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Feel Better with Exercise: How to Start

​​​​​​​Starting an exercise program doesn’t mean you have to train for a marathon. It means finding an activity you enjoy and making it a part of your day. Discover how much better you will feel.

couple on bikes

​“Before you start, talk to your doctor,” said Cardiologist Michael McGill, M.D., Marshfield Clinic Minocqua Center. “You need to make sure you have no underlying medical problems. The older you are when you start your exercise program, the more important this becomes. A yearly physical exam is advisable.”

Commit to an activity you enjoy. “If you don’t enjoy the activity you choose, you won’t do it,” said Dr. McGill. “Exercise needs to be a long-term commitment to reap the long-term benefits.”

Avoid overdoing it. For heart health, it is ideal to exercise five to six times per week, working up to your target heart rate. “This doesn’t mean you have to buy fancy monitors or a wrist watch to know when you have hit your target heart rate,” said Dr. McGill. “If you break a sweat while doing an activity for at least 30 minutes, you are working hard enough.”

Give yourself easy days and hard days by rotating aerobic activities, such as walking or biking, with resistance activities like weight training, yoga or Pilates. “It depends on what your goal is when considering the intensity of your activity,” said Dr. McGill. “Is it to train for a marathon or to just lose some weight? If your goals are specific, you may enlist the help of a trainer and work on a specific exercise program.”

You will be more likely to continue exercising and reach your goals when you have the support of family and friends. “Perhaps your activity is one in which family or friends can participate with you,” said Dr. McGill. “The more people you involve, the more likely you are going to do it.”

Keep it simple and keep it going. “The health benefits of exercise are well documented. You can lower your weight, cholesterol and blood sugar, and improve your mental health and quality of sleep,” said Dr. McGill. “Regular exercise will help you feel better.”​