Starting an Exercise Program


The benefits of exercise are multiple and long lasting. There are multiple studies which describe how exercise benefits every organ system directly or indirectly. Exercise as medicine can be prescribed to essentially everyone regardless of their baseline level of fitness. The lack of physical activity is a major cause of obesity and associated diseases and chronic illnesses. Most exercise associated health benefits are related to weight loss, i.e. positive effects of weight reduction on non-insulin dependent diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension, hyperlipidemia. As blood pressure, lipid profile, and blood sugars improve with weight loss there is a decreased risk of stroke and heart attack. Weight loss also decreases the burden on lower limb joints (e.g. hips, knees) and therefore improves pain free mobility allowing a person to becovme more active: this leads to greater weight loss and the cycle continues.

Initiating exercise may seem intimidating to those starting out but it needn’t be. Start simple by merely not taking shortcuts. For example, when safe, try parking a little further and taking the stairs as opposed to elevator / escalator. Go for walks around your neighborhood. Hold weekly family gatherings at parks with walking trails vs home or eating establishments. Make a habit of walking at a faster pace than you normally would. As a rule of thumb, while exercising, listen to your body. If it hurts don’t do it unless you or your doctor know why. If you feel chest pressure or heaviness, shortness of breath, nausea, left arm and or neck pain / numbness, STOP! These are symptoms of myocardial ischemia or acute angina (chest pain) which precede or predict heart attack: you should see your doctor ASAP for this! If you are a diabetic and are exercising, you will require less insulin before activity since working muscles require glucose leading to a drop in blood sugar. If on oral meds for your diabetes, be sure to have a snack before activity and during if participating in exercise bouts of long duration. Over time you may find that you require less insulin or fewer meds (hopefully none) to control your diabetes.

In the past 10 to 15 years the recommendations on how duration and frequency of exercise have changed. The 12 to 15 minutes 3 times per week felt to be sufficient 15 yrs ago has been increased to at least 30 min 4 to 5 times per week. I feel that each day should include physical activity of at least 30 min duration. It requires effort but as aforementioned, the benefits are soon recognized and long lasting.

Contact my office for an appointment if you’d like to start an exercise program and don’t know where to begin.