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 Before Exercising - Medical checks

If you are going to start a low intensity exercise programme and progress to an aerobic exercise programme, then the following tips might be of some help.

(a)   Visit your doctor and get a thorough physical and stress test (if warranted). If you have any of the following conditions, you need to talk specifically about them
before exercising:

  1. Chest pain or any known heart condition.
  2. High blood pressure.
  3. Family history of heart disease or stroke.
  4. Diabetes.
  5. Lung or breathing problems.
  6. Irregular heart beats.
  7. Arthritis or joint disorders.
  8. Foot problems.

(b)   If you have not been very active, it is important to begin slowly. The benefits of exercise last only as long as you continue them, therefore, a lifelong exercise program is the goal. It does not matter how fast you progress to the next level. Do not over-exert yourself or compete with others. The important thing is that you gradually become physically fit and maintain the level of fitness forever or from day-to-day.

  1. Have your doctor or gymnasium professional give you an exercise prescription that consists of a target heart rate as well as any other specific instructions.
  2. Decide on the exercises that you want to do.
  3. Find a place that suits your needs. Exercising in the cold may be a problem for the aged because it causes constriction of the blood vessels and, combined with high blood pressure can put excess pressure on the cardiovascular system. That is why activities such as chopping wood and shoveling snow should be avoided as far as possible. Therefore, in cold climates, you may need to find an alternative place such as a health club, fitness centre or gym. Some indoor malls promote organized walking through the complex before business hours.
  4. Wear proper clothing to suit the weather and for the particular activity. Your head should be covered to prevent heat loss, and make sure that your hands and feet are warm. Wear loose-fitting clothing that allows freedom of movement. Adequate footwear is most important. Supportive shoes with good shock-absorbing qualities are essential to prevent injuries while jogging, and special walking shoes to provide the best support.


Each exercise session should consist of three phases — warm-up, aerobic exercise and cool down. Begin by stretching yourself. Extend and flex your muscles only to the limit to which you can do with ease. Always stretch slowly and gently while breathing deeply. You will find that regular, easy stretching will increase your flexibility as well as your degree of relaxation.

Your stretching routine should be followed by two to five minutes of easy warm-up exercise. This consists of a slow, easy pace of your basic exercise of walking, cycling or swimming. Only after these preliminaries, are you ready to proceed on to your planned programme of aerobic exercise for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

Finally, a period of 3 to 5 minutes of slow, gentle cool down must be planned. This is very important to prevent orthopedic, as well as cardiovascular problems that may result from suddenly stopping intense exercise. It is important to set aside a daily time for exercise, and do not squeeze it into an already hectic schedule, which will otherwise create an overburdened situation.


It is essential to enter a regular, exercise programme gradually and increase slowly. Do not worry if the exercise that you are doing seems easier to other people; keep to your own pace and you will begin to achieve good conditioning. You need to learn to listen to your body and stop when you are tired. As your level of conditioning gradually improves, you will find that you are able to do more at the same level of exertion.

One way of gauging the amount of exercise you are getting is by measuring your heart rate. A rule of thumb for aerobic exercise is to achieve a heart rate of 65% to 75% of your maximum heart rate.

The maximum heart rate is determined by subtracting your age from 220; so if you are 65, for example, your maximum heart rate should be 155 beats per minute. Then compute 65% to 75% of that amount to get your target heart rate during aerobic exercise. In this example, 65% of 155 is 101 and 75% of 155 is 116. So the target heart rate would be anything from 101 to 116 beats per minute.

When you first begin your exercise programme, you may only want to reach the lower level of your target heart rate range. As you become more fit, you may want to strive for the upper ranges to achieve the maximum benefits. The very healthy and extremely fit individual may even strive for target heart rates of 80% to 85% after a period of conditioning. But those levels are not meant for the novice exerciser or one with medical problems or strong risk factors unless they are under medical supervision.

In order to use this method, an accurate pulse count is required. Find your pulse by placing two fingers (not your thumb) on the thumb side of your wrist in between the bone and tendon. This is called your radial pulse. If you cannot find this pulse, try to measure your heart rate using the carotid pulse which is on the neck to either side of the Adam's apple. After locating the pulse, count the beats for one full minute. You should measure your heart rate after 15 to 20 minutes of aerobic exercise to see if you are achieving your target heart rate. Table # 1 gives target heart rates (65% to 75% of maximum heart rate) for the various ages.

You need to keep in mind a few warning signals in order to stay completely safe while exercising. If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop your exercise and contact your doctor:

  1. Extreme shortness of breath.
  2. Extremely painful muscles.
  3. Irregular heartbeat.
  4. Failure of your pulse to slow down after you stop exercising.
  5. Chest pain, cramps or pressure.
  6. Blueness on the fingers and lips.
  7. Light headedness.
  8. Fainting.
  9. Nausea or vomiting.

TABLE # 1:


Target heart beats per minute





Exercise can be very rewarding both physically and emotionally, but like most things in life, it takes practice and time to produce the effects you anticipate. Therefore, choose the form of exercise most enjoyable to you and do not add stress by attempting to be a competitive athlete. Instead, reap the benefits and have fun at the same time. As you advance, you may like to vary your exercise from place to place, and also do different activities with a variety of people.

Just like anything else in life, in order to continue the benefits, you must keep on moving with exercises. You have a choice. You can sit down and do nothing and run the risk of slowly losing ground on the natural aging process, or you can plan today to get moving. There is absolutely no reason why most older people cannot pursue an active and vital lifestyle that includes a good exercise programme.

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Before Exercising - Medical Checks
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