0- 29.9, it falls within the “overweight” range.

·     If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the “obese” range.

If your BMI falls outside of the “normal” or healthy weight range, you may want to talk to your physician about how you might achieve a healthier body weight. Obesity and overweight have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.

Waist circumference is another way to measure body composition. Your waist measurement can determine if you are at a higher risk of developing obesity related conditions. You are at greater risk if you:

Have a waist measurement greater than 40 inches and are male.

Have a waist measurement greater than 35 inches and are a non-pregnant woman.

To measure your waist circumference place a cloth measuring tape just above the hipbones. Record both your BMI and waist circumference.

Repeat the assessment every few weeks of your activity program and begin to track your progress.

Now you know your current fitness level, assembled your equipment and have set some realistic goals for an activity program, your journey to healthy living has begun.

Source: National Health Information Center and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Now that you’re ready to begin, below are a few tips to help you get started:

Start slowly Begin your program at a level that is comfortable for you. Most people begin their program too intensely and end up injured or sore. Soreness and injuries are common with exercise that is overdone. Increase F.I.T.T. (frequency, intensity, time, type) principles gradually.

Choose activities you enjoy. You are more likely to stick with an activity program you enjoy. So if it’s swimming, hiking on a trail, or hitting the local gym, choose activities you enjoy.

Spice it up with variety. Different types of exercises can keep boredom at bay. Try activities from all four types of exercise - aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance. Alternating between activities can keep things interesting and also reduce your chances of injury.

Build activity into your daily routine. Anything from a walk at lunchtime to sit-ups while you watch TV, choose a time and place that is convenient for you.

Make a physical activity schedule. Finding time to exercise can be challenging. To make it easier, schedule activity into your planner like you would any other appointment.

Find a buddy. Exercising with a friend can make exercise a social activity. It also can help keep you motivated by making it difficult to skip a workout.

Set aside time to rest. Plan time between exercise sessions for your body to rest and recover. This helps keep you safe and free from injury.

Keep written records. A written journal of your activities can help show how far you have progressed and help you stay on track.

Know when to stop. Stop exercise immediately and contact a healthcare professional if:

·     If you have pain or pressure in your chest, shoulder, neck or arm;

·     Feel dizzy or sick to your stomach;

·     Break out in a cold sweat;

·     Have muscle cramps;

·     Feel severe pain in joints, feet, ankles, or legs.

Source: National Health Information Center