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Getting started and staying active

If you think getting fit is difficult, you are not alone. Many people find it hard to get started, for many different reasons. Do any of these reasons sound like you?

I can’t exercise because I don’t have any equipment
I don’t have time to exercise
I don’t know how to exercise
My parents/guardian aren’t active
Exercise sounds so boring to me
Equipment or health clubs cost

Make a fitness plan

There are lots of other things that might get in the way of regular exercise. You might think your schedule is full or you are not sure how to get started. For each situation, there is a solution.

Once you get past these challenges, decide when you are going to exercise and which activities you would like to do.

When you think about a new physical activity, ask yourself these questions:

1.Will you enjoy it?
2.Is it safe?
3.Is it available to you?
4.Do you have the time to do it?
5.Do you have friends who do it, too?
If you answered “no” to these questions, find another activity. It is better to find something that fits into your schedule, that you will enjoy, and that you can do safely. The important thing is that you get moving and there are lots of ways to get started! Walk when you talk on the phone, use the stairs instead of an elevator, and walk or bike to school. Don’t worry if you don’t have athletic equipment — you don’t need anything special to exercise. You can:

  Use canned foods as weights
  Go for power walks or run around your neighborhood or the school track
  Use your own body weight to strength train by doing push-ups, sit-ups, tricep dips, and lunges

There are many different exercises to work all parts of your body. The chart below shows the specific muscles worked by the different exercises.


Muscles Worked


Jumping Jacks


Jumping rope





Inline Skating

Hula Hoop

Calves (lower leg), inner/outer thigh, butt

Calves, front/back thigh, abdominals

Calves, thighs, abdominals, shoulders, arms

Nearly all major muscles

Nearly all major muscles (depending on type of dance)

Arms, calves, front/back thigh, abdominals

Calves, front/back thigh, butt

Inner/outer thigh, butt

Lower back, abdominals
too much

If you can relate to any of these statements, it is important that you read on for tips on leading an active lifestyle. You don’t have to be an athlete or be involved in an organized sport to be fit. You just have to sit less and move more! It is also important to get other members of your family moving, too.
I am too busy

Try exercising after school or work, or pick a time that works best for you each day. It's up to you to make the time and effort.

Exercise bores me

Try out different activities. Sick of jogging? Try rollerblading. Not interested in lifting weights? Try Pilates (Read an article on Pilates.) You could also schedule different activities for different days of the week to keep things interesting. For example, you could swim on Saturdays and do yoga on Tuesdays.

It is had to stick with

Try exercising with a friend or a family member to give one another support. If someone else is counting on you to workout or play catch, you’ll be less likely to skip exercising.

I don't have equipment or or access to a health club

Choose activities that don’t require special equipment, such as jogging or walking. Find resources within your community that are either low-cost or free, such as park and recreation programs. Can you use your school’s gym or swimming pool after school or on weekends? You could also take your dog (or borrow a neighbor’s pup!) for a long walk or an easy jog. Try jumping rope. There are lots of ways to exercise that don’t require a gym membership — be

I don't know how

Start with activities that you don’t have to learn new skills for, such as walking climbing stairs, or jogging. Exercise with friends who are either beginners like you, or who are more experienced and can teach you what they know. Take a class to learn new things, such as a Pilates class at  your community center or health club.

Using the Right Equipment

When you exercise or play sports, it is important to use the right safety equipment.

Helmets are needed for sports such as baseball, softball, biking, snow skiing, and rollerblading. Make sure you wear the right helmet for the sport you are playing and that it fits well. Also make sure that the helmet you wear for biking has a sticker from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which means that it is safe for this activity.

Mouth guards protect your mouth, teeth, and tongue. You should wear a guard if there’s a chance you could get hit in the head while taking part in activities such as volleyball, basketball, or martial arts. You can find mouth guards at sport stores or your dentist. It will also help keep your mouth safe to take out your retainer.

Special eye protection is needed for sports such as ice hockey, soccer, and basketball. Goggles and face masks should fit snugly and have cushion for a comfortable fit. If you wear glasses, you need to get fitted for guards that fit over your glasses. You could also buy special prescription goggles, which cost about $60 or more. These guards and goggles are made with a special plastic called polycarbonate (say: pahl-ee-kar-buh-nayt). This special plastic will not hurt your eyes.

It is important to wear the right footwear for your sport. Check with your coach or an athletic shoe salesperson about what shoes to wear.

Wrist, knee, and elbow pads can help prevent broken bones when you are inline skating/rollerblading, skate or snow boarding, or playing sports such as hockey.
What to Wear to Workout

When you exercise, you should wear loose-fitting clothes that allow you to move freely. In the summer, wearing lighter colors will help you keep cooler. Dark clothes, which trap light, will help keep you warmer in the winter. Wear layers when it is really cold. It is good to wear hats or baseball caps for shade in sunny weather, and wool or ski caps in the winter to keep your head and body warm. Never wear rubbery or plastic clothing (yes, it’s out there!) because it won’t allow your sweat to escape and your body can get too hot.

