Exercise For Your Life Stage Chapter 15

Get Going!

Are you ready to start your own exercise plan? We have reviewed some of the most popular plans for beginners who want to try yoga, swimming, walking, jogging, and working out with weights. Remember to alert your doctor that you plan to start a new exercise routine, especially if you have not been active recently. Your specific biomarkers could be a factor in making your best choice of activity.



There are many different yoga disciplines from which to choose. The ancient poses, called asanas, improve circulation, strength, balance and flexibility. However, finding a qualified instructor is imperative for your safety and well-being. Find a certified instructor near you by using the locator tool at www.yogaalliance.org. You may also want to watch a qualified instructor's DVD or online video to master asanas and learn more about yoga practice. READ MORE

A beginner will likely learn the basic poses below to start. Again, don't tackle them on your own without an instructor's help. If you have osteoporosis, circulatory ailments or other health limitations, you may need to make adjustments to certain poses to avoid injury.

  • tree

  • cat

  • cow

  • mountain

  • warrior I

  • warrior II

  • plank

  • lunge

  • camel

  • downward dog

  • bridge

  • cobra

  • triangle



Walking and Jogging

You could start a walking fitness plan right now. Just get up and see how far you can go! Unless your doctor has advised against it, walking is a great starting point. Once you have mastered the program below, recommended by experts at the National Institutes of Health, begin to work in some intervals of jogging. (If you haven't been totally sedentary, you may be able to skip the first few weeks of the beginner program here.) Eventually, if you can work your way up to mostly jogging/running, you will gain maximum cardiovascular and brain-building benefits. READ MORE

Beginner Walking Program

Week Warm Up Walk Briskly Cool Down Total Time
1 5 min. 5 min. 5 min. 15 min.
2 5 min. 7 min. 5 min. 17 min.
3 5 min. 9 min. 5 min. 19 min.
4 5 min. 11 min. 5 min. 21 min.
5 5 min. 13 min. 5 min. 23 min.
6 5 min. 15 min. 5 min. 25 min.
7 5 min. 18 min. 5 min. 28 min.
8 5 min. 20 min. 5 min. 30 min.
9 5 min. 23 min. 5 min. 33 min.
10 5 min. 26 min. 5 min. 36 min.
11 5 min. 28 min. 5 min. 38 min.
12 5 min. 30 min. 5 min. 40 min.

Source: Exercise and Your Heart, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute/American Heart Association, NIH Publication No. 93-1677



If you are an absolute beginner, take lessons with a certified instructor. Most swimming facilities that offer lessons will have a program for adult beginners. The instructor will ensure that you have basic safety skills and strokes down so that you can build up to training on your own.

If you already know how to swim, or have a history of swimming for fitness, your objective is to build a balanced workout that allows you to build up strength and endurance over time. One great resource for swimmers: www.swimplan.com. Registration is free, and once you create a profile and enter your skill and fitness levels, the site will generate a workout plan appropriate to your goals. READ MORE

Here is a sample workout for an experienced swimmer, returning to the pool to get in shape:

Duration: 30-45 minutes
Pool length: 33 meters

Warm up
2 x 66m freestyle, even pace; rest 20 seconds
4 x 33m backstroke; rest 15 seconds
2 x 33m breastroke; rest 15 seconds

6 x 33m freestyle; rest 20 seconds
8 x 33m individual medley; rest 20 seconds
(Follow butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle order. If necessary, perform each stroke for half a pool length until you build enough endurance to do full pool lengths of each stroke.)

Cool down
4 x 33m freestyle, alternating a lap of maximal effort with one at an easy pace; rest 20 seconds
1 x 66m any stroke, easy pace; rest 20 seconds LESS


Strength Training

You can build strength without using any fancy equipment or joining a gym. Mastering some strength exercises that use your body weight as resistance is a usually a safe, smart way to start.

For beginners training with weights, using correct form is vitally important. Without it, you will not be able to build muscle effectively and worse, you could suffer a debilitating injury. Learn proper technique from a certified fitness professional. The American College of Sports Medicine has a respected certification program. If your trainer's certification is from another organization, be sure to check out its reputation online. READ MORE

Here are some beginner moves recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for strength-building at any age. They use the body's weight for resistance:

Take a 5-to-10 minute walk to increase circulation and warm your muscles. You could also bike, row, or climb stairs.


