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Get Moving and Get Healthy

Ask any exercise aficionado about the benefits of working out, and the list is almost endless. Weight loss, weight maintenance, an enhanced cardiovascular system, and improved muscle tone and flexibility rank among the top benefits of physical activity.

Exercise lifts your spirits and can give you a natural "feel-good" sensation as your endorphin levels rise. It's also a terrific way to reduce stress, particularly after a busy day at work or juggling too many things on the home front.

For those who haven't exercised in a while, however, the thought of working out can be a source of stress in and of itself. That's why we've come up with the following list of tips to help you get off the couch and up on your feet - a few simple steps at a time:

Set mini-goals. Do as much as you can, and take pride in what you accomplish. Maybe it's ten minutes the first time ... and 15 minutes the next. As your endurance and fitness plan improves, you'll be able to extend your workout comfortably. And if you don't have a lot of time, break up your activity into "mini-workouts" throughout the day. They all add up!

Warm up and cool down. To prepare your body for activity and help prevent injury, warm up by walking in place and stretching your muscles. Do the same when you're finished, to safely slow down your heart rate.

Listen to your body. Do a "talk test" to see if you're exercising too hard. If you can carry on a conversation without breathing too heavily, you're right on target. If you're panting or having difficulty catching your breath, slow down by taking smaller steps or decreasing the intensity of your movements.

Drink plenty of water. Before, during and after your workout - not just when you're thirsty. This will help keep your body and muscles well-hydrated.

Have fun. This is your time, so enjoy it. If you're walking, listen to upbeat music or find a workout buddy. You will probably feel your body getting stronger by the minute. And you should tell yourself how terrific you are. Remind yourself that whatever happens today, you've accomplished your goal of being more active.