Fitness: Create a program that's right for you

Ask yourself these questions to create a workout tailored to your needs and preferences.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Fitness programs abound, from yoga and Pilates to step aerobics and strength training — either at home or in a gym. So which type of fitness program is right for you? Ask yourself these questions to figure it out.

What is your current fitness level?

You probably have some idea of how fit you are. But assessing and recording baseline fitness scores can help you set your fitness goals and measure your progress. To assess your aerobic and muscular fitness, flexibility, and body composition, consider recording several fitness scores. For example, you might record several fitness scores from the President's Challenge Adult Fitness Test, such as:

  • Your pulse rate before and immediately after walking 1 mile (1.6 kilometers)
  • How long it takes to walk 1 mile or 400 meters, or how long it takes to run 1.5 miles (2.41 kilometers)
  • How many half situps, standard pushups or modified pushups you can do at a time
  • How far you can reach forward while seated on the floor with your legs in front of you
  • Your waist circumference, just above your hipbones
  • Your body mass index

Do you have any health issues?

If you are age 50 or older and haven't exercised for some time, or you have chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, it's a good idea to consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

It's also good to keep in mind that as you age, impaired balance, muscle weakness and other factors can limit your exercise capacity. Injuries may be more frequent, and recovery can take longer.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise or that you won't benefit from it. Before you start an exercise program, be sure to seek input from your doctor or an exercise therapist about how to create a program that's appropriate for you. In addition to aerobic activities, strength training and flexibility exercises, your doctor may suggest you incorporate balance training exercises into your exercise routine.

What are your goals?

Keeping your fitness level in mind, think about why you want to start a fitness program. Consider your health and fitness goals.

Perhaps your doctor has suggested that you start a fitness program to lose weight. If you're already active, maybe you want to increase the intensity of your fitness program to prepare for a 5K race or to get ready to participate in a favorite sport. Having clear goals can help you to stay motivated.

Oct. 17, 2015 See more In-depth