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By Meg Barton, St. Joes/Chandler
Updated On: Oct 10, 2006

Setting Fitness Goals

Exercise not only improves your general health and bell-being, it also lowers your blood sugar, cholesterol, and improves strength to aid in decreasing joint pain. Fit muscles perform better all day long. Before you begin any kind of exercise program, determine what it is you want to achieve. If your main goal is to lose fat, you may choose to focus on aerobic exercise. If your goal is to build muscle strength, you may focus on weight training

Exercise works best when it is both regular and consistent. It takes 30 days to break and habit and another 60-90 to install a new one. Plan to exercise at or near the same time each day, preferably about 1 ½ to 2 hours after a meal. Exercise at least 4 times a week with each session including cardiovascular activities.

Some things to use in your quest to becoming healthier are:

Be specific with your long-term goals and develop an action plan that is realistic.

Consider your limitations- injuries (chronic or acute), your work schedule, life demands and your personal preferences to types of exercises or equipment.

Set your goals: weight loss, strength or endurance gains, and/or overall body toning.

Determine how many days a week you are able to or willing to commit to meet your goals. Three days a week should be the minimum recommended to obtain any goals.

Decide what activities are needed to reach your goals: weight lifting and running or aerobic classes, playing racquetball, tennis or biking can all be used to add dimension to your workout routines.

Decide on the amount of time you will spend on each exercise session. Does your schedule require you to do strength training in the morning and walk after dinner? Can you do all your program design in one setting (cardio and weight lifting)?

Keep a record- write out your program on a card or folder that you can take to the gym with you to monitor your progress from day to day or week to week.

Space out weight lifting sessions with 24-36 recovery time in order to give yourself adequate recovery time. Aerobic (cardio) exercise can be done every day where as strength training session should be spaced out by at least 48 hours unless you are training opposite body parts each day then a daily routing of 4-5 training days per week is adequate.

The key principle in developing muscular strength is resistance whether it is in the form of lifting your own body weight (push-ups) or using equipment (barbell, dumbbells or machines). The idea is to progressively increase the load on a muscle or group of muscles on a regular basis, thus giving the muscle fibers a chance to adapt and grow without risk of injuries. To build strength, you can increase the weight that you are lifting and to increase endurance, you can increase the repetitions (Reps) or number of times you are lifting a weight for a specific exercise.

Finally, if you have health problems or have never worked out before it is important to she your doctor before starting. It is also beneficial to work with a qualified personal trainer who can help design your program to your needs and teach you proper lifting techniques. Most importantly have fun with whatever exercise program you decide to do. If it is boring or too hard you will end up quitting within your first month.


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