Hope and Healing: Beginning an Exercise Program

A heart at peace gives life to the body — Proverbs 14:30

Exercise is the only thing that will give you more personal energy. With more energy, you will have a greater ability to handle stresses at home and on the job.  Exercise will help you develop a more attractive and streamlined body.  Stronger muscles will give power to your hips and legs and spring to your step. You will feel in charge of your life. Exercise lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight and it prevents heart trouble. This exercise program is very safe.  A treadmill stress test is not required.  It is a good idea, however, to check with your doctor before you begin if you are over age 60 or have health problems.

Four Decisions to Make About Exercise 

  • Decide what kind of exercises to do.  All exercise is not the same. There is the fast paced moving kind such as walking and jogging. Then, there is the kind where you lift weights.  Fast walking and the like are aerobic exercises.  Weight lifting is an isometric exercise.  Stretching is also a form of isometric exercise.
  • Decide how often to exercise. We recommend a minimum of three days a week and maximum of six.
  • Decide how long to exercise.  We recommend 20 minutes for each session as you begin and a gradual increase to 40 minutes each session over a period of 12 weeks.
  • Decide how hard to exercise as you proceed.  Many plans measure the pulse as an indicator of how hard you’re exercising. We recommend the three-step method that follows.

A Three-Step Method to Keep Your Exercise Effort Within Safe Limits 

  • Watch your breathing.  At maximum exercise you should not be able to talk in complete sentences without taking a breath.  You shouldn’t be so winded that you can’t talk.  Nor should you be so out of breath that you have to stop to get your breath.
  • Notice whether you’re sweating. Toward the end, you should have a light sweat.
  • Be aware of whether you’re comfortable.  Do not continue to exercise if you develop chest pain or shortness of breath or muscle aches or pains.

Safe Stretching to Warm Up 

The importance of stretching is twofold:

  1. It helps prevent the loss of flexibility that comes with aging.
  2. It builds muscles to protect your joints from injury.

For safe stretching here are four guides:

  • Stretch until you feel tension, not pain.
  • Hold your stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.  Relax.  Then repeat.
  • Don’t bounce into a stretch, slow and easy is the rule.
  • Start stretching only after you’ve warmed up with a five minute walk.

The Stretching Routine   

Step One 

Lying flat on your back, raise one of your knees up toward your chest, holding it tight into the chest for a count of five.

Step Two 

Straighten your leg and repeat the exercise with the other leg.

Step Three 

Pull both knees to the chest, hold tight for a count of five.  Straighten both legs and relax.

Step Four 

Lying flat, push your lower back into the floor, thereby eliminating the back’s normal curvature.  Again, hold for a count of at least five.

Repeat these exercises for 3-4 minutes.  With each exercise keep your head flat on the floor.

Muscle Building Without Weights 

The rule of muscle is, “use it or lose it.”  These muscle builders can be done anywhere.  They are excellent when you travel.  They require no equipment; they use the weight of the body to build muscle.

Lower Body 

Half-knee bends.  

Stand with your feet apart and your hands on your hips.  Keep your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.  Half-bend at the knees.  Hold for a second or two.  Straighten up.  Repeat 10 times for a set.

Side-leg lifts.

Lie on your right side. Stretch your right arm out straight. Balance yourself by placing your left hand flat on the floor.  Raise your left leg about a foot from the floor. Hold for a second or two.  Slowly let your leg down.  Repeat 10 times. Reverse sides and repeat.

Middle Body


Lie on your back.  Clasp your hands behind your head. Bend your knees.  Lift your head and shoulders off the floor.  Ease back to the floor.  Repeat 10 times.

Upper Body

Modified Pushups.

Lie on your stomach.  Place your hands on the floor at shoulder level. Straighten your arms.  Push yourself up. Raise your head, shoulders, chest, belly, and hips off the floor, but not your knees.  Hold for 12 seconds.  Ease down.  Repeat 10 times.

A 12-Week Program of Walking and Muscle Building 

Walking has many advantages as an exercise program.  You can find a place to walk almost anywhere.

Weeks One through Three 

  1. Walk for 20 minutes on a flat surface in a traffic-free area three days a week.  Walk slow for five minutes at the start, then do brisk walking for 10 minutes.  Finally, cool down with a slow walk for five minutes.
  2. Do one set of each of the muscle builders every other day.  Do stretching after the five minutes of slow walking and during the muscle building sessions after you have warmed up.

Weeks Four and Five 

Fast walk for 15 minutes each time.  Don’t change anything else.

Weeks Six through Ten 

Fast walk 25 minutes each session.  Increase your walking to four days a week.  Increase your muscle building to two sets each session.  Continue everything else unchanged.

Week Eleven 

Fast walk for 28 minutes each session. Leave everything else the same.

Week Twelve 

Fast walk for 30 minutes five days a week.  Do muscle building two days a week. Do three sets each session.  Keep the rest of your exercise the same.


The point is, you should get started now and as Winston Churchill said, “Don’t give up.

Never, never give up.”  If you faithfully continue for 12 weeks your routines will be ingrained into your schedule so that they’re automatic. Then, exercise becomes a way of life for you.  And, the benefits are yours.

Here are some practical tips on exercises you can do at home and work.

At Home: 

  1. Walking  (A good inexpensive form of exercise as long as you have a safe place to walk and have a backup plan if it is too hot or cold. Try walking while moving a ball from one hand to the other to build coordination)
  2. Treadmill (start slow and gradually work up speed at your own pace)
  3. Exercise Bike (bikes that work the arms and legs are especially good)
  4. Recumbent Bike (good for people with knee problems, these bikes take the stress off the legs and knees while providing a good cardiovascular workout)
  5. Elliptical Trainer (one of the best low impact workouts, however, they tend to be more expensive)
  6. Exercise bands (available at most sports stores they will provide on-the-go strengthening)
  7. Health Bounder – buy a small in-home trampoline and run on it in your living room for 20 minutes a day. You can do this while watching the kids or listening to the news.

At Work: 

  1. Use the stairs (never take the elevator)
  2. Wear ankle weights (will help you burn more calories)
  3. Walk with a purpose. Instead of walking sluggishly, always try to walk with a quick, light step. This will help to burn more calories.
  4. Take a walk over lunch. Take 5 or 10 minutes before or after lunch and take a brisk walk.