Starting an exercise program

You’ve decided you ARE ready for change but you don’t know how to get started.  Yet you have started – you made the decision to change.  The mental commitment is essential to your success in this endeavor.  Let’s look at some strategies to help you make the change:

  1. Check with your healthcare provider.  Make sure you are physically healthyA volunteer from a local nursing school assists military medical personnel with routine medical examinations during a medical civil action project at San Jose Elementary School in San Jose, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, March 1, 2010. The project is part of exercise Balikatan 2010, a bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance program between the U.S. military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jesse K. Alwin/Released)enough to start an exercise plan or if you have any limitations.
  2.  If you feel you need a fitness professional, you can search the ACE website for a personal trainer or health coach.  A personal trainer or health coach can help you set goals, perform assessments, design an exercise program tailored to you, evaluate your progress and make adjustments to your program as needed, and provide support.
  3. It’s very important to set SMART goals.  This means setting goals that are:
    • Specific, stating exactly what should be accomplished.
    • Measurable in order to determine progress.
    • Attainable, to help keep you committed.
    • Relevant to your interests, needs, and abilities.
    • Time-bound with estimated completion times.
  4. Start small.  You don’t have to start with huge life changes.  Add 15 minutes of walking to your daily routine.  Cut out sugared sodas.  You will begin to see results, and as these become habits, you can add more time to your daily walk (increase 10%), and replace unhealthy food choices with nutritionally dense foods (check
  5. Don’t sit.  Start moving more.  Recent studies have indicated sitting several hours daily is potentially the ‘new cigarette’.
  6. Find a physical activity you enjoy.  Whether it’s biking with your kids, walking with a friend, running, or playing tennis, you are much more likely to stick to your fitness program if it’s something you find enjoyable.SONY DSC
  7. Find a support system.  Having a support system has been proven to be one of the most important factors in a successful fitness program.  Whether that support system is a spouse, family members, or friends, it’s very important for you to find like-minded people to support you on your journey.
  8. Make it a habit.  Don’t think of exercising or eating nutritionally as temporary tasks.  They should be part of your daily routine like brushing your teeth.

These are some basic concepts to get you started.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at


Why exercise?

Why exercise?  Below is a picture I took while visiting Mt. Rainier National Park.   I made it to the top of this summit and saw this beautiful site because I work hard to stay healthy and fit.  DSCF0063

But beyond enjoying gorgeous landscapes, below are some health benefits of exercise.

  • Reduced medical costs.  Prevention is key to keeping medical costs down.  If you stay active and eat nutritionally, your odds for staying healthy increase, reducing the need to visit the doctor or possible end up in the hospital.
  • Weight management. Exercise is a great way to manage weight. It increases the number of calories used throughout the day. Exercise can help you decrease body fat, increase muscle mass, and increase your resting metabolic rate. Studies  show that even a small change in weight (less than 10%) can have a large affect on your health.
  • Cardiovascular health. The human body was meant to move.  Before all of the technological advancements, humans moved to get food, escape dangerous situations, and a perform a variety of activities to survive.  This movement, or exercise, causes the heart to work harder to supply adequate blood and oxygen to the moving muscles. Over time, this strengthens the heart muscle. Your resting heart rate slows down and your maximum heart rate increases, allowing the heart to work less during daily activity and harder when needed. This allows you to be more active without getting tired, and participate in things like playing with children, climbing a mountain, or just going up your household stairs more easily.
  • Blood pressure. High blood pressure can be a sign of stress, cardiovascular disease or other health issues. Regular physical activity helps to prevent high blood pressure by maintaining healthy arteries and a strong heart.
  • Mental health. During exercise, serotonin and dopamine are released.  These are the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters, which make you feel happier, more relaxed and less stressed.  Human_brain_female_side_viewThere is an increase in a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the brain due to exercise.  This protein makes brain cells stronger, healthier, better-connected and larger, which leads to an increased learning capacity. Exercise balances neurotransmitters and other chemicals in the brain. These substances influence brain activity related to mood, attention, learning, motivation and arousal. That’s why you’re likely to feel calmer, more alert, and more focused after exercise.
  • Bone strength. Weight-bearing exercises (walking, jogging, biking, strength training) place stress on the skeletal system. Bones adapt to this stress by increasing their production of bone forming cells called osteoblasts, which synthesis bone. Weight-bearing exercise can be a great way to prevent and even improve bone loss due to osteoporosis.
  • Slow down of aging. Exercise provides physical stress to the body. Two types of exercise stress help reduce the effects of aging: mechanical stress from resistance training, and metabolic stress from cardiorespiratory training. High-intensity Sewnior_Mainexercise can provide these two types of stress needed to stimulate production of our body’s anabolic steroids, which promote muscle protein synthesis and increase lean muscle mass, both of which help lessen the effects of the aging process.
  • Cholesterol. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is the good cholesterol that helps to remove LDL (low-density lipoprotein), which is the bad cholesterol, from the blood stream. By performing cardiovascular exercise, you can increase the amount of HDL in your blood stream, which can help to improve your blood lipid profile and decrease LDL levels.
  • Sleep. The National Sleep Foundation’s (2013) conducted a poll and reported that more than three-fourths of exercisers (76-83%) said their sleep quality was very good or fairly good, compared to only 56 percent of those who did not exercise.
  • Immune system. Research indicates that there are physiological changes in the immune system as a response to exercise. During moderate exercise, immune cells circulate through the body more quickly and are better able to kill bacteria and viruses. After exercise ends, the immune system generally returns to normal within a few hours, but consistent, regular exercise provides for a long-lasting effect.  A strong immune system not only wards off viruses and bacteria, but also cancer.
  • Insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes. The most recent research indicates exercise as the most important factor in the prevention, control and treatment of diabetes because it decreases insulin resistance. Following regular exercise training, cells can better respond to insulin and effectively remove glucose from the blood and into the cell.

