Let’s talk about exercise!  The biggest issue for most people is how to get started and then once you get started, how to stick with it.  It is very important to start doing something that you enjoy.  This is important because if you hate it, let’s face it, you won’t do it!  Think about it.  Can you do a dance class or dance DVD, maybe even the Wii fit dancing as well?  Do you like to do yoga or power yoga, swimming classes or aerobics?  Think about what you love so that you can start there.

There are a few things to consider when you are getting started.

  1. Not will you exercise today but WHEN will you exercise today.  This may be 5:00am because you take care of your grandkids and they arrive at 7am and do not leave until 6pm.  At 6pm, the last thing you may want to do is exercise that is why you may need to get it over with first thing in the morning.
  2. Make exercise an appointment on your calendar just like any other appointment.  In fact, while you are reading this, take out your calendar and decide when you will exercise this week or even month, starting with today.  Actually program it into your phone, day planner or set an alarm to go off every day at that time.
  3. Find an exercise buddy or a few.  You need to be accountable to someone.  Find someone who will call you if you skip more than once.  Choose someone who cares about you, your health goals and your wellbeing.  Also, choose someone who shares the same interest in exercise as you so that you will both enjoy the activities you choose.
  4. Consider your health status to determine what exercises you can do that are safe, effective and won’t lead to injury.  Adults with conditions including osteoporosis, arthritis, joint pain or inflammation should consider exercises that use buoyancy to aid in balance and stability while still being able to combine aerobics, strength training and core stability exercises in one workout.
  5. Choose a variety of exercises.  As you read this, do not get overwhelmed.  These suggestions are the ultimate goal.  Start slow.  You may only do 2 days of exercise per week for the first month but every week you should be asking yourself how to add more days of exercise to work up to the goal of daily physical activity.  By the time you have worked on this for 1 year, you should be doing the following recommendations consistently.
  • a.    You should have 6-7 days of cardiovascular exercise.  5 days a week this should be moderate and 1-2 days a week it can be less strenuous.  An example may be that you do 5 days a week of intervals of walking for 3 minutes and then light jogging for 1 minute.  Or, maybe your do brisk walking on hills in your neighborhood or water aerobics, but the other 1-2 days you are only walking, swimming, or stretching.
  • b.    Stretch at least 2 days a week.  If you can’t get yourself to do any organized stretching, consider doing yoga 2 days a week or check with your local fitness center to see if they offer stretching classes.
  • c.    Do some weight bearing exercises 2-3 days per week.  Choose light weights and do multiple (20 or more) reps.  Once you can do 20 reps comfortably, your weight should be increased.  This will help decrease your fat mass and increase your muscle mass which is the reverse of what is happening in menopause.  Be sure to target all muscle groups each week so that by the end of the week, all muscle groups have been stimulated.  This includes focusing on all areas of the arms, back, chest, abdominals, gluts, legs and calves.  For specific exercise that you can do with free weights refer to http://www.hearthealthyonline.com/fitness/workouts/basic-free-weight-workout_ss1.html .  There are also combination exercises which will help to increase your heart rate, while working 2 muscle groups at once.  Also, there are other strength training options including water weights for resistance while in the pool and dyna-bands which are portable and can be done anywhere.  Also, dyna-bands are great because as your strength increase, you just add more resistance by allowing less slack in the band.  For more information on how to use a dyna-band refer to http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=982


To get started consider your current BMI.  For people with a higher BMI there are mobility issues that make it more difficult to do certain exercises.  Also, if you have a high BMI, joint pain, osteoporosis, arthritis, etc., consider buoyancy exercises.  The more deeply immersed you are in the water, the less you weigh!  Just think about the benefits.  There is no impact, which means there is decreased shock to your bones, joins and ligaments.  Your body weight is reduced anywhere from 50% (hip level water) to 90% (neck level immersion) so you can exercise with ease.  This will help with flexibility, mobility, increased range of motion, and even improve your circulation!

Other exercises to consider include chair exercises, tai chi, gentle yoga, deep stretch and Zumba.  All of these are easy on the joints and lots of fun.  It is never too late to start exercising and now is the time to choose something so that you can get started and improve your overall health.

If you are already fit, consider the recommendations below.  Get moving and keep moving, there is nothing keeping you from completing a 10k, half or full marathon before your next birthday!

As you become more active, eat a healthier diet and are able to decrease your BMI, these issues will improve and you will be able to do more exercise and activities than you have been able to do in the past.  Meaning, you may start out in the pool but overtime as you improve your diet and continue to exercise you may feel less pain and be able to enjoy other activities as well.

