A Beginner’s Guide to Exercise: Tips from a Provider

Melissa Messer orthopedics

Melissa Messer, PA-C

Melissa Messer is the physician assistant in our orthopedic clinic. She has seen patients at Upland Hills Health since 2010 and assisted with more than 2,000 orthopedic surgeries in that time.


What we know: The American Medical Society, as well as the American Heart Association recommends 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity per week for adults. Exercise can boost energy, decrease weight, and make a person feel better.

The challenge: Without an established routine, this can seem like an overwhelming task. Many people feel that they don’t have time in the day for exercise. Others want to exercise, but don’t know how to start.

The good news: Small changes can help start a routine. Here is some great advice, and as you commonly hear, you can get even more advice for your specific situation, from a doctor that knows you well.

  1. Assess your fitness level.
    Before you begin an exercise program, it is important to know your current fitness level, abilities and current limits. Think about previous injuries or surgeries. If you have knee arthritis, you may want to avoid impact activities like jogging. Walking or elliptical machines may be a better choice. If you have shoulder problems, heavy free weights may aggravate your pain. Try body weight exercises or resistance bands instead. If you have lung or breathing problems, understand that heading out for a two-mile run might take some time to work up to.
  2. Make a plan and set a goal.
    There are many ways to exercise. There are also many purposes to exercise. Aerobic exercise can increase your stamina and endurance. Strength training increases bone and muscle strength. Yoga can increase flexibility and balance. Chances are, you will benefit from a combination of different types of exercise. Decide your long term goals and make a realistic plan. Getting fit may takes month to happen, but you will see progress along the way.
  3. Make it a habit.
    Did you know it can take 21 days before a new activity becomes a habit? When making your plan, try to lay out a month or two of activities. In the beginning, set smaller daily and weekly goals to increase your chance at success. Tell yourself that you will walk for 5 minutes, three times in your first week. This is a realistic early goal. Once that gets easy, bump it up and start to add variety with new activities. Also, it’s ok to miss a day! Your plan can change as you go. You can also change your goals based on your progress.
  4. Staying motivated
    You are more likely to stick with an exercise program if you pick activities that you enjoy. Exercise comes in many shapes and forms. You can start walking to work. You can dance. You can walk on the treadmill while watching your favorite TV show. Find an exercise buddy to share your experience with and keep you on track. Join a support group in person or online for motivation and encouragement.
  5. Tips
    • Stay hydrated – keep a water bottle nearby if you are indoors or take a bottle with you if you are outdoors.
    • Stretch before activity to warm up and stretch to cool down after activity to prevent injury.
    • Rest! Rest is an important time for your body to repair and recharge.
    • Use free resources for exercise programs and videos. YouTube has thousands of videos for any type of exercise you can think of. There are many apps available on mobile devices such as Samsung S-Health, MyFitnessPal, Skimble, Yoga for Beginners, FitOn, 7 minute workout, and C25K (couch to 5K). There is even an app called Zombies, Run! Several apps include food and calorie tracking as well.
    • Wear a step tracker or smart watch device. Seeing your progress throughout the day can be a great motivator. Depending on your device, you can set reminders to get you moving if you have been sitting still too long or to remind you to drink water. Many of these devices can track your heart rate and sleep patterns as well, giving you even more information to use to improve your wellness.

“Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.” www.health.gov


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