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Coming Out of Exercise Hibernation

Conditioning is key after months of inactivity

SUNDAY, April 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- You may be anxious to get back into your exercise routine after being cooped up in the house all winter.

However, before you hop back on your bike or try that five-mile run, heed this advice from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP): Don't do too much too soon.

If you've spent a lot of the winter being sedentary, you can't expect to be at the level you were in the summer or fall. It will take time to get back into top condition, though it's well worth the effort. Regular exercisers reduce their risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and diabetes, and exercise helps reduce stress and improves the quality of sleep.

The AAFP suggests starting off with a fairly easy activity, such as walking. Other good activities are swimming, dancing, jogging and biking. Slowly increase the time you exercise and the pace. If you get sore, you may be pushing too hard. Ease off for a day or two.

Start off with 20 minutes of exercise three times a week. Work up to including at least 30 minutes of exercise a day almost every day of the week. Before and after exercising, you should stretch your muscles -- first to warm them up and at the end to cool them down, and to slow your heart down gradually.

If you get very short of breath, have pain, or if you feel dizzy, nauseous or faint, stop exercising, recommends the AAFP.

More information

To learn more about starting up your exercise program, visit the Duke University Health System.

SOURCES: American Academy of Family Physicians; Duke University Health System
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