Tips for Exercising Success

A U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health says that physical activity helps prevent and treat heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis. Being active can help reduce other major risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Before starting an exercise routine, see your doctor for a medical evaluation. Following are some tips to get you started:

Start off moderately. Make fitness part of your daily routine. Going overboard after a long break from exercise may result in injury. After getting used to a certain level of activity, increase the intensity or duration (or both) of your exercise. Check back with the doctor if you feel discomfort in your chest or surrounding areas.
Choose activities that are fun, not exhausting.
Start your program with a "warm-up" period to increase respiration, circulation and body temperature. Warming up will help reduce the risk of injury during more vigorous activities that follow. Your warm-up should last about 3-5 minutes, or perhaps longer.
After exercising, cool down. Cooling down after exercising is important as it relaxes the muscles, lowers the heart rate, and helps the body to recover from the stress of a workout.
Hydrate your body. Drink as much water as possible all day long. When exercising, the body needs four to eight ounces of water every 20 minutes to replace water loss. If you're working out for more than an hour, you may want to consider sports drinks, as the extra carbohydrates help retain body water. Always avoid caffeine or alcohol when exercising, both of which further dehydrate your body.
Don't over-exercise. For a maximum, injury-free workout, rest at least 24 hours after a heavy muscle strain. Stagger workouts between heavy and light strain. For example, you can alternate a weight training routine with biking.
Stretch your muscles. Flexibility is one of the most important factors of fitness. Stretching before, during, and after a workout will result in better performance, good posture, fewer injuries, and overall better fitness.
Consult a trainer. If you belong to a gym, you may have the opportunity to consult a certified trainer. He or she can help you craft a reasonable workout plan, tailored for your goals. A trainer can also teach proper form with exercise equipment.
Watch what you eat. Proper diet is as much a part of fitness as exercise; and what you eat will effect every aspect of your workout. A proper diet also influences the results of your fitness plan, since it helps build muscle and decrease the percentage of fat in your overall body weight.
Don't push an injury. Listen to your body. If you feel pain, stop. Muscle and joint pain can mean many things - pushing a small hurt can lead to big problems later on. If pain persists more than a few days, see a doctor.
Find a workout partner. A partner can motivate you to workout when you normally might not, and can help improve your workout by watching form, encouraging extra effort, and pacing. Try to pick a partner with abilities equal to your own.
Wear proper workout clothing. Well-fitted footwear and comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that is appropriate for the weather and the activity will ensure your comfort and safety.
Set fitness goals. Adopting a goal beyond your capacity is a sure route to failure. Set realistic goals that are definite, not hazy. Don't forget to reward yourself when you've stuck to your goals.