GTJ Health Series: Starting a New Fitness Routine

Group of people at the gymThe contents of this article are for informational purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

With my last column I outlined successful strategies for achieving New Year’s resolutions. This week I will focus on a common resolution – starting a new fitness routine.

Fitness: An Introduction

We all know exercise is good for us.  Exercise helps us reduce our risk for diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and heart attack.  However, you may not know that exercise has many other important functions.  The endorphins released during exercise help improve mood and can control depression and anxiety symptoms.  For those of us who are looking to lose weight or tone up this holiday season, exercise is the driving force as it helps burn calories and defines muscle.  Here are some tips to get started!

A Roadmap to Success

  1. Determine your Goals: There are many reasons people begin a fitness routine.  Many work out to lose weight, while others do so to tone, gain muscle, or improve self-confidence.  Before beginning your new fitness routine, consider what your goals are and write them down.
  2. Consult your Physician: Even if it hasn’t been that long, schedule an appointment and have your doctor assess whether you’re healthy enough for exercise and if you have any limitations.  By knowing your limitations you can better tailor your fitness routine to achieve your goals while avoiding harm to yourself.
  3. Get Equipped/Enlist a Professional: Each fitness activity has its own equipment and skill requirements.  Before you begin a new fitness routine, make sure you have the right equipment.  If you are beginning a running routine, get fitted for running shoes (I recommend Fleet Feet).  If you are starting to do yoga, having the right yoga mat can make all the difference.  While not necessary for some activities, a fitness professional can be a great way to get you started with a new fitness routine.  If you are starting weight training regimen, a personal trainer can guide you into the appropriate exercises for your goals and the correct form and technique to minimize injury.
  4. Make it a Date: Grab a significant other or friend and schedule workout dates with them.  While it might be easy to hit the snooze button if you’re going on a solo run, if you have to meet a friend, you’re suddenly accountable to someone other than yourself and thus more likely to complete the activity.
  5. Know Yourself: Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit who you are.  If you love competition – join a sports league.  If you love solitude-take up jogging.
  6. Variety: Try to mix in different types of activities as well as days off to give your body a rest.
  7. Start and Go Slow: As you start a new exercising routine, take it slow and advance incrementally.
  8. Record your Progress: By setting goals and keeping track of your exercise, you are more likely to achieve your goals.   A review of several large studies in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that using a pedometer and setting a specific goal for number of steps taken per day increased physical activity by 27 percent and helped those people lose more weight and get lower blood pressure compared to those who did not use a pedometer or set a goal.  To achieve your fitness goals, write them down, record your progress, and celebrate your accomplishments!

Which Type of Exercise is For You

  Calories Burned During an Hour of Activity

Ideal For

Exercise 125 lb PersonMila Kunis Black Swan weight loss 175 lb PersonReese+Jake+Go+Jogging+Santa+Monica+DkA1j3XJT3Zl
Aerobics 283 396 Social fitness
Cycling 453 635 Commuters
Hiking 340 476 Outdoor Enthusiasts
Running (8 minute mile) 708 992 Seeking Solitude
Swimming 453 635 Fish
Walking 198 277 Beginners
Yoga 226 317 Seeking Inner Peace


Liked this article? Stay tuned for Alex’s next article on What Obamacare Means for You!

Alex Berger, a new GTJ contributing columnist, is a native of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area.  He graduated in 2008 from the University of North Carolina and is currently in his last year of a combined MD/MPH program. He is excited to be back in the DC area and to share tips on nutrition, health, and fitness. He can be reached at Alexander_Berger@med.unc.edu.