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Getting Started on Your Exercise Routine

If you're really trying to lose weight and keep it off, work toward a goal of 60 to 90 minutes of exercise most days of the week. But that's a lot to ask someone who's just starting out, says Thompson. If that's you, try it in 10-minute chunks of time at first -- several times a day, several days a week.

To get your morning exercise ritual going, here are some tips.

Talk to a doctor first. If you are overweight and if you have risk factors for heart disease - high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or family history of heart disease - get your doctor's OK before starting an exercise program, Thompson says.

Start with walking. Set short-term goals - 10 minutes, 15 minutes, etc. Gradually increase the number of days. Walking a dog is great because it gets you out for 20 minutes in the morning, and then 20 more at night. "If I can get someone up to 45 minutes or an hour of exercise during the day, I consider that a major success," Thompson notes. "You can't ask anyone to immediately start exercising for 90 minutes. You have to start with lifestyle changes and increase from there."

Consider a health club. "Some people need a lot of variety to stay interested in exercise," says Thompson. "That's where health clubs are great. They always keep people's interest piqued on exercise. And if you're paying for it, you're likely to go."

Buy or rent workout tapes or DVDs. If you prefer a quiet start to the day, try tapes and DVDs that feature yoga, weight training, and aerobic workout programs. Be sure to check who created them, however. "Some programs marketed by celebrities don't have good science behind them," he advises. "Look at the advisory board or advisor on the label. The good ones have an exercise physiologist as an advisor."

Don't forget weekends. If you make exercise part of your everyday lifestyle, stick with it on weekends, too. Keep treating it as an appointment. Don't let anything interfere. "It's your protected time and nothing else intrudes," says Foster. "You are keeping this commitment to yourself. This is something good that you're doing for yourself."

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