Ask the Doctor: Tips to Maintain an Exercise Program

Learn how to maintain a new exercise routine, prevent injuries and establish goals.

Dra. Sanchez Mata es un medico de Sharp Rees-Stealy
Dr. Sanchez-Mata

Dr. Eunice Sanchez-Mata, a family medicine physician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers, responds to frequently asked questions about reaching exercise goals.

How do you set realistic exercise goals?
You first want to figure out what your motivation for exercise is. Are you trying to lose weight? Get healthy? Build muscle? Excel at a sport? Without a specific goal, it's difficult to keep exercising and track your progress. The following questions are helpful when trying to set goals:

  • Do I know how to reach my goal?
  • How will I reward myself when I reach my goal?
  • Is my goal realistic and attainable?
  • What do I want to accomplish with this exercise?

For example, it may not be reasonable to lose 50 pounds in 6 months, but it may be more reasonable to lose 3 to 5 pounds every 1 to 2 months. The goal is not to lose weight; the goal is to change our lifestyle.

What are some tips for sustaining an exercise program long-term?

Some tips I provide to my patients include:

  • Be prepared by always having your workout bag with you
  • Keep a food and workout journal to stay on track and measure your progress
  • Pick an activity that's easy to fit into your life
  • Plan and schedule your workouts
  • Recommit to your goals every day
  • Set weekly goals and reward yourself each time you succeed
  • Work out with friends or family for added motivation

What are the best ways to prevent injuries due to exercising?

Tips for how to avoid injury while exercising are:

  • Anyone who has had injuries such as tendonitis, arthritis, stress fracture or lower back pain should work with a physician or physical therapist on a fitness routine that promotes good health and minimizes injury risk.
  • Invest in good equipment, such as the proper shoes for your sport, and replace them when they lose support or the treads show wear.
  • Listen to your body. Pain, swelling and stiffness can be signals it's time to modify an exercise routine. 
  • Spread your exercise regimen throughout the week. People who exercise three to five days a week are at less risk for injury than someone who does nothing all week then goes full throttle on the weekend.
  • Take lessons, even if you're not a newcomer to a sport. Proper form and instruction reduce the chance of injuries such as tendonitis and stress fractures.
  • Use the 10 percent rule. Increase activity levels in increments of no more than 10 percent per week, whether you're calculating miles walked or pounds lifted.
  • Warm up slowly and stretch. 

This is the second part, in a series of two, about exercise. To read the first part, visit How to Establish an Exercise Program.

For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's weight-loss services or to find a San Diego doctors, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.