Everyone has made an excuse for not exercising. "There's not enough time." "I'm too tired." "I have to catch up with work." The list goes on and on. One reason you may not exercise is the fact that you don't know how to get started on an exercise program. Well, you're in luck! Keep reading to learn how to start and exercise program.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program, you should consult your physician.
What should you include in your exercise program?
- Aerobic exercise
- Strength training
- Flexibility exercises
Aerobic exercise utilizes large muscle groups in a continuous, rhythmic fashion for a long period of time. Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and lungs and decreases resting heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk for many diseases.
The basic foundation of aerobic exercise is the F.I.T.T. Model:
Frequency refers to how often you should exercise. Three to five days per week of aerobic exercise is recommended. If your goal is weight loss, aim for five or more days per week. It's important to include at least one rest day in order for your body and mind to recover.
Intensity describes how hard you should exert yourself when exercising. There are several ways to keep track of your intensity.
- The most common technique is using your target heart rate in beats per minute (bpm). First, you want to calculate your maximal heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Depending on your fitness level, calculate your target heart rate zone by multiplying your maximal heart rate by a lower intensity percentage and a higher intensity percentage. Exercising at 60-90% of your maximal heart rate is recommended. Keep in mind that a beginner should exercise between 60% and 70% of their maximal heart rate. For example, an inactive 40 year old female wants to start exercising. Her maximal heart rate is 180 bpm (220-40=180). Her target heart rate zone would be 108-126 bpm (180 x 60%=108 and 180 x 70%=126).
- Using the Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale is another frequently used method. This scale measures how you feel at a particular intensity and ranges from 6-20.
7 Very, very light
9 Very light
11 Fairly light
13 Somewhat hard
17 Very hard
19 Very, very hard
20 Maximal effort
- The Talk Test can also be used as an intensity tracker. You want to be able to carry on a conversation while exercising.
Time refers to the duration of a single exercise session. Exercising for 20-60 minutes is recommended. If you are a beginner and/or inactive, you may want to start with 20 minutes or even work up to 20 minutes. If your goal is to lose weight, you want to gradually increase your exercise session to 45 minutes or longer at a low to moderate intensity. In addition, you can exercise in a single session or in multiple sessions to reach your exercise time goal.
Note: As your fitness improves gradually increase the time and frequency of your exercise program before increasing the intensity.
Type refers to the variety of exercises you can choose to incorporate into your exercise program. Walking, running, cycling, swimming, and floor and water aerobics are several examples of exercises to include in your program.
Strength training involves using some type of resistance, weights or bands to isolate different muscles or muscle groups. It is effective in increasing muscular strength and endurance which is important for many activities. There is certain terminology you need to know before starting a strength training program. A rep is the act of lifting and lowering a weight once in a controlled manner. A set is one complete group of reps performed successively.
Strength Training Tips to Keep in Mind
- Perform 8-10 exercises involving each major muscle group, which include quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, calves, upper and lower back, chest, and shoulders.
- Start out with one set of 8-12 reps, working each muscle to fatigue.
- Exhale while exerting the most force, and inhale when lesser force is being exerted.
- Keep the movement slow and controlled. Usually a 2 second count lifting and a 2 second count lowering the weight is adequate.
- Gradually increase the reps, sets, and resistance to increase the exercise stimulus. When you can perform 2 or more reps than what was originally planned, increase the resistance slightly (2.5 -10 lbs.)
- Vary your program by using machine and free weights and alternating exercises.
Note: Strength gains are best developed by performing fewer sets and reps with heavier resistance. Muscular endurance is improved by executing fewer sets with more reps and light to moderate resistance.
Flexibility is the range of motion in a joint. Proper stretching involves holding a stretch for 10-30 seconds while breathing normally and not bouncing. You should include stretching in your warm-up and cool down and emphasize the major muscle groups.
Techniques for Sticking to Your Exercise Program
- Plan ahead. Determine where and when you are going to exercise.
- Make exercise fun with activities you enjoy.
- Start out easy and gradually build up.
- Set realistic goals.
- Add variety to your program to provide further improvements and prevent staleness and boredom.
- Have an exercise buddy, which holds you accountable for your exercise program.
Now that you have the skills and knowledge of what to incorporate into an exercise program, it is time to get started. Good luck!