Exercise programs are becoming more popular. There are gyms with many different types of aerobics classes and exercise equipment catering to a range of people.

Starting an exercise program can be like taking a step into another world if you are unfamiliar with what’s involved. Talk to a gym supervisor to find out about the many options available.

Health benefits
A customised exercise program is a great way to stay fit and it provides a wide range of physical and mental benefits, including:

  • Improved condition of the heart and lungs
  • Increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
  • Increased aerobic fitness
  • Improved muscle tone and strength
  • Weight management
  • Better coordination, agility and flexibility
  • Improved balance and spatial awareness
  • Increased physical confidence
  • Reduced risk of chronic disease
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved general and psychological wellbeing
  • Greater self-confidence and self-esteem.

Getting started
Before you get started, it will help if you:

  • Assess your fitness level
  • Design your fitness program
  • Assemble your equipment.

Assess your fitness level
You probably have some idea of how fit you are. However, assessing and recording baseline (starting) fitness scores can give you benchmarks (points of comparison) against which to measure your progress. Check:

  • Your pulse rate before and after a walk
  • How long it takes to walk a certain distance
  • How many push-ups you can do at a time
  • Your waist circumference at the level of your navel
  • Your body mass index (BMI). This is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres.

Design your fitness program
When you design your fitness program, keep these points in mind:

  • Consider your goals. Are you starting a fitness program to lose weight or for some other reason?
  • Think about your likes and dislikes. Choose activities you’ll enjoy.
  • Plan a logical progression of activity. If you’re just beginning to exercise, start cautiously and progress slowly.
  • Build activity into your daily routine. Schedule time to exercise as you would any other appointment.
  • Think variety. Varying your activities (cross-training) can keep exercise boredom at bay.
  • Allow time for recovery.
  • Put it on paper. A written plan may encourage you to stay on track.

Assemble your equipment
Be sure to pick shoes designed for the activity you have in mind, as well as your foot type. If you’re planning to invest in gym equipment, choose something that’s practical, enjoyable and easy to use.

Getting started
Remember to:

  • Start slowly and build up gradually.
  • Break things up if you have to.
  • Be creative. Include other activities such as walking, bicycling, rowing or dancing in your routine.
  • Listen to your body. Don’t push yourself too hard.
  • Be flexible. If you’re not feeling good, give yourself permission to take a day or two off.

Monitor your progress
Assess your progress at six weeks after you start your program and then again every three to six months. You may need to increase the amount of time you exercise in order to continue improving. On the other hand, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you’re exercising just the right amount to meet your fitness goals.

If you lose motivation, set new goals or try a new activity. Exercising with a friend or taking a class at a local fitness centre may help.

Where to get help

  • Your local council
  • Local gymnasium
  • Smartplay Tel. (03) 9674 8777
  • ‘Go for your life’ directory
  • ‘Go for your life’ Infoline Tel: 1300 73 98 99

Things to remember

  • A customised exercise program is a great way to stay fit and it will bring a wide range of physical and mental benefits.
  • Start slowly and build up gradually and monitor your progress.
  • See your doctor for a check-up and assess your fitness level.
  • Consider your fitness goals. Are you starting a fitness program to help lose weight or for some other reason?

This information has been sourced from the Better Health Channel in consultation with Smartplay.

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