Jump Start Your Fitness in the New Year

winter fitness

Exercising more is the most common New Year’s resolution, but you do not have to make a resolution to be more active in the upcoming year. In fact, you do not need to wait for a specific day to get started. You can begin an exercise routine today, on January 1, in February or any other time.

Why exercise?

We all know that exercising can help control weight, improve heart health and strengthen bones and muscles. But the benefits of exercising go far beyond that. Exercise can improve your mood and make you feel happier.

“When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, chemicals in the brain that help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve mood,” said Chad Vorderbrueggen, MS, CPT, TPI Level III, Fitness Director at Penn Highlands Mon Valley Center for Fitness and Health in Rostraver Township, Pennsylvania. “The feel-good effects of exercise can be felt within minutes, and regular exercise can produce lasting, long-term effects as well.”

Exercising can also help keep your brain stay sharp as you age by stimulating the release of proteins and other chemicals that improve the structure and function of the brain, which can improve your thinking, learning and judgment skills.

How to get started.

Before beginning an exercise routine, it is important to assess your fitness level and talk to your primary care provider, particularly if you have heart disease, type 1 or 2 diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, cancer or high blood pressure.

After you get the go-ahead from your doctor, recording your baseline fitness is a good first step to take. This not only helps you determine whether a specific exercise routine is working for you, it can also help keep you motivated by showing the progress you have made.

A few metrics you may want to record are your pulse rate before and immediately after walking one mile, how long it takes to walk (or run, depending on your current fitness level) one mile, how many standard or modified pushups you can do at one time, how far you can reach forward while seated on the floor with your legs in front of you, your waist circumference and your body mass index.

Next, it is time to set some goals. While running a marathon or getting six-pack abs are laudable, you’ll have more success by setting realistic goals when you first get started.

“If you have not exercised regularly, simply committing to getting 30 minutes of activity a day is an excellent goal,” said Vorderbrueggen. “If you are looking for something a little more challenging, you may want to begin training for a 5K or working towards doing 10 pushups a day. Whether you decide to train for a race or to lose a particular amount of weight, choosing a small, realistic goal that you can achieve will help you stay motivated.”

How to stick with it.

Creating a schedule is an excellent way to help you stick to a routine. If you are a morning person, working out as soon as you wake up can help you get into the groove of exercising regularly. If you are not a morning person, working out right after work may help you create a habit that you stay with.

Another way to help you stick with your plan is to be flexible. If you did not get your workout in one day there is no reason to spend time beating yourself up. Instead, move on and pick it back up the next day.

A support system can also help you stay motivated. Share your progress and successes with friends or family. And because there will undoubtedly be times you do not feel like doing it, find a person who can give you a pep talk when you need it.

Penn Highlands Family Medicine offers comprehensive primary care at convenient locations throughout Pennsylvania. The primary care providers at Penn Highlands not only provide experienced care for any health condition, they can talk with you before you begin a fitness routine. To make an appointment or to learn more, visit www.phhealthcare.org/primarycare.