5 Steps to Make an Exercise Program That Will Help You Meet Your Goals
Exercising is one of the best things you can do for your well-being. It relieves stress. It reduces your risk for chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. It can help you get stronger for your favorite sports and activities, and can even help significantly lower your risk for many types of cancer, according to one study.
Whether you're a seasoned athlete or you're just getting started on your fitness journey, now is the perfect time to make a fitness plan that will help you meet your goals. Here are 5 steps for creating an effective exercise program.
1. Assess Your Fitness Baseline
Before you get moving, make sure you know your starting point. Recording a few baseline measurements will help you choose your goals, pick your activities and track your progress. Some important health measurements to record include:
- Your pulse at rest and during exercise.
- How long it takes you to walk or run 1 mile.
- Your waist circumference.
- How many push-ups you can do.
Additionally, your health care provider can help you understand health complications you are at risk for by evaluating your family history and screening you for common health conditions.
2. Create Meaningful Goals
When you choose your goals, consider the reason why you want to make a change. It’s easier to stay motivated toward a goal if the outcome is very meaningful to you!
Not sure where to begin? A well-rounded exercise plan that includes a balance of aerobic, strength and flexibility training is a great place to start. Work toward getting about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day along with strength training at least 2 times per week. Stretching after exercise can help prevent soreness — try using a foam roller as part of your after-exercise stretching and recovery routine.
3. Make Your Action Plan
Consider your goals and think about what kinds of exercise will help you achieve them. It’s also important to think about what kinds of exercise you enjoy. It’s easier to reach your goals if exercise doesn’t feel like a chore!
The next part of planning might be the most challenging one: finding time to exercise. Although it can be difficult, setting aside time for your health is important for your well-being. Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to the gym – it could be as simple as a brisk walk outside during your lunch break.
4. Get Started!
You might be excited to jump right into your exercise plan, but doing too much too fast can lead to burnout or injury. Don’t expect to do everything perfectly on day one. Your goals are something to work toward. Allow yourself time to grow stronger by gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts over time.
5. Track Your Progress.
Check in with your health about every 6 weeks. How do you feel? Have your baseline measurements changed? Tracking your progress helps you measure which parts of your exercise program are working – and which ones aren’t – so that you can adjust as needed.
While tracking progress is important, it’s equally important to not let numbers or scales affect the way you feel. These measurements don’t matter as much as the fact that each time you exercise, you’re getting one step closer to a healthier, stronger you.
About the Author
Jessica Copland, MD, is a family medicine provider with LeBauer Primary Care at MedCenter High Point.