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 Move for the Health of It—Do Something Aerobic 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Simply Well by . View all columns in series

But if the dance of the run isn’t fun then discover another dance because without fun the good of the run is undone and a suffering runner always quits sooner or later.

Fred Rohe,
The Zen of Running

Choose one or more forms of aerobic exercise that you think you will enjoy and try them out. You know which exercise form you are more likely to stay with. Avoid setting yourself up for failure and disappointment by forcing yourself to be brave or strong about your exercise. Taking a vigorous walk around your block every day is infinitely more beneficial than dreaming about doing a triathlon.

    * Don’t be in a hurry. It takes time to recondition your heart. Before starting a program, we recommend a physical exam and an EKG, especially if you are over forty. Make realistic goals for yourself and reward every effort. Promise yourself small, healthy treats for accomplishing, or even approximating, your goals.
    * Regular exercise is imperative. Three times a week, your exercise should maintain your training pulse rate for at least fifteen minutes. (See the preceding chart.) Block out exercise time in your weekly calendar. Call a friend and exercise together. Keep a daily log of your progress. Do anything and everything that will keep you moving.
    * Always start your exercise with warm-ups, and complete it with a cooling-down period that includes some stretching.
    * Avoid imitation. Learn from the pros but don’t hold yourself back by comparing yourself with them. Treasure your own uniqueness. And deal cautiously with competition—even if it’s with yourself. Let yourself lose, or win, graciously.
    * Follow spontaneous impulses and use every means available to stay inspired. When the urge to move arises, seize it. Close the office door and jump rope, or hang up the phone and run around the house.
    * Breathe. Inhale as your movements expand, exhale as they contract or move back to center. You are overexerting if you can’t talk comfortably as you exercise, or if your heart rate is not back to 120, or less, five minutes after completing your exercise. Normal breathing should return within ten minutes after exertion.
    * If pain starts, stop. Honor your body’s natural warning system, especially in the beginning. Danger signs that you should stop exercising include faintness, dizziness, nausea, tightness or pain in the chest, severe shortness of breath, or loss of muscle control.
    * Whatever you’re doing—dance it. Practice moving from the inside out, smoothly, as if you were dancing, and the sense of rightness and connectedness that follows will make exercising a pleasant experience.

    When exercising outdoors, dance with the earth as you move on it.

    Two Exercise Breaks
    * Take a walk. Walk briskly for at least ten to fifteen minutes. Start out at the rate of approximately three miles (five kilometers) per hour. Move your whole body. Don’t be embarrassed to swing your arms as you walk; this will create a massaging action on the lymph glands in your armpits and stimulate the natural detoxifying function of these glands. Enjoy looking around at your environment as you walk along. Listen to the birds and smell the flowers.

    Build up the length of time you spend walking. Increase it by five minutes a week until you can easily walk two miles in thirty-five minutes if you are a woman, and in twenty-eight minutes if you are a man. What could be a simpler way to start your aerobic conditioning than to do something you’ve been doing all your life? People are increasingly turning to walking as their preferred form of exercise because it is so much easier on the legs than running, and because there is no need for special equipment except a comfortable pair of walking shoes.

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 About The Author
John W. Travis, MD, MPH, is the creator of the Wellness Inventory and its parent, the Wellness Index. He is the founder and co-director of ...moreJohn Travis MD, MPH
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