Fitness Tips for Life

Only one in four Americans gets the recommended amount of daily exercise, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE): a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week or 20 minutes of intense activity three days a week. Regular aerobic exercise can improve your cardiovascular health and your mood while helping to prevent certain chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Set Small Goals

Realize that you will need to take things slowly, suggests FamilyWellnessOnline.com, especially if you have not exercised in the past or if it has been a long time. Getting into shape and being able to participate in vigorous activities will take time and commitment, so be patient with yourself and do not expect too much in the beginning. For example, promise yourself that you will go walking after work for 10 minutes three days a week. Each week, add five minutes to your time until you work yourself up to 30 minutes.

Don’t Overdo It

Avoid spending too much time at the gym and performing high-intensity exercises too often, advises Unity Health Care of Washington, D.C. Over-training presents physical risks and can negate the health benefits of exercise. Symptoms of over-training include fatigue, nausea and unusual aches in joints. If your workout leaves your body feeling worse instead of better, build some rest days into your fitness program. Eat well, get enough rest, perform activities you enjoy and alternate workouts so you never get too much of one kind of exercise.

Wear the Right Gear

Some fitness injuries occur because exercisers do not wear the right type of shoes or clothing for their activities, according to SparkPeople.com. Wear shoes specific to your type of foot and to the activity you want to do. Have your feet analyzed by an expert in a shoe store. Wear clothing that pulls sweat away from your body. Wear protective gear, such as helmets and knee pads, for activities that have a higher incidence of falling, such as cycling, skating and skiing.

Recognize Your Limits

Your body will function more effectively if you recognize your limits and avoid going beyond them, according to SparkPeople.com. Learn to recognize warning signs that your body may be overexerting itself, such as pain in your chest, dizziness, an irregular heartbeat or muscle cramps–or if you break into a cold sweat. All of these are signs that you need to slow down immediately, allowing your heart rate to gradually decrease and then discontinue exercising. If the symptoms feel serious or persist, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Talk to the Experts

If you are new to the gym or have questions about types of exercises, seek out one of your gym’s personal trainers. Trainers hold nationally recognized fitness certifications and should also be current in CPR training, says SparkPeople.com. Don’t be shy about asking about certifications. A trainer will instruct you on how to use the machines, provide tips on best exercise practices and offer you guidance on your exercise program. Be sure to tell the trainer of any injuries or medical conditions that you have so that the trainer can offer you the best advice.

Stay Hydrated

The more active you are, the more fluids your body needs, according to Northwestern Health Sciences University (NHSU). During one hour of vigorous exercise, you can lose a quart of fluid. Drink plenty of water, which NHSU considers the best fluid replacement during exercise, before, during and after your workout. Two cups of water about two hours before exercise will keep your body satisfied before you get started, according to ACE, as well as 6 to 8 oz. every 20 minutes during exercise. If you are exercising for longer for a longer period–45 to 90 minutes–consider a sports drink that contains electrolytes to replace those your body has lost.

About this Author

Heather Holtschlag is freelance writer and certified personal trainer specializing in women’s fitness. She previously worked in public relations and most recently followed her passion for fitness by becoming a certified trainer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism.