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continued...

In your case, whether or not you've gained or lost muscle, it would be very important now to either continue lifting or start if you're not. In addition, any muscle you lost -- if you lost any -- would come back in a very brief time. Now, some medications will cause weight gain, and that's a new problem that doctors and researchers are looking at, but still, the answer is, you want to increase muscle as much as possible and weight lifting is always a good idea.

Member question: I plan to join a 35-and-over indoor soccer league this fall. It's pretty laid back and for fun, so I don't expect it to be too intense, but I haven't exercised regularly in years. Is this taking too big a step? What should I do in the next few weeks to prepare for this so I don't keel over or get injured?

Weil: First thing, always get the okay from your doctor if you're going to do vigorous exercise.

Secondly, start a jogging and stretching program. Start with 10 minutes of jogging. The most that I recommend is 15 minutes, but 10 is usually a good starting place for people who have not been active. There's no way in particular that you can speed up your body's ability to get fitter faster, so over the next few weeks, try to exercise daily with the jogging and stretching of the legs, and increase the time gradually by 10% to 20%.

In three weeks, you could be up to 30 minutes, but I don't recommend rushing it, because even if you can run for 30 minutes once, you don't want to injure yourself or be so sore that you have to take several days off. So the message is, build up slowly and once you get up to 30 minutes of jogging, you will see that your fitness will be significantly enhanced.

The only other way to increase your fitness would be to set aside 30 minutes for jogging and then start out with a five minute brisk walk to warm up and then jog for five to 10 minutes, walk again for three to five minutes, and then you could jog again for 10 minutes. That type of interval work would improve your fitness instead of jogging for 10 minutes and calling it a day.

Don't look at three weeks as the final outcome, because you might end up injured. Instead, look at these next three weeks as your starting point and just continue through soccer season to improve your fitness. It's not realistic to expect to get into the best shape of your life in three weeks. So pace yourself, build up gradually, make sure you stretch before and after, and you'll be ready to go.

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