Fitness Fundamentals: Begin and Maintain an Exercise Program

Guidelines for personal exercise programs.

  from The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports

All exercise clothing should be loose-fitting to permit freedom of movement, and should make the wearer feel comfortable and self-assured.

As a general rule, you should wear lighter clothes than temperatures might indicate. Exercise generates great amounts of body heat. Light-colored clothing that reflects the sun’s rays is cooler in the summer, and dark clothes are warmer in winter. When the weather is very cold, it’s better to wear several layers of light clothing than one or two heavy layers. The extra layers help trap heat, and it’s easy to shed one of them if you become too warm.

In cold weather, and in hot, sunny weather, it’s a good idea to wear something on your head. Wool watch or ski caps are recommended for winter wear, and some form of tennis or sailor’s hat that provides shade and can be soaked in water is good for summer.

Never wear rubberized or plastic clothing, such garments interfere with the evaporation of perspiration and can cause body temperature to rise to dangerous levels.

The most important item of equipment for the runner is a pair of sturdy, properly-fitting running shoes. Training shoes with heavy, cushioned soles and arch supports are preferable to flimsy sneakers and light racing flats.

When to Exercise

The hour just before the evening meal is a popular time for exercise. The late afternoon workout provides a welcome change of pace at the end of the work day and helps dissolve the day’s worries and tensions.

Another popular time to work out is early morning, before the work day begins. Advocates of the early start say it makes them more alert and energetic on the job.

Among the factors you should consider in developing your workout schedule are personal preference, job and family responsibilities, availability of exercise facilities and weather. It’s important to schedule your workouts for a time when there is little chance that you will have to cancel or interrupt them because of other demands on your time.

You should not exercise strenuously during extremely hot, humid weather or within two hours after eating. Heat and/or digestion both make heavy demands on the circulatory system, and in combination with exercise can be an overtaxing double load.

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