Are you super-cautious about working out because it’s been a while since you were active, or you feel out of shape? Actually, exercise is great for you. Being active will:
- Strengthen your heart.
- Lower your blood pressure.
- Help you reach and keep a healthy weight.
- Burn off stress.
- Boost your mood and self-esteem.
- Help you sleep better.
Before you get started, ask your doctor these questions:
- How much exercise can I do each day?
- How often can I exercise each week?
- What types of activities should I try, and what should I avoid?
- Should I time when I take my medications around my exercise schedule?
- Should I take my pulse while I exercise? What pulse rate should I aim for?
- Are there any warning signs I should watch out for?
What You’ll Do
New to exercise? It helps to work with a certified fitness trainer at first. If you have heart problems, ask your cardiologist for a referral.
Cardio (aerobic exercise). This makes your heart beat faster. It also lowers your blood pressure. Depending on what your doctor approves, you could:
- Jump rope
Strength training tones and builds up your muscles. Heavy weights may increase your blood pressure short term. So stick with lighter weights and just lift them more times. Try hand weights, weight machines at a gym, resistance bands, or your own body weight.
A good approach is to do several sets of each exercise, and then let those muscles rest a day or two between sessions.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Workout
If you’re an exercise newbie, you’ll get the most from your workout if you follow these simple rules:
Start slow. The American Heart Association recommends you work up to exercising on most days of the week. The more exercise you can do, the healthier you -- and your heart -- will be. But any amount helps your health.
Build up gradually. Little by little, make your workouts longer or tougher over time. You should be able to talk during your workout. If you can't, it's probably too intense for you.
Keep at it. It takes work to start and stick with any new habit. Exercise is no different. But there are ways to boost your chance of success.
- Mark your calendar. Make room in your busy schedule for exercise.
- Find a workout buddy.
- Change up your routine when you get bored.
Use these tips for a great workout:
- Wait at least an hour after eating a meal before you exercise.
- Warm up. Ease into your workout by doing the activity at a slower, gentler pace. That helps your heart (and the rest of your body) adjust slowly from resting to working hard.
- Cool down when you’re done. Gradually slow your pace -- don’t just stop suddenly. Sitting, standing still, or lying down right after exercise can make you feel dizzy or light-headed, or even have heart palpitations (a fluttery feeling in your chest).
- Sip on water before, during, and after your workout.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Working out could make your muscles sore at first. That’s normal. The soreness will fade as your body gets used to exercising. But if you have any sudden or severe pain -- or any of the following -- stop exercising right away. If the symptoms continue, call your doctor or 911.
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Pressure or pain in your chest, neck, arm, jaw, or shoulder