Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS Family & Community Health Sciences Educator Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
Starting a physical activity program so you get sufficient exercise each week is important for your health. Start slowly if you have not been physically active for a long time. Make sure you talk to your doctor before you begin any physical exercise program if you:
- Have heart disease, had a stroke, or are at high risk for these diseases
- Have diabetes or are at high risk for diabetes
- Are overweight or obese (Body Mass Index of 30 or greater)
- Have an injury
- Are pregnant
In order to prevent injuries when you start a regular exercise routine, take these steps to prevent health and safety problems from occurring:
- Use safety equipment. For example, wear a helmet for bike riding or supportive shoes for walking or jogging.
- Start every workout with a warm-up. Spend 5 to 10 minutes doing some easy stretches and movement, progressing to a brisk walk. Do the same thing when you're done working out until your heart rate returns to normal.
- Drink plenty of fluids when you are physically active, even if you are not thirsty. Staying hydrated is important in maintaining normal body temperature and blood circulation.
- Always bend forward from the hips, not the waist. If you keep your back straight, you're probably bending the right way. If your back "humps," that's probably wrong.
Stop being active if you feel very out of breath, dizzy, nauseous, or have pain. If your chest feels tight or painful, or you feel faint or have trouble breathing, stop the activity right away and talk to your doctor.
The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans state that an active lifestyle can lower your risk of early death from a variety of causes. There is also strong evidence that regular physical activity can lower your risk of: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, breast cancer, falls and depression.
In addition, regular physical activity can help prevent unhealthy weight gain and help with weight loss, when combined with a lowered calorie food intake. Physical activity can also improve your heart health and muscular fitness.
Here are the amounts of physical activity needed each week:
- 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity such as walking at a brisk pace, ballroom dancing, leisurely bicycling, roller skating, canoeing or
- 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity like jogging, running, bicycling fast or uphill, jumping rope, swimming continuous laps or
- A combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days. Muscle-strengthening activities increase the strength and endurance of your muscles. Examples of these activities include working out with weight machines and free weights. You can also use your own body weight, doing activities such as push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups. You could also buy a resistance band at a sporting-goods store. It looks like a giant rubber band, and stretching it helps build muscle. You should try to do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days each week. Allow one day in between sessions to avoid excess strain on your muscles and joints. During each session, repeat each activity 8–12 times.
By taking small steps each week to make sure you start and continue to be physically active, will help to keep you healthy and keep those chronic diseases to a minimum.