  1. In front of a sturdy, armless chair, stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms out so they are parallel to the ground and lean forward a little at the hips.

  2. Making sure that your knees NEVER come forward past your toes, lower yourself in a slow, controlled motion, to a count of four, until you reach a near-sitting position.

  3. Pause. Then, to a count of two, slowly rise back up to a standing position. Keep your knees over your ankles and your back straight.

  4. Repeat 10 times for one set. Rest for one to two minutes. Then complete a second set of 10 repetitions.

Wall pushups

  1. Find a wall that is clear of any objects—wall hangings, windows, etc. Stand a little farther than arm's length from the wall.

  2. Facing the wall, lean your body forward and place your palms flat against the wall at about shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.

  3. To a count of four, bend your elbows as you lower your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion, keeping your feet planted.

  4. Pause. Then, to a count of two, slowly push yourself back until your arms are straight—but don't lock your elbows.

  5. Repeat 10 times for one set. Rest for one to two minutes. Then complete a second set of 10 repetitions.

Toe stands

  1. Near a counter or sturdy chair, stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Use the chair or counter for balance.

  2. To a count of four, slowly push up as far as you can, onto the balls of your feet and hold for two to four seconds.

  3. Then, to a count of four, slowly lower your heels back to the floor.

  4. Repeat 10 times for one set. Rest for one to two minutes. Then complete a second set of 10 repetitions.

Finger marching

  1. Stand, or sit forward in an armless chair, with feet on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

  2. Imagine there is a wall directly in front of you. Slowly walk your fingers up the wall until your arms are above your head. Hold them overhead while wiggling your fingers for about 10 seconds and then slowly walk them back down.

  3. Next, try to touch your two hands behind your back. If you can, reach for the opposite elbow with each hand—or get as close as you can. Hold the position for about 10 seconds, feeling a stretch in the back, arms, and chest.

  4. Release your arms and finger-weave your hands in front of your body. Raise your arms so that they're parallel to the ground, with your palms facing the imaginary wall. Sit or stand up straight, but curl your shoulders forward. You should feel the stretch in your wrist and upper back. Hold the position for about 10 seconds.

Cool down

Breathe steadily and move slowly through all of these stretches. The challenging part of your workout is over, so don't overextend your range of motion or make fast or bouncing motions.

Quadriceps stretch: With your left hand, hold a chair or counter for balance. Bend your right leg back and grasp your right ankle in your right hand until your thigh is perpendicular to the ground. Make sure you stand up straight—don't lean forward. (If you can't grasp your ankle in your hand, just keep your leg as close to perpendicular as possible and hold the bend, or place your foot on the seat of a chair.) You should feel a stretch in the front of the thigh. Hold the stretch for a slow count of 30 to 30, breathing throughout. Release your right ankle and repeat with the other leg.

Hamstring, calf stretch: Sit forward in a chair with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend your right leg in front of you, placing your right heel on the floor, and keeping your ankle relaxed. Don't lock your knee. Slowly lean forward at the hips, bending toward your right toes, trying to keep your back straight. Hold the stretch for a slow count of 20 to 30, breathing throughout. Sit up straight again and flex your right ankle so that your toes are pointing up toward the ceiling. Again, lean forward at the hips, bending toward your right toes and hold the stretch for a slow count of 20 to 30, breathing throughout. Release the stretch and repeat with your left leg.

Chest and arm stretch: Stand with your arms at your sides and your feet about shoulder-width apart. Extend both arms behind your back and clasp your hands together, if possible, retracting your shoulders. Hold the stretch for a slow count of 20 to 30, breathing throughout. Release the stretch and repeat.

Neck, upper back, shoulder stretch: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees straight but not locked, and your hands clasped in front of you. Rotate your hands so that your palms are facing the ground; then raise your arms to about chest height. Gently press your palms away from your body. You should feel a stretch in your neck and upper back and along your shoulders. Hold the stretch for a slow count of 20 to 30, breathing throughout. Release the stretch and repeat. LESS

theVisualMD Wishes to Thank our Scientific Collaborators:

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.