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Exercise has been shown by doctors and researchers to be an important component of health and fitness. Whether you are interested in maintaining an ideal weight, lowering your blood pressure, reducing stress and depression, reducing your cholesterol levels, or working to maintain a strong heart, bones, and muscles, exercise has many potential benefits. When starting an exercise program, choose an activity that you are comfortable doing. Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or any other activity that uses large muscle groups in a continuous movement is an excellent form of exercise. 

Before Starting an Exercise Program

  • Consult with your physician to discuss any problems you might have.
  • Choose an activity that you are comfortable doing.
  • Make sure that you have the proper clothing. For example, if you choose walking, make sure you have well-fitting shoes with good cushion and adequate soles.
  • If you are joining a fitness center, make sure that it will meet your needs. Spend time touring the center and meeting the staff. Make sure the fitness center's hours will meet your schedule.
  • Try to get a friend or family member to exercise with you. Motivation is very important while exercising. 

Starting Your Exercise Program

Once you have decided on a type of exercise, there are a few things to keep in mind. Start out slowly. Stretching and flexibility exercises are recommended once you have walked 2-3 minutes. Do not try to do too much too soon. You should increase the length of time you exercise slowly.  Start exercising 20 minutes per day, 3 days per week.  If this feels like too much, exercise twice a day for 10 minutes each.  A way to tell how hard you are working is by using the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale.  Choose a number that matches how hard you feel you are working. Adjust your work level so your number stays between 11-15. Generally, you can exercise at an "11" all day. Most people can exercise at a 15 for about 30 minutes.  Working at a 19 would be work that you could only sustain for about 20 to 30 seconds.  Another way to measure how hard you are working is the talking vs. singing rule.  You should be able to talk while you exercise but not sing. If you are able to sing, then you need to work harder. If you are unable to talk, then you are working too hard.  You need to slow down.  You can use these methods to determine if your intensity is appropriate: 

Maintaining Your Exercise Program 

Once you have started your exercise program, it is important that you maintain it. Once you feel comfortable with what you are doing and it gets easier, then try to increase your time and intensity.  Work up to 30-40 minutes per session.  Exercise 3 to 5 days per week.  Maintain your appropriate intensity.  You may be able to increase your intensity as the work gets easier. Use the RPE scale previously described, and stay between 11 and 15.
Keep a log of your activity. It can be very rewarding to look back on your commitment to yourself. 

Special Considerations

Several factors can really affect how much work your heart has to do when you exercise. When exercising in any of the following situations, start slowly and adjust your intensity as needed:

  • Heat and humidity - Take precautions when the temperature is greater than 85 degrees and/or the humidity is greater than 50%. Drink a lot of water and rest often.
  • Cold, rain, snow and ice - Pay close attention to the wind chill. The wind chill can make it feel much colder than it really is.
  • Altitude is another condition that can alter your intensity. When walking in the mountains or at a higher elevation, the heart has to work harder to provide oxygen to the muscles. Decrease your exercise intensity.
  • Some medications may affect how your heart works with exercise. Consult your physician if you have concerns.


Stop Smoking

Tips On Quitting

  • You have to want to stop more than you want to smoke.
  • Identity times you like to smoke.
  • Identify things that trigger smoking.
  • Develop your healthy lifestyle plan.
  • Find alternative rewards and ways of coping with the craving.
  • Seek support. For example; subliminal tapes.
  • Accept the fact that it is going to be difficult.
  • You have to do it for yourself.
  • Make a contract with yourself to quit.
  • Be aware of your desire to eat more.
  • Ask people not to smoke in your house.
  • Don't linger at the table once you are finished eating, get up.
  • Keep lots of healthy food available. For example fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Start an exercise program. For example: go for a 20-30 minute walk every day.
  • Remove the ashtrays from your car.
  • Always keep gum on hand.
  • Pick the nonsmoking sections in restaurants.
  • Blow bubbles.
  • Warn your family and friends that you may be irritable.
  • Go shopping
  • Think positive-Forming new habits or patterns take time and be patient with yourself. Do something special for yourself but be sure it is also good for you.