Creating an Exercise Program for You 

Understand the importance of types of exercise, heart rates, and an exercise program for your health and wellness.

Exercise not only improves your physical fitness, but has a multitude of health benefits that include improving blood sugar, preventing Type 2 Diabetes, maintaining muscle mass while dieting, lowering blood pressure, improving lipid profile, strengthening bones, improving circulation, and reducing stress. 

When it comes to establishing an exercise program, it is critical to not push too hard or too little. Exercising at the appropriate level of intensity will help you get the most benefits. The goal is to exercise a minimum of 30 minutes five days every week and incorporate moderate-intensity activities during most days of the week. If you have never exercised, it is important to start slowly and discuss this with your healthcare provider. Not all, but some individuals with diabetes or multiple risk factors for heart disease may need to take an exercise test before starting an exercise program. 

To make it easier to keep exercising, pick an exercise regimen that you enjoy and that fits into your daily schedule. 

Understanding aerobic exercise, resistance training, and stretching exercises 

Aerobic exercise increases the blood flow through the heart. It refers to exercising at a level in which the large muscles receive adequate oxygen during sustained activity. 

Resistance training includes lifting weights and is designed to increase muscle strength. 

Stretching exercises improve flexibility and prevent injuries. These movements allow joints to have a wider range of motion. They help maintain musculoskeletal function, agility, and balance. 

Understanding exercise intensities 

The intensity of exercise is a subjective measure and correlates to how hard the activity feels to you while you are doing it. It shows up in your heart rate, breathing, how tired your muscles feel, and whether you’re sweating. 

The activities of daily living, such as casual walking, cooking, cleaning, and shopping, are low-intensity activities 

During moderate-intensity exercise, you should be able to carry on a conversation, but not sing. Even though your breathing quickens, you are not out of breath. Sweating starts after 10 minutes of activity. 

High-intensity exercise is more intense, and you cannot say more than a few words without pausing for breathe. Breathing is rapid and deep. Sweating begins after a few minutes of activity. 

Using maximum heart rate and target heart rate zone to gauge the intensity 

You can also gauge the intensity of activities by looking at your heart rate or how hard your heart is beating during an activity. You should understand your maximum heart rate, which is the upper limit of what your heart and blood vessels can handle during an activity. To find the maximum heart rate you need to subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 40 years old, subtract 40 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 180. This should be your heart rate per minute during an activity. You can calculate your desired target heart rate zone once you know your maximum heart rate. The target heart rate zone is the level at which the heart is not overworked. 

The American Heart Association generally recommends a target heart rate of: 

  • Moderate-intensity exercise: 50% to about 70% of your maximum heart rate 
  • High–intensity exercise: 70% to about 85% of your maximum heart rate 

Method to calculate target heart rate zone:  

  • Know your resting heart rate by counting how many times your heart beats per minute when you are at rest. 
  • Know your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. 
  • Subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate to calculate your Heart Rate Reserve (HRR). 
  • Multiply your HRR by 0.7 (70%). Add your resting heart rate to this number. Multiply your HRR by 0.85 (85%). Add your resting heart rate to this number. These two numbers create your average target heart rate zone. Your heart rate during vigorous exercise should generally be between these two numbers. 

Exercise Program

An ideal exercise program includes a warm-up section, a workout section with aerobic exercise, resistance training, and stretching, and a cool-down section. 

Warm-up

Warming up for at least 10 minutes before leaping into your exercise regimen is an essential part of a workout. Warming up gradually increases your heart rate and reduces the risk of injuries. A good warm-up should work for all major muscle groups. Start with low-level aerobic exercises, such as walking, cycling, calisthenics (exercises large muscle groups and includes standing, grasping, and pushing), and then add stretching and flexibility movements. 

Work out

To make your workout enjoyable and interesting, it is important to incorporate aerobics, strength training, and stretching exercises.  

Cycling, rowing, stair climbing machine, swimming, running, and brisk walking are all examples of aerobic activities. Low-impact activities are often better to avoid the risk of injury. Running is a high-impact activity. 

Examples of resistance training include training with weights, machines, or exercise bands. Lifting household objects or doing exercises, such as pushups at home, are also resistance training exercises. Most experts recommend doing at least one set of exercises with 8-12 repetitions for each of the major muscle groups. 

Stretching exercises should include every major joint: hip, shoulder, back, knee, upper trunk, and neck. 

Cool down

Through a sequence of movements, it is best to cool down for at least 10 minutes. Cooling down allows the body to eliminate acid that has built up in the muscles. It prevents muscle cramps and lightheadedness that can be due to sudden drops in blood pressure. A cool-down may include aerobic exercises. 

The takeaway message

Exercise is essential for your health and well-being.  We are meant to sit less and move around more. Listen to your body and take it slow. Set a goal to build up to more vigorous activities as you become more accustomed to exercising. Working with a professional can provide guidance in creating an exercise program to fit your needs and preferences. 

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