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Beginning a physical activity program so you get sufficient exercise each week is important for your health. Begin slowly if you have not been active for a long time. Make sure you talk to your doctor or health care provider before you begin any physical exercise program if you:
• Have heart disease, had a stroke or are at high risk for these diseases.
• Have diabetes or are at high risk for diabetes.
• Are overweight or obese, with a body mass index of 30 or greater.
• Have an injury.
• Are pregnant.
In order to prevent injuries when you begin a regular exercise program, take these tips to prevent health and safety problems from occurring.
• Use safety equipment. For example, if you ride a bicycle, wear a helmet. If you are walking or running, wear supportive shoes.
• Start every workout with a warm-up. Spend 5 to 10 minutes doing some easy stretches and movements, progressing to a brisk walk. Do the same thing when you are done working out until your heart rate returns to normal.
• Drink plenty of fluids when you are physically active, even if you are not thirsty. Staying hydrated is important in maintaining normal body temperature and blood circulation.
• Always bend forward from the hips, not the waist. If you keep your back straight, you are probably bending the right way. If your back “humps,” that is probably wrong.
• Stop exercising if you feel very out of breath, dizzy, nauseous or have pain. If your chest feels tight or painful or you feel faint or have trouble breathing, stop the activity right away and talk to your doctor.
Being physically activity can extend your life and your mobility. It can lower your risk of early death from a variety of causes. There is also evidence that regular physical activity can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, breast cancer, falls and depression.
In addition, regular physical activity can help prevent unhealthy weight gain and help with weight loss, when combined with lower calorie food intake. Physical activity can improve your heart health and muscular fitness.
Here are the amounts of physical activity needed each week.
• 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as walking at a brisk pace, dancing, leisurely bicycling, skating and canoeing.
• 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity such as jogging, running, bicycling fast or uphill, jumping rope or swimming continuous laps.
• A combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days. Muscle-strengthening activities increase the strength and endurance of your muscles. Examples of these activities include working out with weight machines and free weights. You can also use your own body weight, doing activities such as push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. You can also use resistance bands available in sporting goods stores that, by stretching, help build up muscle. You should try to do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days each week. Allow one day in between sessions to avoid excess strain on your muscles and joints. During each session, repeat each activity 8 to 12 times.
Taking small steps each week doing physical activity will help you to be healthy and keep those chronic diseases to a minimum.
Source: Rutgers Extension Service, and USDA.
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