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Fitting Fitness Back Into Your Life

In the good old days before you were married, had kids, got the promotion, bought the house, and did the yard work, you really worked out.

Hard, fast, regularly. Back then, you could run a five-minute mile. Or bench press your weight. Or sweat through that 90-minute advanced aerobics class.

These days, are you spending more time feeling guilty about not working out than working out?

But you have plenty of company. You have joined the 4 in 10 adult Americans of all ages who admit they are not physically active at all, according to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Exercise experts have heard it all before - - busy boomers complaining that, between carpools and van pools and making ends meet, they barely have time for a movie, much less a regular exercise routine.

Here are some tips.

  • Blot out that "hard body image" memory.

    It is normal to have a mental image of yourself when you last exercised regularly. If your image is from high school, you could be in big trouble. Even if it was from last year, forget it. Be in the present.

    Start slowly.

    Do much less than you think you are able to and always talk to your doctor first. Take a 10-minute stroll if you are newly back to workouts. Consider walking as a good way to get back to exercise.

    Know the risks of too much, too fast.

    Go too fast and you're likely to get injured. That could set you back to square one.


    Plan your workout wardrobe so you will be comfortable. Consider the weather you will be walking in and decide: long pants, long sleeves, shorts, hat?

    Do not skimp on shoes.

    A good pair of shoes should cost about $100 and they will help ensure good shock absorption and cushioning. Which type? If you are walking with the hope of jogging eventually, buy running shoes. If you plan to walk as your main exercise, get walking shoes.

    Do not overlook good socks.

    Best for workouts: Socks with some synthetic fibers (rather than all-cotton) because they wick away sweat better. When you try on exercise shoes, wear your exercise socks.

    Increase your duration of exercise in small increments.

    Spend one week minimum at each phase. Exactly how long you will walk in each phase will depend on your stamina and your doctor's advice. But you might begin with as little as a 15- or 20-minute walk, then work up. Add duration before speed. You can increase the length of the walk each phase, by perhaps five minutes a phase. Soon, you will be at the recommended 30 minutes (or more) a day, five or more days a week. Accept yourself where you are.

    Do the talk test.

    If you cannot talk with ease as you walk or jog, you are going too fast and trying to do too much.

    Remember to stay well-hydrated.

    The thirst mechanism is less sensitive by age 50.

    Add strength training to the cardiovascular routine.

    But only when you are ready, and be sure to consult with an exercise physiologist, a fitness professional trained to advise you on the proper way to lift weights.

    Consider getting an exercise buddy.

    An exercise buddy could help increase your faithfulness to your new routine. 

    Be realistic about the payoff.

    You might notice looser waistbands but no difference on the scale. As you get up into the 35-, 40- or 45-minute walks that are brisk, you can expect weight loss. But figure it takes six to eight weeks to transform your body. And even if you do not lose a pound, you are healthier if you exercise.

Starting a Daily Exercise Program

It is always important to consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. This is particularly true if any of the following apply to your current medical condition:

  • chest pain or pain in the neck and/or arm
  • shortness of breath
  • a diagnosed heart condition
  • joint and/or bone problems
  • dizziness
  • currently taking cardiac and/or blood pressure medications
  • have not previously been physically active

If one or more of the statements listed above applies for you, see your doctor before beginning an exercise program. An exercise stress test may be used to help plan your exercise program.

If none of these apply to you, start gradually and sensibly. However, if you feel any of the physical symptoms listed above when you start your exercise program, contact your doctor right away.

Online Resources:

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American College of Sports Medicine

American Council on Exercise

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

Answers.com Guide to Sports Medicine and Orthopedics


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