Remember as you read through this that not all BMI numbers are equal and your fitness levels may be more advanced.  Also, you may be a rookie when it comes to physical activity so start slow.  Listen to your body and do what feels right.  On the other hand, challenge yourself.   Work hard so that you have to rest.  Resting means you are working and there is nothing wrong with taking brief (10 second) rests so you can start back again and work harder.

Also, I know that it is hard to get started in a group setting or even with a buddy if you do not have confidence.  There are a lot of things that you can do at home to increase your endurance, strength and flexibility so that you do feel comfortable exercising in public.  Remember to just get moving every day to help increase your ability to move more and become more active, that will give you the confidence you need!


The trick is choosing a cardiovascular exercise you will enjoy and then doing it at an intensity to be able to count it as cardiovascular exercise.  You want to get your heart rate into the aerobic zone which is 55%-85% of your maximum heart rate.  If you are new to exercise or have exercise restrictions from your doctor, stay in the 55%-65% rate.  To calculate your personal maximum heart rate http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/healthtool-target-heart-rate-calculator .  If you are on a beta blocker, you won’t be able to use this tool but instead, use the perceived exertion chart and shoot for 7-8 for you max heart rate or 2-4 if you have exercise restrictions.  Use this as a tool, http://exercise.about.com/cs/fitnesstools/l/blperceivedexer.htm
Additionally, be sure that you are doing cardiovascular activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.  You may choose to do 3-10 minute sessions daily at first but then work up to 3-20 minute sessions or 6-10 minute sessions daily.  You can also associate this with meals, deciding to do exercise before and/or after each meal each day so you don’t have to designate such a large amount of time all at once.  Make this work for you!

Some examples of cardiovascular activity include:

  • Brisk Walking on the road, treadmill or in the water
  • Dancing
  • Exercise DVDs of your choice (this may be a great way to start at home!)
  • Game system exercises that increase your heart rate
  • Power Yoga
  • Gentle Yoga-deep stretch
  • Cycling or stationary bicycle
  • Elliptical Trainer
  • Stair stepper
  • Running on the road, treadmill or in the water
  • Arm cycle-especially beneficial for those with any knee, hip or lower extremity issues
  • Rowing machine
  • Interval training which may be done at home with a DVD, at a gym with a trainer or in a group class setting.
  • House cleaning that includes vacuuming, scrubbing, changing sheets, moving furniture, gardening, raking, push mowing, shoveling, sweeping, planting.
  • Hiking
  • Roller skating
  • Paddling a canoe or kayak
  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Playing sports including flag football, tennis, walking a golf course, soccer, basketball, racquetball
  • Aerobics classes including step aerobics, spinning, Zumba, line dancing, salsa dancing, shagging, extreme weight training classes, body sculpting classes, hula hooping classes and more.
  • Also, having fun with your children or grandchildren playing tag, dodge ball, jumping rope, hop scotch, trampoline or jumping jacks.

Strength Training

As mentioned, you should try to do some strength training 2-3 days per week.  If you do this at the same time as your cardiovascular exercise, either do this last or be sure you have warmed up for about 10 minutes with some brisk walking, jumping jacks, marching in place, yoga or swimming.  Strength training can be done with your own body weight or with your own free weights.  Stash a pair of free weights at home, by your desk at work, while you watch TV at night or anywhere that will remind you to use them!  Also, consider joining a fitness center where you can lift weights on your own or in a group exercise setting.  You can also use some of the strength training props including the dyna-band, stability ball, medicine ball or kettle bells for additional options to mix up your workout and challenge yourself.  Some strength training exercise activities include:

  • Push ups
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep dips with weights or using body weight
  • Calf raises (can be combined with an upright row for the shoulders)
  • Squats (can be combined with bicep curl, overhead press or lateral raises to increase heart rate, be sure weight is on your heels and back is straight)
  • Lunges (can be combined with arm exercises including triceps, side lateral raises, bicep or hammer curl, chest press or punches with weights while lunging)
  • Stability ball series of exercises http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/core-strength/SM00046
  • Medicine ball series of exercises http://www.familycircle.com/health/fitness/workout-routines/medicine-ball/
  • Kettle ball exercises or classes
  • Dyna-band exercises
  • Chair exercises


Optimally, stretching should be done after all cardiovascular and strength training activities.  This doesn’t have to take up too much time but think about those muscle groups you have worked and be sure to take a few minutes to stretch those muscles.  Keep in mind, if swimming is your form of cardiovascular exercise, it works all muscle groups so consider a head to toe stretching routine at least twice a week.

When stretching start from the top, making sure you stretch your head, neck, chest, shoulders, back, triceps, lower back, quads, calves, glutes and hamstrings.  Refer to this handout to get some ideas.