Your Personal Exercise Program
You will be more successful if you develop a complete, personal exercise pro- gram, rather than just becoming more active in general. If you are over age 40, remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, espe- cially if you have been inactive, or if you already have a health problem. Start slowly with an easy activity that you enjoy, such as walking. Walk for as long as you feel comfortable. Gradually increase the distance you walk, and walk at a faster pace as you get used to exercising. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. Other good aerobic activities are swimming, stair climbing, jogging, biking, and cross-country skiing. The best way to make sure you will stick with your exercise program is to choose an activity you enjoy.
Varying your weekly exercise program by including two or three different aer- obic activities—for example, walking or jogging 3 days a week, swimming 2 days a week, and biking 1 day a week—will help to keep your routine interesting. This concept is called cross-training, and it is a good way to prevent boredom. Cross-training also helps give your entire body a workout.
In addition to aerobic exercises, work some weight training into your routine to build muscle strength. Do push-ups and sit-ups or use hand weights to per- form repetitive sets of lifting exercises. Increase your ﬂexibility by stretching your arms, legs, and lower back before and after your aerobic workout (see page 58).
The time of day you choose to exercise can be important. There is some evi- dence that exercise workouts are more productive when your body temperature is highest, which is usually in the late afternoon. At this time, your muscles are more ﬂexible and your resting heart rate and blood pressure are both low. Of course, if your schedule does not allow you to exercise late in the day, or if you already have an established exercise time and are happy with it, do not switch to an afternoon workout. Exercising at any time of the day is better than being inactive.
Making Exercise a Part of Your Daily Routine
Some men may think of exercise as something to do only when they need to lose a few pounds. But regular physical activity should be a permanent part of every man’s lifestyle. The health beneﬁts you gain (see page 55) won’t last unless you exercise regu-larly. Here are some easy ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine:
• Make time for exercise every day. Get up half an hour earlier in the morning to work out. Better yet, watch television half an hour less each day and spend the time exercising.
• Work exercise into your usual routine. Stop using the elevator at work; take the stairs instead. Park a few blocks away from work or from the store and walk the extra dis- tance. Take the dog for a nightly walk. Push the baby in a stroller or pull your children in a wagon or on a sled for half an hour every day.
• Exercise with a friend or family member. Working out with someone is a good strategy because you can motivate each other.
• Exercise while doing other things. Lift hand weights while you are talking on the phone. Do some sit-ups or leg lifts or ride a stationary bicycle while you are watching television.
• Break up your exercise time. Exercise for three 10-minute periods throughout the day instead of one long session. The exercise beneﬁts will remain the same.
• Draw up an exercise contract. Write down weekly ﬁtness goals and sign the contract.
Then have a friend or family member witness it.
Don’t forget to warm up before exercising and to cool down afterward (see page 14). And remember, you are making a change for the long term. Once exercise becomes a per- manent part of your daily routine, it will cease being an effort. And you will feel better and look better—two of the best motivators you can ﬁnd.