Starting a Fitness Program


Exercise may sound like a miracle cure.

In fact, a complete exercise program that consists of aerobic exercise, flexibility exercise and muscular conditioning can improve your fitness and quality of life in many different ways.

Improved sleep quality; reduced risk of heart disease; weight control; improved blood cholesterol levels; high blood pressure prevention and management; prevention of bone loss; boosted energy level; improved self-image; countered anxiety and depression; increased muscle strength; relief for stress and tension; improved body posture, and maintenance of proper range of motion in your joints are many of the positive effects of exercise. Best of all for headache sufferers, exercise can help combat problem headache pain. While the benefits of exercise can be miraculous, starting—and sticking with—an exercise routine is the first and most important step. Experts and fitness specialists have told us for years that exercise is just as important for the average person as it is for the professional athlete. If you’re not an exerciser, the absence of regular physical activity could make you vulnerable to chronic headaches as well as other ailments.

Frequent exercise can increase your health and boost your ability to avoid headaches. Aerobic exercise can promote physiological relaxation as well as increase your body’s production of endorphins (the natural chemical released when you laugh). Endorphins help raise your threshold for pain and give you a sense of well-being.

Getting Started. Some gentler forms of exercise such as brisk walking, pedaling a bike, or swimming are great ways to get started. Swimming has been found to be especially beneficial for headache sufferers. Decide what you want to get accomplished from your exercise program. Whether it be weight loss, muscle strengthening, or improve flexibility, be sure to choose the exercise that will help you achieve these goals. Walking is perhaps the easiest way to get started. It is an excellent low impact aerobic exercise and can frequently be done with others to get the added benefit of social support. Walking is good for weight control, and an effective way to condition yourself for more strenuous exercise. Start slowly. Begin for about 15 minutes every day. Listen to your body, if you’re tired or experience pain, slow down or stop.

Add 2 to 5 minutes each week until you can walk for a full 60 minutes. Work to increase your distance and decrease the time it takes to cover that distance. A good goal to strive for is 4 miles in 60 minutes. When this becomes easy, you’re ready for other forms of aerobic exercise. Remember to always stretch before any type of exercise—this will help avoid injury or strain. There are plenty of strength-conditioning programs using free weights, weight machines or calisthenics if your goal is strengthening your muscles. Or, if you wish to improve flexibility, try yoga or simple stretching routines that cover all your major muscle groups. Always choose a program that suits your goals and lifestyle best. Regular exercise isn’t easy. Start slow and ease into a routine to help avoid soreness that can make you feel like quitting.

Be patient and reasonable, exercise rewards come gradually after eight to twelve weeks. Use these helpful hints to get the most from your fitness program. Set goals. Don’t give yourself a general goal of “better fitness”. Be specific, say “I’m going to lose 15 pounds in five months.” Reward yourself. If you reach your goal, buy yourself something you’ve wanted for a long time. Just don’t congratulate yourself with a hot fudge sundae. Keep a log. Details of your exercise routines help you track your progress and stay motivated. Pace yourself. Don’t overdo it! Strenuous exercise in your initial workouts is a fast way to injury and loss of motivation. Find a buddy. Get friends, family or coworkers involved in your regimen. They can help you stay committed to your routine. Get your fitness tested. Evaluations will reveal your strengths and weaknesses, helping you better focus your program. Avoid boredom. Bored exercisers aren’t exercisers for long. Watch television, listen to the radio or a motivational tape while exercising.

Vary your activity between bicycling, walking, swimming, or learn a new skill: take up tennis or sign up for a dance or aerobics class. Remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. This is especially important if you’re over 40, or have a family history of heart disease or other cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. In order to achieve any benefits, you must approach an exercise routine with the right attitude.

Don’t let concerns about performance or competition dominate, just do your best, listen to your body and make exercise fun by choosing an activity you find enjoyable. The key is to do them consistently—but don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or two. Remember, it’s never too late to start!.