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7 Important Steps to Beginning an Exercise Program

Beginning an exercise program can be the most difficult, scary or exciting part and can be daunting for anyone. If you've never started a program then it can be even more intimidating. Here are 7 tips that will help you to begin your program and stick with it.

1. Before you begin any exercise program, especially when you have been sedentary, be sure to have a medical check up. Diabetes, coronary artery disease and high blood pressure are silent. Joint pains can have multiple sources - some lend themselves to exercise and others get worse with exercise.

2. If you are a beginner you should spend a bit of time investigating the type of program that interests you. Starting a program you enjoy increases your chances of maintaining the program. Start slow and small increasing your intensity and time each week.

3. Don't be discouraged by your progress or seeming lack thereof. Depending upon the program you choose there could be a steep learning curve (step aerobics) or you may need to increase your muscle strength and stamina (running). It's easy to become discouraged early in a program. Remember that you are exercising for the long term.

4. Take the time to learn the correct techniques. Even if you are doing something you consider second nature - like running or walking - be sure you use the correct techniques. Read about the sport specific stretches that are necessary to prevent injury and improve performance. Understand the techniques for lifting or step aerobics in order decrease your probability of injury.

5. Set goals. Setting goals will help you to stay motivated and on target. Be sure to be realistic with your goals and to be flexible. If you get sick or injured you can't maintain the same intensity and reach your goals in the same amount of time. Listen to your body when it needs rest but push yourself at the same time to achieve your goals.

6. Use an exercise diary. It doesn't matter that the diary is high tech or that it even was sold as a diary. You can use a three ring binder or notebook to record your exercise. Using a diary increases your chances of continuing the program, increases your motivation and points out problems with the program so that you can correct the errors. Include the time of day, type of exercise, duration of exercise and how you felt before, during and after.

7. To make it easier to stick to your plan, schedule your exercise for the same time each day and work up to exercising 3 to 5 days each week.

Using these seven tips to begin your exercise program will increase your chances of success and you'll begin to see the benefits of increased physical activity.

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