Ask the Expert

What’s the best way to start an exercise program?

Kathy Hewes, senior wellness manager, and Carine Corsaro, health coach, at the Tufts Wellness Center offer some tips
March 10, 2014

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First, it’s best to try and schedule your exercise sessions as if they were appointments. Write them down on a calendar, set email reminders or use alarms until the routine becomes a habit. Next, set short-term fitness goals. This will help keep you motivated and help you reach your long-term goals. Think about obstacles that could keep you from staying on track, and devise ways to overcome them—ahead of time. This will help you stick with your exercise program when daily life intervenes, as it always will.

If joining a gym isn’t something you want to do, and you want to do something more than walking, there are still many ways to stay active. A workout that’s just as effective contains a few key elements: a warm up, an aerobic segment (aka cardio), some kind of strength or resistance exercises, a cool down and some flexibility or stretching exercises.

For those not interested in using workout equipment, it is still possible to create a calorie-burning exercise program without the added bells and whistles. There are many inexpensive tools and props available to supplement a home workout. To cut down on expenses, use household items such as cans of soup and milk jugs to perform strengthening exercises. In addition, things like dumbbells, exercise bands, a medium-weight medicine ball or a fitness ball can all be added to your program to keep things interesting and help target key areas of the body.

For those not interested in using workout equipment, it is still possible to create a calorie-burning exercise program without the added bells and whistles. Yoga, Pilates and calisthenics are all workouts that utilize our body weight as resistance to create an effective exercise routine. Guidance on how to best use various poses and movements can be found by checking online resources, logging into your health insurance carrier’s website, renting a DVD from your local library or investigating the exercise channels offered by many cable television companies.

The cold weather shouldn’t stop you from exercising. Skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowboarding, tubing, sledding or an enthusiastic snow ball fight are all great ways to get outside and stay active. One family-friendly option is ice skating at Frog Pond on the Boston Common or starting up a game of ice hockey at your local pond. If braving the cold isn’t for you, then working out at home or at a local community center may be the next best thing.

Different kinds of recreation leagues can also provide social support for those who are looking to exercise in a competitive atmosphere. Check with local rec centers for a schedule of events or search online for more information.

If you are looking for more guidance, Tufts faculty, staff and spouses/same-sex domestic partners across the three campuses are eligible for free clinical/health-coaching services from the university’s new Wellness Center, located on the first floor of the Tisch Sports and Fitness Center, 161 College Ave., on the Medford/Somerville campus. (Acute-care services are also offered free of charge.) If you would like to schedule a one-on-one health-coaching assessment to determine which exercise plan works best for you, contact the Wellness Center at 617-627-0467.

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