When It Comes to Exercise, Start Slow - PIH Health

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Published on December 29, 2014

When It Comes to Exercise, Start Slow

Exercise slow when you start a new exercise program

Exercise slow when you start a new exercise program

A new year is rapidly approaching, and a lot of people are going to put “Begin exercise program” on their New Year’s resolution lists. That’s a great idea! But if you’re planning to stick with this program, do yourself a favor and start out slow. Our bodies and minds weren’t meant to handle a big change in habits all at once. That’s why crash diets don’t work and gyms that are so crowded on January 1 are back to empty on February 1.

Angel Yen MD, a primary care physician at our Whittwood Family Practice, said, “If you start slowly and build up gradually, you’ll have a much better chance of sticking to the program. And be sure to give yourself plenty of time to warm up and cool down with easy walking and gentle stretching.”

As you consider what kind of exercise program is best for you, keep three key points in mind.

Know Where You Are

You probably have a pretty good idea of your current fitness level. But if not, there are a few things you can look at to give you a pretty good idea.

  • What’s your resting heart rate?
  • What’s your heart rate after you walk around the block?
  • How many push-ups, sit-ups or pull-ups can you do?
  • What is your body mass index?

Take this information to your doctor and get some advice from her about what you should or shouldn’t attempt right away. And be sure to mention any pains or strains you have.

Know Where You’re Going

It’s a good idea to have a goal of what you’re trying to accomplish, and you probably already do. Are you trying to lose weight? Are you preparing for a marathon? Having clear goals is a great way to gauge your progress. But don’t expect too much too soon. Losing 20 pounds in two weeks isn’t just hard to do, it’s probably not even a good idea. And that marathon goal should be broken up into smaller chunks: start with a 5K, then a 10K, then half marathon. Achieving these smaller goals will be a lot more satisfying than putting “Run a marathon” on your to-do list.

Know How to Get There

As your exercise program progresses, chances are, you’ll need to make some adjustments along the way. You may experience an injury that forces you to rest your leg for a while. You may find that you need a variety of activities to keep the boredom at bay. You may even discover a new love of a certain sport that gives you more pleasure while exercising than you’ve ever had before. Be flexible (pun intended).


So, go slow. Take the long view. And even though it may seem like you’re taking it too slow, you’re still a lot better off than you were a week ago. It’s all relative. Do you know what the snail said as he sat on the tortoise’s back? Wheeeeee!!!

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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