Fitness Forward
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 12:54AM
Stella Galichia in exercise, fitness, heart disease, weight loss

I was driving around the Wichita streets the other day, and saw the sidewalks filled with people walking, jogging, kids playing in the park. As terrific as the summer is, Kansas in autumn can be a perfect time for exercising outside. With kids back to school, many of us adults look to start our exercise programs, and lose a few pounds before the holidays. The best way to do this is by starting an exercise program. But, many of my patients ask, where does one begin?

If it’s been a while since you’ve exercised, if you have a history (or family history) of cardiovascular disease or diabetes, if you are over twenty pounds overweight, or over the age of 40, I suggest consulting your physician before embarking on a regimen. Knowledge is everything; and exercising as consciously as you can means you will realize the greatest benefits from your program. Here are a few places to start:

1. Weigh yourself.

See where you are, and where you want your body to be. Your physician can give guidelines as to a healthy weight range based on your gender and height. Talk to your doctor about any lifestyle or medications you are on, as these can affect appetite and weight levels. Include any history of eating disorders or obesity, as these can make a difference in how you and your physician approach exercise and weight management.

2. Walk a mile.

Someone can help you find and take your pulse (generally speaking – find with two fingers on your wrist or the side of your throat). Take your pulse reading before and after the walk, and note the record it. See how long it took you to walk a mile, and note that too. Are you out of breath, or just getting going? In other words, observe how you’re feeling before, after, and during exertion.

3. Measurements.

An easy way to check for fitness levels is to measure. Measure the circumference of your waist. Have a health professional or fitness specialist help you find your BMI (body mass index) score. Any bone mass scan can be very instrumental to see what risk you may have for osteoporosis. These simple readings can be a great source of information for you moving ahead.

Your doctor may have other tests he or she wants you to take in order to get the ball rolling on your fitness future. So the next step is to decide what you like to do. Studies show that even thirty minutes of exercise a day helps stave off heart disease, reduces weight, increases enjoyment of life, and reduces the risk of depression, stroke, and diabetes.

Injury can be an issue, so be sure to drink water before, during, and after exercise. Stretching for at least fifteen minutes before and after running, cycling, or other types of more vigorous exercise is ideal. As we age, we must continue to concentrate on flexibility, bone strength, and muscle and endurance. Plus, gentle stretching is a terrific way to avoid injury and relax. If you have had a previous injury (particularly to the back, the hamstrings, or the knees) review what the best exercises are for your particular situation. Most importantly, however, I caution my patients to listen to their own bodies. We used to say “no pain, no gain,” but I advocate more of a moderate, continuous, fun exercise regime that makes you feel great, laugh out loud, and gets your heart rate up and your stress levels down.

Be daring, be true to yourself. Try something new that sounds like fun. Try a group activity as well as a private aspect to your routine. Personally I enjoy my time on the stationary cycle and swimming, but I love meeting my friends for a game of tennis or softball. Athletics are a big part of my life, but so is time with my friends and family. Combine the two, and watch as your stressful days are replaced by companionship and smiles, a smaller waistline, better health, and increased energy.

The benefits of exercise are plentiful but, take my word for it, you will probably find more that I had no room to write. The human body is made to move, and even those who claim to dislike working out will see the advantages.

Article originally appeared on - Take Your Health to Heart Radio Program (
See website for complete article licensing information.