Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. A physical examination is especially needed if you're over 35, overweight, have a history of hysterectomy or a strong family history of heart disease.

Unaccustomed exercise can put a fatal strain on your heart and circulation.
You should contact your doctor immediately, if while exercising you can't catch your breath, get chest pain, can't make your legs or arms obey you or turn white around your mouth while your face is flushed.

You must also see your doctor if shortness of breath and pounding of the heart are still noticeable ten minutes after you stop. Other danger signals that require medical attention: marked weakness persisting after two hours; a broken night's sleep attributable to exercise; a definite sense of fatigue the following day.

Follow these precautions if you wish to stay out of trouble:

  1. Wait at least one and a half hours after a meal - You will overburden your circulatory system by demanding blood for your muscles over and above that needed by your digestive system. On the other hand, physical activity just before a meal tends to lower your appetite and is an excellent way to combine diet and exercise.

  2. Proceed slowly - To avoid a shock to your circulatory system, warm up with 3 to 5 minutes of light calisthenics. Build up your performance gradually. Trying to move too quickly in a program is not only hazardous but discouraging. You may quit in frustration if your goals are unrealistic. Stop well short of exhaustion. If your heart rate approaches 170, slow down. You're probably over doing it if 2 minutes after you stop, your pulse still exceeds 110.

    Be noncompetitive or compete only with your self or a closely matched peer. An urge to keep pace with someone in better shape than you can be dangerous. Merely the outpouring of adrenaline in competition can rob your heart muscle of oxygen.

  3. Exercise at least three times a week -. Exercise benefits begin to reverse themselves if two or more days go by between sessions. Don't be a weekend exerciser - it doesn't work. If for some reason you had to lay off for a week or more, restart at a lower level than you were at when you stopped.

    If you are going to keep starting and stopping an exercise, you're safer not starting at all. Wear supportive clothing. Good jogging or walking shoes can protect you from leg and foot problems. Women should particularly wear a bra to keep breast ligaments from stretching.

  4. Don't exercise in extreme temperatures - Your heart works much harder from activity in very hot or very cold weather. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Beware doing heavy household chores in summer. On vacation don't overdo swimming or tennis.

  5. Taper off as you finish - Wind down by walking around and breathing deeply. If you stop abruptly with so much blood in your leg muscles you risk fainting, even heart attack.
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