The 5 Building Blocks Towards Increasing Physical Activity

Written by: Casey Johnson, Group Fitness Manager @ O2 Fitness Fuquay

Intro to Beginning an Exercise Program: Where Do I Begin?

Have you ever walked into your hall closet, bedroom, kitchen, and etc., and it was so messy that you couldn’t stand it anymore, and you had to clean it up;  but at the same time, the mess was so extensive that you looked around and didn’t even know where to begin?  Did you feel like it was easier to just shut the door and pretend like the mess didn’t even exist?  Well, exercise and weight loss can be the same way.  Habits are easy to form, but hard to break.  It is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind, and every time you finally feel like it’s time to add that change into your life, you find that even more information is available and it’s just too overwhelming to sort through, figure out, organize and apply.

The Physical Activity Pyramid

Just like nutritionists recommend that you choose a variety of foods following the food guide pyramid, exercise specialists recommend choosing a variety of activities from the physical activity pyramid that will satisfy each of the 5 components of fitness: Mode, Frequency, Duration, Intensity and Progression.

ModeWhich exercises will be most effective?
Choose an activity that you enjoy and will achieve your Target Heart Rate Range – activities that involve as many major muscle groups as possible are best (e.g., walking, jogging, elliptical training machine, aerobics, etc.)

FrequencyHow often should I work out?
Depending on your current activity level, how often each person works out will vary.  You may have to begin working at a lower to moderate intensity for only 3 days of the week, but as you build endurance and stamina, the goal will be to work out for a minimum of 5-6 days per week in order to obtain a more set schedule/routine and to achieve the maximum benefits possible.  Strength training should be done at least 2-3 days per week, and flexibility training at least 1-2 days per week.

DurationHow long should each workout be?
Again, the goal is for a minimum of 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity at a moderate intensity most, if not all, days of the week.  However, in the beginning, it may be appropriate for each workout to be shorter in duration as you increase endurance.  Afterwards, each cardiovascular workout should be between 45 – 60 minutes. Strength training and intensity will vary depending on the number of exercises, sets, and etc.

IntensityHow hard should I be working out?
Moderate intensity is key, overall.  Later in your program, you may want to increase your intensity to a higher level or add in some higher intensity intervals, but for now, begin at a more light to moderate level.  As long as the exercise is within a “moderate” heart rate range, you will be reaping benefits!

How do I measure my intensity?
Intensity can be measured in a variety of ways:

  • Pulse Rate: take pulse for 15 sec and multiply by 4 (or 10 sec and mult by 6) – make sure this number is within your range (as per previously prescribed by Karvonen Formula or other).  If it’s too high, slow your pace or decrease extra arm movements.  If it’s too low, increase pace or arm movements.
  • Rating of Perceived Exertion (or similar): On a scale of 6 to 20, 6 being the very lightest work, barely strolling, and 20 being the hardest work imaginable, a full out sprint, judge how you feel you are working.  Try to maintain a range of 12-13 for moderate activity (~ 55% – 69% of HRmax).
  • Talk test:  make sure that you can comfortably talk to your partner if necessary, but that you couldn’t necessarily sing to her, or talk extensively.

Progression As my body adapts to exercise, how can I change my program in order to foster improvements?
As you progress through your exercise program, it will eventually become easier.  Changes will need to be made to your program and your routine in order to continue to challenge your body and maximize benefits.

Change it up!
We’d get bored if we had to do exactly the same thing day in and day out.  Variety is the spice of life!  Choose activities that you enjoy and can accomplish, especially at the beginning of your program.  Try a new group fitness class, or have a personal trainer take you through a new and exciting workout.  Whatever you do, just keep moving…the best thing about exercise is something is better than nothing!

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