Kickstart your exercise program with these tips


We already know there are many great reasons to exercise, from weight maintenance to independent living. Exercise supports a healthy lifestyle and helps maintain positive mental, physical and emotional health. Finding the right exercise program or even just the time to exercise can be a challenge. What if you don't like to exercise or you feel too tired to get moving? When we get into a sedentary rut, it can be more difficult to find the motivation to exercise. Whether you are new to exercising or just getting back into it after a long break, experts recommend the following tips to make your exercise journey more enjoyable.

- Warm up. Begin every exercise session with a proper warmup that gets the muscles warm and ready for movement. A brisk walk, arm swings, wrist rolls, leg kicks and knee-ups can also warm up the joints, which reduces risk of injury.

- Have a plan. Know ahead of time when you are going to exercise, where you will exercise and for how long. It should just be like any other appointment; don't plan to cancel.

- Start slow. Pain and discomfort is not the goal with any exercise program. Every program should start at a low intensity and build up to a moderate and high intensity over time. Progressing too soon can lead to injury, frustration and early burnout.

- Set realistic goals. In order to stick with it, your goal should be attainable. If you know you have a busy schedule during the week, you may want to aim for three days of exercise instead of five. There is a higher probability of sticking with it if you allow yourself to be successful.

- Quality over quantity. The quality of your exercise program is much more important than the amount of time you spent exercising or how many days each week. Consistency yields better results, so even if you are short on time and can't get everything in, exercise anyway. It is worth it.

- Choose activities you enjoy. You are more likely to stick with a program you really enjoy. Don't walk on the treadmill if you find it boring; walk outside at the park or around your neighborhood. If you like to dance, join a dance class. The idea is that it should be something you look forward to doing; you shouldn't dread having to do it.

- Take the time to stretch. After every exercise session, be sure to take the time to cool down with a slow-paced walk, some gentle stretches and breathing exercises to bring the heart rate to normal and reduce soreness and injury.

If you have never exercised before, it is best to get medical clearance from your physician, especially if you have health issues. Working with a personal trainer or joining a group class can enhance your experience with more motivation, accountability and support. No matter which route you choose, just keep moving. Eventually, exercise will become a habit, a healthy habit!

Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at or (803) 773-1404.