Shoes are also very important. Make sure they are sturdy, fit well, and have heavy cushioned soles and arch supports. If you plan to run, getting shoes fitted by a sports shoe salesperson can be helpful. The wrong fit can be uncomfortable or even hurt you. Socks can be important also. They help absorb sweat to help you avoid blisters. And, they might help keep your shoes from smelling badly!

Menstrual dysfunction. A missed period is a concern for girls and women who over-exercise. Your body needs a certain amount of fat to function and to have regular periods. Eating right and exercising is important for having a healthy body, but some girls take it too far. Too much exercising or very strict dieting can use up your body fat and delay your period, or cause it to stop until you gain some weight back. Not having menstrual periods is called amenorrhea — a sign that hormone patterns have changed. Oligomenorrhea (say: ah-li-go-men-ah-REE-uh) is having very few periods, usually with cycles that last longer than 35 days. Women who suffer from anorexia and elite women athletes who train seriously for competition often have amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea.

Low bone mineral density. Osteopenia (say: oss-tee-oh-PEEN-ee-uh) and osteoporosis (say: oss-tee-oh-per-OH-sis) is when your bones become weak. If a female athlete doesn’t eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of calcium, she can develop osteopenia or osteoperosis. This can ruin a female athlete's career because it may lead to stress fractures and other injuries. Usually, the teen years are a time when girls should be building up their bone mass to their highest levels — called peak bone mass. Not getting enough calcium during the teen years can also have a lasting effect on how strong a girl's bones are later in life.  Web site to learn more about strong and healthy bones
Over-exercising Can Actually be Harmful

Sometimes you really can have too much of a good thing. If you over-exercise your emotional health can suffer. It is linked to:

Eating disorders
Sometimes, teens over-exercise along with having an eating disorder such as anorexia. People with anorexia take extreme steps to lose weight, including not eating at all. This combination puts your health in danger.

If you think that you may be over-exercising or have an eating disorder, talk about it with someone you can trust. Talk to a school counselor or nurse. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to bring it up. If you think that your friend may have one of these problems, help them find someone to talk to. Be supportive and let them know you care about them.

Knee injuries

It’s fairly common for teens to develop knee injuries, especially if you’re very active in sports. If your knee hurts so much that it affects your usual routine, you can’t put weight on it, or is red or swollen, you should see a doctor.

You can help prevent knee injuries by:

Wearing the correct protective equipment for your sport (for example, knee pads and shin guards)
Warming up and cooling down before exercise
Stretching regularly
Bending your knees when you land from a jump
Using correct technique for your sport, like cutting and pivoting
Learn more about the kinds of knee injuries that are possible and different treatments!


Osteoporosis is when your bones become weak and break easily. If a female athlete doesn’t eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of calcium, she can develop osteoporosis. This can ruin a female athlete's career because it may lead to stress fractures and other injuries.

The teen years are the most important time for girls to build up their bone mass to their highest levels — called peak bone mass. Not getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and physical activity during the teen years can have a lasting effect on how strong a girl's bones are later in life.
Before you start exercising, you need to warm up your muscles. It is best to warm up your muscles before stretching them. You can warm up by walking at an easy pace before stretching. Then stretch by starting at the top of your body and working your way down. Slowly stretch your calf, quad, groin, and hamstring muscles. Warming up can also include jogging slowly, doing knee lifts, and arm circles.

Make sure to cool down and stretch after exercising, too! A cool-down is a gentle exercise or stretch that helps the body return to its normal state after vigorous exercise. Cool-downs help your pulse (or heart rate) return to normal and can help prevent your muscles from feeling stiff after a workout.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Important Exercise Safety Tips

See your doctor for a sports physical before you start a sport.
Don’t exercise when it is really hot and humid out. You do not want your body to overheat or get dehydrated. If it’s very hot or humid outside, try moving your exercise indoors that day. Also, if you live in an area with high air pollution, exercise early in the day or at night and avoid congested streets and rush hour traffic.
Drink water before, during, and after exercise or sports competitions. Read more about the water your body needs.
Make sure you warm up and stretch your muscles for 5 minutes before and after workouts to make your muscles more flexible. It is easer to get hurt if your muscles are not stretched. It is also important to increase the intensity of your workout gradually. If you exercise intensely right away, you could risk getting hurt. Check out tips on how to stretch before exercising.
See a doctor or let your parents/guardian know if: 1) You are in severe pain, 2) you see swelling around where you got hurt, or 3) The pain gets in the way of sleep and activities. Don’t jump back to your regular exercise after getting hurt because you could get hurt again. Follow your doctor’s orders for how to care for your injury and when you can be active again. This includes following instructions for use of pain medicine.
Follow the rules of the game! The rules are there, in part, to keep you safe
Female Athlete Triad

Some girls who play sports or exercise intensely are at risk for a problem called female athlete triad. Female athlete triad is a combination of three conditions: disordered eating, amenorrhea (or missed periods), and osteoporosis. A female athlete can have one, two, or all three parts of the triad.

Eating disorders. Most female athletes who develop an eating disorder are trying to lose weight so they can be better at their sport. This kind of eating disorder can range from avoiding certain types of food the athlete thinks are "bad" (such as foods containing fat) to serious eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
Dealing With Excuses for Not Exercising

You must learn to find a solution to excuse for not exercising