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:

  • Your pulse rate before and immediately after walking 1 mile (1.6 kilometers)
  • How long it takes to walk 1 mile
  • How many 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 at the level of your hipbones
  • Your body mass index

Do you have any health issues?

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

It's also good to keep in mind that as you age, impaired balance, decreased elasticity of tendons and other factors can limit your exercise capacity. Injuries also are more frequent, and recovery takes longer. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise or that you won't benefit from it. Just be sure to seek input from your doctor or an exercise therapist about how to create a program that's appropriate for you.

What are your goals?

Keeping your fitness level in mind, think about why you want to start a fitness program. Perhaps your doctor has suggested that you start a fitness program to lose weight. If you're already active, perhaps you want to rev up your fitness program to prepare for a 5K race or get ready for a favorite sport. Having clear goals can help you stay motivated.

Jan. 12, 2013 See more In-depth