E xercise is critical to a healthy lifestyle. The list of benefits is well documented: it helps control weight, boosts energy levels, promotes better sleep, can fend off depression and anxiety, makes you feel better and look younger, improves learning, and can even have a positive effect on your sex life. So how do you get started?
For many, the first thought that comes to mind is to sign up for a membership at their local fitness center. Gyms are an excellent avenue for getting fit. Most workout facilities have advanced equipment and personal trainers who can help you along every step of the way. But gyms aren’t for everybody.
John Feenick, chair of the physical education department at Castleton State College, said some people don’t like gyms because they find it intimidating in nature or simply can’t afford to go.
Schuyler Schieffelin, a personal trainer and fitness professional at Gemini Fitness in Granville, said they are approached by clients who are scared to join the gym.
“They are terrified,” he said, explaining that many beginners are uncomfortable by the thought of working out in front of others.
The cost of a gym membership can also be prohibitive, especially in light of rising gas prices and a sluggish economy.
Many gyms in the local area charge anywhere from $30 to $50 for a basic membership, and that doesn’t include personal training sessions or fitness classes which cost extra.
There are, however, plenty of alternatives to the gym that will enable you to improve your fitness.
“One thing you can do is set up a home gym,” Feenick said. “Pick up a spin bike or stationary bike. Or get a bench and some light dumbbells.”
Resistance bands, kettle weights, and exercise balls can be used to perform a number of different exercises and fitness routines at a reasonable cost.
As seen on TV
Some of the fitness equipment sold on television is also a good option.
“The Total Gym that Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley sell on TV is a nice and effective piece of equipment,” Feenick said, pointing out that he uses one at home.
Exercise videos, such as P90X or Insanity, which combines interval work, and elements of pilates and yoga, are also very effective, and at around $150, offer a good return on your investment.
Your local library and online DVD rental services like Netflix also carry some video fitness routines so you can give them a try before shelling out the money to purchase them.
“The videos can be excellent,” Feenick said. “They can be too intense for some at first, but people can adjust and modify them to their needs.”
If spending more than a hundred dollars for some equipment is still a little too costly, there are plenty of less expensive options.
Many exercises require no equipment. Push-ups, floor sprints, wall squats, and many abdominal exercises can all be performed on a carpet in your living room or bedroom.
Schieffelin says 15 to 20 minutes of wall squats, push-ups, pull-ups and core exercises15 to 20 minutes every day can be a very effective workout routine.
“The core is very important,” he said.
He suggests planks where you rest on your elbows and feet (or knees for beginners) while keeping your back straight and stomach tight as an effective core exercise, especially for those who find stomach crunches too difficult.
Outdoors are great
Getting outdoors and taking a walk or going for a jog is another good alternative. It doesn’t require anything more than a pair of sneakers, and three 60 minute sessions per week will help you lose weight and improve your cardiovascular health.
And if automobile traffic gives you pause, many local school districts allow access to their tracks when classes aren’t in session. In fact, your local educational institutions can be a great a place to exercise.
The Granville school district has opened its gymnasium in the past for adult pick-up basketball games (permission and insurance is often needed), and the Whitehall school district offers a popular adult swim program in the winter months. And both districts have tennis courts which are available for public use.
Joining a local recreational sports league is also a cost efficient way of exercising. Both Whitehall and Granville have slow-pitch softball leagues, and in many instances, fees are covered by team sponsors. Glens Falls and Rutland also offer a variety of recreational leagues.
Of course if you pursue a more solitary form of exercise the region is surrounded by all sorts of opportunities for outdoor recreation:
Worth a visit
The Adirondacks of New York, and the Green Mountains of Vermont, literally offer hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Merck Forest in Rupert, Vt., is open year round and offers miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, snowshoeing and cross country skiing, and Pine Hill Park in Rutland, Vt., offers 300 acres and 16 miles of single-track trails ideal for trail running and mountain biking.
And the Mettawee River and the Battenkill are well known for their paddling opportunities.
Regardless of how you choose to exercise, Feenick has a few suggestions for people who are getting started.
One of the first things people should do is get a little instruction, whether it’s from a personal trainer or an active friend.
“Part of the reason people don’t exercise is because they don’t know how. Work with someone and learn some of the basics,” Feenick said.
There’s also an immense volume of information online, ranging from detailed fitness routines to video tutorials on YouTube and other sites.
It’s also important to take a go-slow approach, Feenick said.
“Many injuries occur because people do too much too soon,” he said.
“The most important thing is not to overdue it too soon. Ease into it and make gradual gains. Take a go-slow approach.” Stretching and elongating the muscles is important, but people need to take their time.”
For instance, if you plan on starting a running routine, Schieffelin said it’s a good idea to begin by walking at a brisk pace and working your way up to a jog and then running.
It’s also not a bad idea to check with your doctor before beginning any kinds of fitness routines, especially for people who are obese or on chronic medication.
And above all else find something you consider to be fun.
“People need to find something they enjoy, otherwise they’ll never stick with it,” Feenick said.