Physical training works best when you have a plan. A plan helps you make gradual but steady progress toward your goals. First, determine that exercise is safe for you; then assess how fit you are, decide what your goals are, and choose the right activities to help you get there.

Getting Medical Clearance

People of any age who are not at high risk for serious health problems can safely exercise at a moderate intensity (60% or less of maximum heart rate) without a prior medical evaluation (see Chapter 3 for a discussion of maximum heart rate). Likewise, if you are male and under 40 or female and under 50 and in good health, exercise is probably safe for you. If you do not fit into these age groups, or if you have health problems especially high blood pressure, heart disease, muscle or joint problems, or obesity see your physician before starting a vigorous exercise program. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology has developed the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) to help evaluate exercise safety; it is included in Lab 2.1. Completing it should alert you to any potential problems you may have. If a physician isn’t sure whether exercise is safe for you, she or he may recommend an exercise stress test or a graded exercise test (GXT) to see whether you show symptoms of heart disease during exercise. For most people, however, it’s far safer to exercise than to remain sedentary. For more information, see the box “Exercise and Cardiac Risk.”


Assessing Yourself

The first step in creating a successful fitness program is to assess your current level of physical activity and fitness for each of the five health-related fitness components. The results of the assessment tests will help you set specific fitness goals and plan your fitness program. Lab 2.3 gives you the opportunity to assess your current overall level of activity and determine if it is appropriate. Assessment tests in Chapters 3-6 will help you evaluate your cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition.

Setting Goals

The ultimate general goal of every health-related fitness program is the same wellness that lasts a lifetime. That lifelong goal might include the specific goals of walking 30 to 60 minutes every day or doing a few callisthenic exercises every morning. Whatever your specific goals, they must be important enough to you to keep you motivated. Most sports psychologists believe that setting and achieving goals is the most effective way to stay motivated about exercise. (Refer to Chapter 1 for more on goal setting, as well as Common Questions Answered at the end of this chapter.) After you

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