Exercise over 35

Originally Published: March 8, 1996 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 9, 2015
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Greetings Alice,

I'm a thirty-six-year-old smoker who gets very little exercise but wants to change his ways. Had a full physical a couple of months ago and got a clean bill. Going to Columbia's gym with my older, sort of soft bod is going to be tough enough. I don't want to end up on the floor clutching my heart... Should I see a doc before I hit the gym?

Tired of saying "I used to swim in college"

Dear Tired of saying "I used to swim in college,"

Getting fit really feels good! If you were a "once upon a time athlete," it's likely you remember that good feeling! And with the hectic pace we experience in this information-overload day and age, being fit, just to keep up, is a necessity. If you have been sedentary, have any risk factors for heart disease (which you do), and you are at least thirty-five, it is prudent to get a medical clearance before starting an exercise program. A physical examination should include an assessment of your cardiovascular system, blood pressure, blood chemistry, muscles, and joints.

After you begin an exercise program, the biggest problem is sticking with it. Drop-off rates are 50 percent and higher within six months to a year of starting for both men and women. So, have thought about making a lifetime commitment to physical activity? If not, perhaps you might think about why you want to exercise. Follow some self-reflection you might begin by setting specific goals. In your calendar, schedule the days and times of the week you will go to the gym (or engage in other forms of exercise). Make this an appointment like other appointments you make and can't break. Have you tried finding a friend to work out with you? When you don't feel like going and find a million excuses of other things you could be doing, your friend will be there, waiting for you. (Of course, you will do the same for her/him.) Also have a plan for when you miss your regular workout time. Plans often help in getting right back on track with your next scheduled time, or never letting more than three days go by without a workout.   There are a few more tricks to sticking with it in this Go Ask Alice! exercise and stress response.

Last, don't start off by doing too much. Begin slowly (ten to fifteen minutes) and work up to a healthier amount of time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend that every adult should get thirty minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week. And, include both aerobic and weight training activities. While getting fit may be the key, working to stopping smoking may be the next best thing you could do for your health. Talk to your health care provider about getting into a tobacco cessation program.  You can also talk to your health care provider about developing a fitness plan. Perhaps you can find a running club or exercise class you enjoy to keep you motivated!

Here's to a happy and healthy workout!