Fitness has come a long way since the days of morning calisthenics. You might be surprised at how much fun exercise can be and how easy it is to fit regular workouts into your schedule.
ON YOUR MARK …
- Consult your doctor before starting an exercise program if you are over 40, if you have any medical problems, or if two or more of the following risk factors apply to you: inactivity overweight, high cholesterol, diabetes, family history of heart disease, smoking, or hypertension.
- Muscles need time to adjust, so begin whatever activity you choose at a low level.
MAKING A PROGRAM
- Structure your routine around two types of activity: aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or swimming, which improves the cardiovascular system; and weight training, which builds the strength and endurance of specific muscles.
- Perform aerobic exercises three to five times a week for approximately 20 to 30 minutes each day, depending on the intensity of the workout. Weight training can be done two to three times a week for as little as 20 to 30 minutes each day.
- Decide on your fitness goals. If you are working out to lose weight and gain endurance, jogging, swimming, and cross country skiing are ideal choices. Those who want to gain weight should go easy on aerobic exercise, focusing instead on weight training. If meeting new people is important to you, consider team sports.
STAYING WITH IT
- Setting goals is a useful way to measure your progress. Set weekly goals, which are more flexible and easier to meet than daily goals.
Your Exercise Heart Rate
During aerobic workouts, your heart rate should stay within its training zone, defined as 60 to 85 percent of its maximum level.
Here’s how to find your training zone: Subtract your age from Multiply that figure by .6 to find the low end of your zone, and by .85 to find the high end.
Different levels of activity will require different heart rates. For low-level activities, such as walking, keep your heart rate at 60 to 70 percent of its maximum for 40 to 60 minutes. Jogging will require a heart rate of 70 to 85 percent for 18 to 25 minutes. And when running, keep your heart rate near its maximum for only 12 to 18 minutes.
- If you find workouts boring, try listening to music on a portable tape player. You can also listen to books on tape, now available in many libraries. However, you should do this only in safe areas such as along the beach-and never in areas of heavy traffic.
- Varying your exercise program will help you achieve a complete workout, prevent repetitive strain injuries, and fight boredom (see “Cross Training,” ).
WHAT EXERCISE CAN DO
- There’s strong evidence that regular exercise can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and sudden death from heart at- tack. It can also help fight obesity.
- There are some indications that regular exercise may lower the risk of cancer and help lower high cholesterol levels.
- Though there is no evidence that exercise will help prevent arthritis, gentle exercise-especially when done in water-may help relieve stiff joints.
HOW IT WORKS
- Exercise helps with weight loss by raising the metabolic rate, not only during exercise but for hours afterward. A more rapid metabolic rate, which burns more fat, also increases your lean body mass. (In contrast, dieting without exercising will lower the metabolic rate. Low-calorie diets make the body work slower and result in the loss of lean body mass as well as fat.)
- Exercise helps clean the arteries. It induces an increase in the amount of a protective cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) that is thought to clean the arteries by removing damaging cholesterol (LDL cholesterol).
- Exercise may help prevent osteoporosis and fractures by increasing the calcium content of bones. Actually, not all exercises do this, only those that work against gravity (running or walking are effective; swimming is less so). Tennis players, for example, have thicker bones in their playing arms.
Diabetics should know that exercise helps make the body more sensitive to insulin. Exercise re- duces fat, which interferes with the work of insulin. Type II diabetics may then be able to reduce their insulin requirements.
FITNESS FOR THE MIND
- Because it releases the hormone beta-endorphin, which has an effect similar to that of morphine, exercise is a natural tranquilizer and antidepressant. It may also help ease anxiety and stress.
- Many who take up exercise report feeling more self-confident than when they were sedentary. They also experience heightened creativity and better moods.
Read up on your chosen sport. This will give you confidence by teaching you proper technique and helping you avoid common pitfalls.
MEALS AND EXERCISE
- What you eat and when you eat it will affect your endurance and, ultimately, your performance. So give your body the right fuels to run on.
- Complex carbohydrates, also called starches, are your body’s most important source of energy. They supply glucose, which is stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. During a typical workout, it is glycogen that is used first as fuel. Glycogen is crucial for high-intensity activities, such as weight lifting. After 10 to 20 minutes of moderate exercise, the body will rely more heavily on fat stores for energy. Pasta, bread, cereal, fruits, and vegetables are all excellent sources of complex carbohydrates.
- Avoid simple carbohydrates, which are found in candy bars and sweetened sports drinks,
- before a workout. Rather than giving you a quick energy boost, they trigger the release of insulin, which takes sugar out of the blood. This drop in the level of blood sugar may actually hinder sports performance for up to an hour.
- Protein, which is needed to maintain and repair the body’s cells, is the last substance the body draws on for energy. Protein is tapped once the available supplies of carbohydrates and fats have been used up .
- While you should avoid a heavy pre-exercise meal, it is important to drink water before, during, and after exercise.
- If you think you can improve the timing of your meals but aren’t sure how, keep a log. Write down what you eat, the amount of food, and when it was eaten. Record how you felt before, during, and after exercise. Once you discover a pattern, you’ll be able to plan your own training schedule and pre-workout meals.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water when exercising; by then you may already have lost two to four pounds of fluid. During a workout, even mild dehydration can lead to reduced strength and endurance