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October 26, 2016

How to Safely Start an Exercise Program

“The greatest benefit that comes from exercising is living a higher quality life,” said Dr. Adam Olson, MD, of ThedaCare Physicians in Darboy. Weight control, improved health, and a boost in energy all come from exercising.

“The greatest benefit that comes from exercising is living a higher quality life,” said Dr. Adam Olson, MD, of ThedaCare Physicians in Darboy. Weight control, improved health, and a boost in energy all come from exercising. “Many people experience less anxiety and depression once they start exercising, they are much less likely to develop diabetes and heart disease, and evidence shows they will live longer than those who do not exercise at all.”

Thoughtfully starting an exercise program will ensure confidence, safety, and good health. Remember, small steps are important in making any significant lifestyle change.

What Does Your Doctor Say?

Take care to know about and consider any conditions that may require an especially careful start to your exercise, such as pinched nerves, pulled muscles, or chronic disease. The key to a new exercise routine is to avoid injury and maintain your enthusiasm. This means achieving small, early successes and building on them.   Do not let any limitations hold you back from exercising regularly, though, as regular exercise can actually improve many health conditions. “There are very few health conditions that make it unsafe to exercise” said Dr. Olson. “Exercise can improve many chronic conditions, especially people with heart disease, diabetes, knee pain, and even a history of cancer.”

What Would You Like to Accomplish?

Do you want less fatigue, your clothes to fit better, or to have more energy with your kids or grandkids? Goals should motivate you but not overwhelm you. Some are objective (lost pounds, improved endurance) and some are subjective (better energy, craving healthier foods). Take pride in the fact that you are moving, and that you are evolving into a healthier version of yourself.

Chart Your Course

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activities every day, and 150 minutes of light aerobic exercise throughout the week. Dr. Olson tells his patients every minute counts. “Those minutes walking during your break at work, mowing the lawn, or choosing the stairs really do count toward your 30 minutes for the day. What matters the most is that your heart rate is up for at least 150 minutes a week.”

Exercise in the morning not only increases your focus for the rest of the day, but it also boosts your metabolism. Afternoon exercise will improve your mood for meal preparation and those long hours of evening chores and homework help.

Get Creative

Do you sit a lot at your workplace? Create a competition with your coworkers to celebrate the person with the highest pedometer count. If you do not have a pedometer, investigate a free app for your phone like Walklogger. C25K is another free app that is designed to help beginners go from couch potatoes to 5K runners in 8 weeks. “I love the fact that C25K does not assume you are already in shape,” says Dr. Olson. “It truly begins at step one and helps turn you into a runner.”

Try these ideas to get moving even in the midst of a busy daily schedule:

  • Instead of sitting down on your lunch break, go for a walk and get your blood flowing.
  • If you go to a lot of kids’ sports activities, walk along the sidelines instead of sitting.
  • Park your car and make a safe walking loop around the parking lot as you wait for a child to come out of school.
  • Do stretches or crunches as you listen to your favorite show or podcast in the evening.

Just 10 minutes of physical activity is 10 minutes more than a sedentary person. Take pride in that!

The Role of Nutrition

Planning is the key. Take time to plan healthy and energizing meals and snacks, and you will benefit from more consistent energy levels, better moods, and fewer empty calories that can pack on extra pounds. Protein and whole grains will help your body release energy slowly. Sweets and unhealthy snacks (generally carbohydrates and unhealthy fats) tend to sharply raise your blood sugar, only to be followed shortly thereafter by a crash that leaves you hungry and irritable.

How Much Water Do I Need?

A good rule of thumb is to take your body weight (in pounds) and divide it by two. This is the number of ounces of water that you should be drinking each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you will need 75 ounces of water per day. “If you have kidney or heart problems, though, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the right amount of fluid intake for your situation,” said Dr. Olson. These chronic health conditions require special monitoring for both fluid intake and retention.

Dr. Adam Olson of ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy is accepting new patients. Call his office directly at (920) 358-1900 to schedule an appointment or call ThedaCare On Call at (920) 830-6877 or go to and click on “Find a Doctor.”