Food Diary – keeping track of what you eat

Keeping track of every bite of food and sip of drink that you consume may be a fooddiary2real eye-opener for you.  Most of us tend to underestimate our food intake and overestimate our activity level.  We often forget about the little bites and tastes of food we have throughout the day, which can quickly add up.  Writing everything down helps you make better food choices and gives you a more accurate picture of your daily food intake.

A study conducted by Kaiser Permanente for Health Research (2008) followed over 2,000 dieters for six months.  The participants were encouraged to eat healthy and perform regular exercise.  The study’s findings revealed that the single best indicator for losing weight was keeping a food diary.  On average, those that did, lost twice as much as those that did not.

When recording what you eat, be as detailed as you can.  Include what, when, and where you ate, how much you ate, how the food was cooked, and if anything was added (dressings, condiments, salt, etc).  Describe the mood and thoughts you had before eating.  It’s important to be mindful when you eat and drink.  Ask yourself why are you eating.  Are you bored?  Is the food or drink a reward for a tough day at work?  Be completely honest and accurate.  Discounting that daily glass of wine or candy bar can add up over time.

A food diary can also help you analyze what you eat and learn how to make healthier choices.  The diary will unveil the triggers and situations that cause your unhealthy eating habits.  Instead of drinking a glass of wine after that stressful day, go for a walk.  Instead of eating a bag of chips while watching TV, eat a cup of low fat yogurt.

The food diary format you use should fit your lifestyle.  You can use a notebook, a planner, a computer spreadsheet, a website, or an app.  This is just one example of a food diary.  You can search the internet additional formats.  Some of the resources you may want to investigate are:,,, The USDA’s Supertracker, MealLogger, and MyFitness Pal.

If a food diary seems like a daunting task, start small.  Track your consumption for a week, until it becomes a habit.  You can add more detail as you progress.




Are you ready to make changes?

Are you ready to make changes?  Do you want to get healthy and fit?  I’m not going to lie, it’s going to take commitment.  And just like anything else worth having, it takes time and effort.  So are you ready?  In my experience, the mental component is just as important as the physical component.

Below are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are ready or not.

  1. Do you want to change a specific behavior?  Fresh_cut_fruits_and_vegetables
  2. Are you willing to make this behavioral change a top priority?
  3. Have you tried to change this behavior previously?
  4. Do you believe there are risks associated with not making this behavioral change?
  5. Are you committed to making this change, even though it may prove challenging?
  6. Do you have support for making this change from friends, family, and loved ones?Escursione_Nordic_Walking
  7. Besides health reasons, do you have other reasons for wanting to change this behavior?
  8. Are you prepared to be patient with yourself if you encounter obstacles, barriers, and/or setbacks?

After answering these questions and you’ve determined you are ready, begin thinking about what goals you want to achieve.  Do you want to lose weight?  Do you want to prepare for a future athletic event?  Do you want to eat to feel better?  This new endeavor does not have to be overwhelming.  Making small changes over time can help you reach your goals.  For example, a friend started with adding 15 minutes of walking and cutting out sodas.  Think about it.  What can you change now that you are ready?