By Michelle Kennedy
Welcome to day one of your healthier, fitter life! You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that regular exercise is your number one tool against heart disease. So once you get the all clear from your physician, you can jump right in. And don’t worry: No need to start training for a marathon. The best way to start your new fitness routine is to find something comfortable and small. Any exercise that is continuous, rhythmic, and moves large muscles is considered aerobic—and heart-smart. Find something that will keep you coming back: swimming, hiking, and yard work all count.
For today’s workout, we’re going to start with some basics.
1. WARM UP. The first step in any exercise regiment is to do some warm-ups. These gentle moves get blood pumping a bit faster and literally warm up the muscles, preparing the body for activity. Do each of these four and you’ll be ready to roll in about 2 minutes:
Ankle rolls Stand on your left leg and put your right toe on the ground. Slowly roll your ankle 10 times in one direction, and 10 times in the other. Switch sides and repeat.
Extended Reaches Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, and reach your hands up toward the ceiling as far as you can without lifting your heels. Hold for a couple of seconds, then take in a deep breath and slowly bring both arms down to your sides.
Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Neck stretch Start with your head in a neutral position, facing forward. Tilt your left ear to your left shoulder hold for about 20 seconds, bring head back up to neutral then press your right ear to your right shoulder. Tilt your chin toward your chest. Do each move 5 to 10 times.
Hip Rolls Stand with your feet hip distance apart (hold on to sturdy chair or the wall if necessary). Lift your right knee up to 90°, turn it out to the side, then bring it back down. Imagine you’re drawing a circle with your knee. Repeat 5 to 10 times on each side.
2. START WALKING outside or on a treadmill at a moderate pace for about 1 minute. Use the time to clear your mind and get your heart and body ready for activity.
3. BEGIN INTERVALS. For the next 10 minutes, alternate between your moderate pace and speed walking every 30 seconds. Interval training is particularly effective for building endurance and strengthening the heart. During your speed walks, bend your elbows and pump your arms, allowing your hips to swing with the rhythm. Your legs will start to feel fatigued toward the end (this is good!). You’ll also want to take note of your exertion level to make sure you’re working hard enough without overdoing it: If you can easily carry on a conversation, it’s time to step it up. If you can’t get out a word, you’re overdoing it. You want to be able to speak in short, choppy sentences.
4. COOL DOWN. Walk at your normal pace for two minutes. You’re done!
Try to repeat this workout at least three days a week, and you’ll find that as your fitness level improves, you’ll be able to walk for longer and longer periods.
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