5 Steps to Start and Stick with a Fitness Routine

January 3, 2011

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fitness routineThinking of starting a new fitness program? Unsure how to make the fitness habit stick? Here’s the advice I give my patients about getting—and staying—active.

First of all, check in with your doctor. Depending on your current fitness level, health conditions, physical limitations, and other factors, certain fitness routines or exercising too aggressively might be dangerous. So check in with your doctor before you start a new fitness plan.

Second, start slow. The worst thing you can do it to try and go from nothing to 100 percent. I see far too many people make this mistake. While it’s true that a woman should aim for 5 hours of physical activity a week and men for 3 hours, I would never recommend you try to do it in the first week!

If you do, you’ll likely end up either discouraged, injured, or both. Instead, try to add five minutes of activity to your day, and when your body adjusts to that, add five more minutes. It’s not only less intimidating, but it helps you gradually build your endurance level and adjust to being more active.

Third, resist the urge to spend a lot of money on a gym membership or fitness equipment right away. Start out by buying yourself a good pair of walking shoes and maybe a new workout outfit. Once you work your way up to walking for 30 minutes at a time, then it’s time to consider joining the gym or buying a treadmill.

Fourth, remember that exercise alone will not solve a weight problem. Make sure you pair your new fitness routine with a sound low-calorie, high-nutrition food plan and counseling to address the psychological and behavioral factors involved in your weight problem.

Finally, remember it’s never too late. No matter how long it’s been or what shape you are in currently, there is always room for fitness in your life.

A perfect example is a man I met when he was in his late 40s who had a BMI over 40. He had not exercised in years and suffered from painful arthritis as a result of his weight. One day after he had lost about 40 pounds, he came into my office happier than I had ever seen him.

When I asked him why, he replied that over the last few months he had set the goal to walk down his long driveway to his mailbox. At first, he took along a lawn chair and walked as far as he could, stopping to rest along the way. Gradually he could go a little further, and a little further.

That morning he had walked all the way to the mailbox and back without stopping! It may not seem like a lot, but it was the start of his journey toward adding fitness into his life. And today, he’s well on his way to losing the excess weight and now walks for more than 30 minutes at a time without stopping.

Like him, you too can start and stick with a fitness routine and begin to live a healthier, fuller life.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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