Sticking with your fitness plan in 2017

Scott Yaple.

Many of us make plans to take better care of ourselves by getting more exercise and improving our diets in the new year. Today’s Health Watch will help you develop a fitness improvement plan. It follows the Dec. 24 Health Watch on improving your diet by adding more plant-based foods to your 2017 meals.

Physical fitness improvement is one of the most common resolutions for a new year, but developing a fitness plan and sticking with an exercise regime over the months ahead can be a challenge. Setting a course to improve your fitness in 2017 is an admirable New Year’s resolution, and there are several things you can do to stay on your work-out schedule in the coming year.

Before getting started, think about why you want to improve your fitness. Typically, weight control is at the top of the list for people coming to Island Health and Fitness. Another group of people comes because their physicians encouraged them to start a program that would strengthen muscles, provide more cardiovascular exercise or improve joint flexibility and balance. Those who are most successful at sticking with their fitness plans have a specific goal and measure their progress as they work toward it.

 

Do I need a health assessment before starting a physical fitness program?

 

It is important for anyone starting a fitness program for the first time, or restarting a program after an extended period of time, to get a physical exam from a healthcare professional. The exam can help you focus on the type of exercise you qualify for and what activity would be appropriate for your fitness goals. Island Fitness works closely with physicians and physical therapists at Cayuga Medical Center to develop personal fitness programs. Before starting an Island Fitness program, a person may get a health and lifestyle assessment. It covers workout history, medical history as well as goals in order to develop an individual’s exercise program.

How do I start a fitness plan?

You need to start slow and work up to more intense workouts. Doing too much, too quickly is a common mistake people make. You can expect to have some soreness in your muscles when you start an exercise plan. Pushing too hard, too fast increases muscle soreness and stiffness. Pain discourages people from sticking with their program. Establishing a routine in the first few weeks that builds exercise into your life is a key goal. If you make exercise a routine habit, the benefits of stronger muscles, improved flexibility and overall fitness will follow.

What are some ways to help me stick with a plan?

Set a schedule for your workouts. People who are strict about setting aside specific times on specific days tend to be the most successful in maintaining a fitness plan. It’s not essential to join a fitness program, but for many people joining a gym, having a regular time to work with a trainer or participating in a group exercise class keeps them on track for reaching their goals. It also helps if you have an exercise partner. The partners keep each other accountable for showing up and exercising together.

Monitoring your progress also helps in sticking with your exercise plan. Start with measuring some baseline parameters. Some good ones include heart beats per minute before and after exercise, how long it takes you to walk a set distance such as a mile, how many push-ups you can do in 30 seconds and your waist circumference midway between the top of your hip bone and bottom of your ribs. Expect that you will need at least four to six weeks of following your exercise routine to start seeing results. Every six to eight weeks re-check your baseline metrics. You may need to adjust the time, intensity and type of exercise you do in order to continue improving. But, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you’re exercising just the right amount to meet your fitness goals.