How Do I Begin an Effective Exercise Program?
A balanced and effective exercise program will focus on the five health-related components of physical fitness:
Aerobic Endurance is the ability of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels to deliver oxygen to your muscles.
To improve your aerobic endurance, participate in 20-60 minutes of aerobic exercises 3-5 days per week. The intensity should be difficult enough so you can talk but not comfortably sing. Example exercises include brisk walking, running, bicycling, or swimming.
Muscular Endurance is the ability to exert a submaximal force repeatedly or over time.
Muscular Strength is the ability to exert a maximal force one time.
To improve both muscular endurance and muscular strength, perform 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions for each of your major muscle groups 2-3 nonconsecutive days per week. It is important to choose a weight that causes your muscles to feel fatigued during the last few repetitions of every set but allows you to maintain good form. Never work through pain in a joint. Example exercises include the leg press, leg curl, chest press, back row, and abdominal curl.
Flexibility is the ability to move a joint through a full range of motion.
To improve your flexibility, stretch your major muscles 3 or more days per week. Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds to a feeling of mild tension but not pain. Example exercises include the quadriceps stretch, hamstring stretch, chest stretch, and back stretch.
Body Composition is the percentage of fat and fat-free mass in the body. Fat-free mass includes muscles, bones, blood, organs, and water.
You can improve your body composition by eating a healthy diet and performing aerobic and resistance training exercises regularly.
How Can I Exercise When I Am Short on Time?
barriers to physical activity)
can try to prevent you from maintaining your active lifestyle. Here are a few common barriers to physical
activity and suggestions for overcoming them:
I don’t have
find time for things that are important to us.
Make activity a priority in your life and stick to it.
anything is better than nothing. Don’t
have time for that hour long workout today?
How about a 15 minute brisk walk around the neighborhood.
where your time goes. Try writing down
everything you do for three days. How
many hours do you spend watching television or surfing the Internet? Are there activities that you can
eliminate? You may find that you have
more time than you thought.
smart. You don’t need to spend hours in
the gym to achieve the health benefits of exercise. Ask an exercise specialist how you can make
your workouts more efficient.
it throughout the day. Walk around the
field while your children are at soccer practice. Ride your bike to school. Take the stairs up to the office rather than
wait for the elevator. Walk on the
treadmill while you watch the evening news.
it. The majority of regular exercisers
set time aside each day to be active.
Write your activities on your calendar and treat them like any other
the morning. Morning exercisers are less
likely to procrastinate and skip a workout later in the day.
up. Three 10-minute walks can provide
the same health benefits as one 30-minute walk.
I don’t have
the morning. Energy levels tend to
decline as the day goes on. Try
exercising in the morning when you are fresh.
It will probably give you more energy for the rest of the day.
10-minute rule. Convince yourself to try
at least 10 minutes of exercise. You can
stop after 10 minutes if you want.
Chances are, exercise will give you more energy and you’ll want to keep
Eat a small
snack. You may feel sluggish if you
exercise in the late afternoon or after work.
Try eating a small snack like a banana with peanut butter or yogurt with
granola. It may give you the boost that
I don’t have
activity that you enjoy. Enroll in a
church or community recreation league.
Consider volleyball, softball, tennis, golf, or basketball. Sign up for a new class like martial arts,
dance, or yoga. Check out options at
your local fitness center, the choices may surprise you.
exercise classes. Many regular
exercisers find group exercise classes extremely motivating. A qualified and creative instructor can keep
you looking forward to each new workout.
Try step aerobics, kickboxing, indoor cycling, water aerobics, hip hop,
jazz, weight training, yoga, or Pilates.
friend. Have your friend meet you at the
activity destination. You’ll be less
likely to back out if you know someone is waiting on you.
yourself. Listen to your favorite music
or radio program while walking. Try
books on tape. Ride a stationary bicycle
while you watch your favorite television program. Flip through magazines on the stair climber.
Keep a log
and reward yourself. Mark your calendar
when you complete your workout. Reward
yourself with a new pair of athletic shoes or a CD when you have completed a
I don’t know
what to do.
local fitness center. Most facilities
provide free equipment orientations to members.
Fitness Center Specialists and Personal Trainers can also help.
Try a class
or video. There are many exercise
classes and videos that are geared just for beginners. An experienced friend may also be able to
I don’t have
walking. Walk around your neighborhood,
at the mall, or at a local park. All
you need is a comfortable pair of shoes.
library. Your local library can be a
great resource for fitness and health magazines, books, and exercise videos.
scholarships. Some recreation centers,
like the YMCA, provide scholarships for those who are in financial need. Contact your local center to find out more
embarrassed to exercise in front of others.
home. Look into a home treadmill,
stationary bicycle, or stair climber. Or
try exercise videos from the library.
a friend. A good friend or family member
may provide the comfort that you need.
a class geared just for you. There are
many classes and fitness centers geared toward certain populations. Consider gyms for women, water aerobics for
arthritis, prenatal classes, or classes for older adults.
I travel too
homework. Book your stay in a hotel with
a fitness center or pool. Ask about
temporary local gym memberships for travelers.
sightseeing. Walk to tourist
attractions, malls, or museums.
mini-gym. A jump rope and resistance
tubing can easily fit into your travel bag.
is too hot or cold.
inside. Try fitness centers, home
equipment, or exercise videos.
time of day. In the summer, exercise
outdoors in the early morning or evening when it is cool. In the winter, exercise outdoors at lunchtime when it is warm.
advantage of the seasons. Go swimming
during the summer, hiking in the spring or fall, and sledding or skiing in the
I have to
take care of children.
time. Try to exercise when your children
are in school or taking a nap.
them. Get involved in a game of tag,
ride bicycles, or go for a walk together. They will enjoy the activity
help. Trade babysitting time with a
friend or use the daycare at your local fitness center.