Exercise: Starting an Exercise Program

Exercise is very important for good health. Your healthcare provider may tell you that you need to get more exercise. To do this, you will need to get into the habit of exercising so that it becomes part of your normal routine. The best exercise for you is one that you enjoy and that you will do regularly. If you start a jogging program, but hate to jog, you are not likely to keep it up. Try to involve family members or friends. Join a team or an exercise class and make it fun.

You can get exercise during your daily activities. For example, take the stairs instead of an elevator, park far away in a parking lot and walk briskly to the store, or walk during your lunch break. The benefits of exercise are lifelong – so have fun!

What is aerobic exercise?

Aerobic exercise increases your breathing and heart rate. This is important because it helps keep your heart and lungs healthy. Examples include walking, swimming, riding a bike, and dancing. But, you need to do them briskly so that your heart and breathing rate go up. Most team sports are aerobic. Being part of a team sport will give you a chance to exercise several times a week. Tennis, hockey, rowing, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and cross-country running are all good examples of aerobic sports.

What is anaerobic exercise?

Anaerobic exercise is high intensity, strenuous activity such as weight lifting or sprinting. It is done to build strength, improve speed, and lose body fat. This kind of exercise may help you burn calories at a faster rate for nearly 18 hours after you finish the workout. In contrast, aerobic exercise only raises your metabolic rate for 2 hours.

You can do this kind exercise often during the day. Carrying groceries or sprinting to catch a bus are considered anaerobic exercise.

One kind of high intensity exercise is called interval training. Interval training means that you push hard for a short time, then ease up for a short time. It’s usually best if your recovery period is at least 3 times longer than your hard effort. For example, run for 30 seconds, then walk for 2 minutes, run for 30 seconds, walk for 2 minutes and so on. To interval train, repeat these bursts of exercise several times during your workout.

How often and how long should I exercise?

There are three ways to measure your exercise:

  • Frequency: This is how often you exercise. Try to get aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week. Doing too much aerobic exercise can lead to overtraining and overuse injuries. Do anaerobic exercise 2 or 3 times a week.
  • Duration: This is how long you exercise. A healthy goal for most adults is to do moderate exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes or more each week. You don’t need to do 30 minutes of activity all at once. You can do shorter periods, but try to do at least 10 minutes each time. You may need to work up to this slowly. If you do more intense exercise, a healthy goal is 75 minutes per week.
  • Intensity: This is how hard you work when you exercise. You can do a mix of moderate and intense exercise. To make sure you are getting the most from your exercise, you need to check your heart rate during your workout. A target heart rate is a way to make sure that you are exercising hard enough to help your heart, yet easy enough so that you exercise safely. You can also use your target heart rate to check your progress over time. For example, when you start your exercise program you might only be able to reach 50% of your target heart rate. Over time, you may be able to reach 60%, then 75% and so on.

After a few weeks of training, you can continue improving your level of fitness by increasing the frequency, duration, or intensity of your exercise. Do not increase all 3 at the same time.

How do I figure out my target heart rate?

To figure out your target heart rate, you first need to figure out your maximum heart rate (MHR). To do this, subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 40 years old, your MHR would be 180 beats per minute.

220 – 40 (years old) = 180 beats per minute

Next, figure out your target heart rate. For aerobic activity, try to keep your heart rate between 50% and 85% of your MHR. For example, if you are 40 years old your target heart rate range should be 90 to 153 beats per minute.

180 (MHR) X 0.5 (50%) = 90 beats per minute

180 (MHR) X 0.85 (85%) = 153 beats per minute

During exercise, check your pulse from time to time to see if you are within your target heart rate range. For aerobic exercise, if your heart rate is too fast (over your 85% mark) then slow down. If your heart rate is below your 50% mark then you need to pick up your pace.

What about warming up and cooling down?

An active warm-up, such as walking slowly for 5 to 10 minutes, before starting your workout may make your muscles more flexible and less prone to injury. Right after exercise, let your heart rate return slowly to normal. Walking slowly, for example, will let you cool down and let your heart and breathing return to normal levels. You should also stretch the muscles you used during your exercise. Take 5 to 10 minutes to cool down.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-03-04
Last reviewed: 2014-06-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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