By Michael Lasalandra

BIDMC Correspondent


You joined a health club early in the year, vowing to work out religiously in order to lose some weight, build some muscle, lower your blood pressure and/or just feel better. You went a few times. Now, you can’t remember the last time you saw the inside of the club.


It’s a common story. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Carine Corsaro, exercise physiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. There are strategies to help ensure beginners keep going — and get the most out of their workouts.


“You need to plan your workouts for the week ahead on your calendar,” she says. “Treat them as if they are business appointments. If you can find a workout buddy, great. If not, tell your friends and family about your goals so you have someone to answer to.”


It is also important to set realistic goals for yourself and to set a somewhat modest schedule at first, she says. “For beginners, we recommend you start by going three days a week,” she says. “It may not be realistic to start by going every day or even five days a week. You may be overwhelmed and stop.”


The American College of Sports Medicine recommends cardiovascular exercise three to five times a week for 20 to 60 minutes each time.


Walking on a treadmill is a good place to begin, she suggests. “Start off with about 20 minutes, and each week add two or three minutes to your time,” she says. “You want to be walking at a pace where you are not out of breath. You should be able to talk to someone while walking. If you can’t, you are working too hard.”


If you are limiting yourself to walking, try different programs on the treadmill instead of doing the same thing every time, she says. “It will help you not to be so bored,” she says. “Also, your body gets used to what you are doing, so you need to try a new program or increase the time or intensity in order to reach your goals.”


Trying different machines is also a way to avoid boredom and keep your body from getting too used to the same old workout, she notes. Exercise bicycles, eliptical machines, rowing machines and stairmasters are all good for cardiovascular health, she says.


Some machines are more suited to certain people. For example, someone with a knee problem would probably not want to use a stairmaster, she notes. And a rowing machine would not be recommended for someone with a rotator cuff problem.


Anyone with a medical condition should check with his or her doctor before starting any workout program, she stresses.


Strength training, either with free weights or machines such as the Nautilus, is a good idea too, but it is particularly important to alternate days if you are working out the same muscles, she notes. Most clubs have personal trainers who can at least show you the ropes, even if you don’t sign up to work with them on a regular basis. If working regularly with a personal trainer, check to see if he or she is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise or other recognized organization, she adds.


Corsaro says it will take at least two weeks to start seeing results, either for weight loss, lowering blood pressure or other areas for which goals have been set.


When joining a club, it is a good idea to see if the facility offers a trial membership, she adds. “You can see if you are comfortable there or if it fits your schedule,” she says.


“The main thing is to find what works for you,” Corsaro says. “And remember that any exercise is better than none.”




Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.