Although most of us know the importance of exercise, understanding how to begin a beneficial exercise program is another matter, especially if you’ve never felt particularly “athletic.” Let’s look at some simple getting-started hints and goals to shoot for.
First and foremost, it is important to see your doctor to discuss any medical concerns you may have before you start an exercise program. Be sure to discuss exercise precautions if you are taking medications that affect your heart rate or blood pressure because they will affect your target rate when you work out.
To get started, it is important to understand that any physical activity can put you on the path to exercise. The American Heart Association recommends some form of moderate activity daily—for as little as 10 minutes at a time. This includes walking, swimming, yoga, Tai Chi, tennis, stair-climbing or any recreational sport.
If you don’t have specific physical limitations, you can start by just parking your car intentionally farther away from your destination when you run errands. Use the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. Walk for 10-15 minutes at lunch time or climb up and down stairs during your work break. These are very effective ways to build exercise into your day.
If you have a job that involves sitting with some getting up and moving around, try wearing a pedometer to tally how far you actually walk in a day during the normal course of your work. You may be amazed to discover that you can build in a lot of activity by just taking advantage of opportunities to walk to the next office instead of using the phone.
For aerobic fitness, which improves the fitness of your heart and lungs and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, use your heart rate as a guide for your own fitness.
Check your heart rate by gently laying your index and middle finger across the inside of your wrist. You should feel your pulse near the thumb side of your wrist. Count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4 for your per-minute resting heart rate.
If you are just starting an exercise program and have been sedentary for some time, aim to work out at 50%-60% of your maximum heart rate. To calculate this, subtract your age from 220 and multiply this by 0.5 and 0.6. For example, if you are 30 years old, 220-30=190. Your target heart rate during exercise should be 95-114. Start with a 5-10 minute warm up of stretching or deep breathing and work out for 10 minutes at the target heart rate. Cool down for 5 minutes.
As your success builds, you can increase the intensity of your workout to 60%-70% of your maximum heart rate and lengthen the duration of your workout to 20 minutes. With just this small amount of time each day, you can significantly improve your overall health and fitness.
If you find difficulty in taking your pulse during exercise, you can purchase a pulse monitor at many sporting goods stores. Monitors often come with a stop watch feature so you can time your exercise.
Just becoming aware of your body’s need for exercise and movement is the vital first step.
Remember, s/he who rests…rusts!