Column: Middle age and exercise

A new fitness student asked what could be done for a middle aged overweight male who smokes and had just lost 60 pounds.

What a challenge!

Never having exercised before, the best starting exercise is walking. And not too strenuous a walk for the first week. Going from a 20-minute mile to a 12-minute mile should take about six weeks.

That's if you walk every day. Walking daily sets the structure for fitness. It's hard to start something you have never tried before and bring it into your daily routine as a habit. So being consistent and structured is important.

Another suggestion was the swimming pool. Lap swimming can be hard when you first start, maybe even a little discouraging. But adding a lap every other day, or once a week, can be a goal. Swimming has the added advantage of making new fitnes friends.

Then add strength exercises. Weight lifting or strength training can add muscle to replace the lost 60 pounds of fat. And it will give muscle definition.

Start with 10 repetitions with a light weight, one or two pound weights graduating up to five. If exercising in public with a class in aerobics or weight training isn't your thing, get a good book on the subject and a set of weights to work out with at home.

All of this requires a gradual increase for safety. New students know that it will be about three months before they begin to see the full results from a fitness program. That's not long when you consider how long it took to get out of shape.

The smoking habit is hard to break. If you wait until you give up smoking, you will never exercise. Your fitness program must be first, then the habit of smoking will not seem so important. Breathing becomes more important than smoking when you exercise.

Young, middle age or senior, they all have their fitness levels. It doesn't matter the age, just the physical capability. Everyone starts as a beginner. Kind of nice when you think about it. Beginners get all the encouragement, all the pats on the back and all the sympathy when their muscles hurt. I worry more about blood pressure, pulse readings and illness than I do about he age of the fitness student.

Regardless if you begin an exercise program by walking, swimming or skiing, you begin as a beginner. If you don't, you will outdistance your body's capabilities and become discouraged. Structure is the key. Don't let anything interfere with your fitness schedule. Plan your day around the workout and stick with it regardless.

I'm a believer in getting outside the house to do your fitness. It mixes you with other people like yourself who are interested in achieving a healthy body. The weight you lose, the muscle you gain, the endurance you achieve, will give you a younger appearance, and you will stay that way as long as you exercise.

Jerry Vance is certified by the American Council on Exercise and teaches fitness at the Carson City Community Center and for the American Lung Association.

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