Friday, December 2, 2011

Getting Started With Exercise

The other day I was asked on Facebook for some advice for someone who is just starting to get back into exercising, and for some ideas for a beginner’s workout. This is actually something that I get asked a lot, so I thought it might be helpful to write a little post about it. All of the information in this post is from The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, WebMD, and Mayo Clinic; as well as my own personal experience.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, personal trainer, or registered dietician. Please consult your physician before you start any new exercise program.


The Benefits

Exercise has many benefits other than just helping with weight loss, and I think it’s important to know about them. I find it helpful to remind myself of these benefits when I don’t feel like going to the gym or I think I’ve “blown it” with the diet. I’m not just exercising to lose weight, I’m doing it for my health! Here are some of the other benefits of exercise:

  • Disease control and prevention
    Regular exercise helps prevent and control many medical conditions, including high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, diabetes (Type 2), cardiovascular disease, stroke, depression, arthritis, and certain types of cancer.
  • Improves your mood, sleep, and energy
    We all know exercise helps lift our spirits, and I write about the endorphin rush all the time on the blog. Regular exercise also can help you get a better night’s sleep, and it improves your energy levels throughout the day.
  • Better sex
    Yep, that’s right. Exercise has been shown to increase arousal for women, and interestingly, men who who don’t exercise are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction.

The Recommendations

The CDC recommends one of the following exercise regimens for overall general health:

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (cardio) every week AND strength training on 2 or more days per week that works all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms)
    OR
  • 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week AND strength training on 2 or more days per week that works all major muscle groups
    OR
  • An equivalent mix of moderate-and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and strength training on 2 or more days per week that works all major muscle groups

Some examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity may include brisk walking, swimming, or bicycling, while vigorous-intensity aerobic activity would include jogging or running.

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Remember that exercise does not have to be limited to things that you do in a gym. Any kind of physical activity can be counted as exercising, and it’s important to find something that you love to do so you’ll stick with it, whether it’s walking, dancing, skiing, or even gardening!


A Plan For Beginners

It’s hard for me to write an actual exercise plan for someone without personally knowing them for two reasons: the first being that I am NOT a personal trainer, and the second being that everyone is different and your current fitness levels will make a big difference regarding the kind of routine you might start out with. For someone who is just starting out, I would suggest simply making it a goal to get in the CDC’s recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, as well as 2 days of strength training. For one person, this could mean walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week and for another, it could mean running on a treadmill. Like I said, you have to find what works best for you and your current fitness abilities.

Also, I do want to point out that while lifting weights is my personal preference for strength training, it is not the only way. Working with resistance bands, doing yoga, and body weight exercises (push-ups, sit-ups, etc.) are all examples of other possible methods.

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Additionally, keep in mind that your daily exercise doesn’t have to be all at once. If you have to split your cardio up into two 15 minute sessions (or three 10 minute sessions, etc.), then so be it! You’ll still get all the same benefits.

Lastly, something is better than nothing. If you missed your workout for the day or can’t manage to fit it in, don’t beat yourself up! Instead, fit in mini bursts of activity when you can. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park in the farthest parking spot at the store so you have to walk further. Do bicep curls with the paper weights on your desk Winking smile. Haha, you get what I’m saying.

 

Exercise should be fun and something that you look forward to. It may take a little while to figure out what you like to do and what works for you, but eventually you’ll get it and you’ll start to crave the satisfaction that you get after a good sweat session. You’ll start adjusting your routines and finding new ways to mix things up as your fitness abilities improve and you learn more about exercise. Three years ago, I started with 30-45 minutes of cardio five days a week, and now I do cardio of varying intensities five to six days per week and strength train four days a week. They say it takes 21 days to make something a habit, so I think it’s definitely safe to say that I’ve made exercise a habit in my life.

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With a little effort, you can too Winking smile.

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