Sticking with your new exercise routine

Have you resolved to start a new exercise routine in 2012? Here are helpful tips that can keep you motivated and focused throughout the year

Starting an exercise regimen is a popular New Year’s resolution many Americans make. That healthy intention, however, usually falls by the wayside for four out of five people. Nevertheless, one way to sidestep this frustrating pitfall is to develop an exercise plan that may help you stay motivated and focused throughout the year, says Gordon Blackburn, PhD, program director of Cardiac Rehabilitation in the Section of Preventive Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute.

Before you take your first exercise step, however, schedule a physical with your physician to check for health issues. This is especially important if you’re 45 and older or if you haven’t regularly exercised in the past.

Set a Goal

After getting the green light from your physician to exercise, set realistic goals that you feel have a high likelihood of success and develop a specific, measurable and time oriented plan that will help move you toward that goal. Do you want to exercise to cut your risk of developing heart disease? Lower high blood pressure? Manage diabetes? Lose weight? Whatever your goal is, consider the issues that can affect your exercise routine as well as other factors beyond exercise that have impact on you reaching your goal.

"If your goal is to lose weight, for example, exercise is great for burning calories, but if you don’t pay attention to your diet you’re setting yourself up for failure," Dr. Blackburn explains. "That’s why it’s important to get professional advice from your physician, an exercise physiologist and/or a dietician. Based on your medical history, they can provide specific recommendations to reach your personal goals."

Select an Exercise

"There is no one exercise that is the best for everyone," says Dr. Blackburn. "The best exercises are those that are appropriate for your ability, that you perform routinely, that you enjoy the most and the ones that positively contribute to helping you reach your goal. To optimize success, consider all four issues when setting up your personal exercise program"

While many like walking or jogging outdoors, it may not be the best option for people with arthritis. For them, a more enjoyable exercise might be swimming or exercising on an elliptical machine. Also, decide where you want to exercise. If you’re turned off by the thought of walking outdoors during the harsh winter months, select an indoor facility such as a mall or gym.

Schedule Your Exercise

Schedule what days of the week and time of the day to exercise.

"If you don’t set specific days and times to exercise, what usually happens is that you tell yourself you'll get around to it later and later never comes," advises Dr. Blackburn. "It's also helpful to write in your day planner or calendar the days and times that you will exercise. This is a good visual reminder of your commitment to exercise."

Track Your Progress

Documenting your exercising routine is essential because it enables you to see progress.

“We encourage our patients to write down the number of minutes they exercised, the distance covered if they walk, run, or cycle, or the speed and grade settings on a treadmill,” Dr. Blackburn says. “Your documentation will allow you to see how well you are progressing from month to month, which can have a big psychological impact to keep you motivated.”

Review and Revise

Another benefit of documenting your exercise is that it allows you see how well you’re complying with your plan.

“If you committed to exercising three days a week, for example, your documentation may show you are adhering to your routine on Mondays and Wednesdays, but you’ve missed too many Friday exercise sessions,” explains Dr. Blackburn. “Knowing that will help you adjust by moving your third session to a different time on Friday where there are fewer conflicts, or another day when you have more time for self-care.”

Reward Yourself

Once you’ve reached a goal such as losing five pounds, lowering your blood pressure by 10 points, or just improving your physical stamina, reward yourself with something tied to your interests.

“Sometimes the reward is just feeling the satisfaction that you have achieved a goal that will improve your health,” says Dr. Blackburn.

Research has shown that healthy people who exercise regularly lower their risk of heart disease by 50 percent. What’s more, heart disease patients who regularly exercise cut their risk of dying from heart disease by 30 percent.

To make an appointment:

You do not need a referral to make an appointment in the Preventive Cardiology Programs. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 216.444.9353 or 800.223.2273, ext. 49353.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.