You have consulted with your doctor to determine if you need a medical evaluation. You have started your exercise program. And now you can measure just how well you're doing by counting the number of your workouts each week. An average of four or five workouts per week is excellent. If you're doing three workouts a week, you're just squeaking by — and if you're averaging less than three exercise days weekly, you need to retool your program.
By recording your workouts in a calendar or notebook, you can measure your consistency. Be sure to include the date, a description of the workout, comments on how you felt, as well as any other observations you'd like to make (such as your weight or the weather conditions).
Although many people experience a slow, steady weight loss during the first year of exercising, your cardiovascular condition will improve from regular aerobic exercise, regardless of whether you lose weight. There are several ways to measure that improvement. (The following are options, not standard measures for all sports.)
Take your resting pulse several times a week: You may see a drop of as much as 10 to 15 beats per minute over the six months of your program. Tip: Take your resting pulse at the same time each day, and try to pick a time when you're at rest and relaxed (just after waking up, for example, or in the evening before you go to bed).
Take the one-mile aerobic fitness test every three or four weeks, and keep a record of the results. You should see a steady improvement. To take the test, rest one full day, and abstain from food, coffee or tobacco for several hours. Then walk one measured mile at a steady pace, and record your heart rate in beats per minute immediately after stopping.
Pick a favorite two- or three-mile walking course, and repeat it every three or four weeks at a comfortable pace. Be careful to record the exact number of minutes and seconds it takes you to finish. (Try to do this at the same time of day each time.) You should see a steady reduction in your time.