Talk to your doctor about how much exercise is right for you. A good goal for many people is to work up to exercising 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. Remember, though, that exercise has so many health benefits that any amount is better than none.
Start by talking with your family doctor. This is especially important if you haven't been active, if you have any health problems or if you're pregnant or elderly.
Start out slowly. If you've been inactive for years, you can't run a marathon after only 2 weeks of training! Begin with a 10-minute period of light exercise or a brisk walk every day and gradually increase how hard you exercise and for how long.
Here are some tips that will help you start and stick with an exercise program:
Start every workout with a warm-up. This will make your muscles and joints more flexible. Spend 5 to 10 minutes doing some light calisthenics and stretching exercises, and perhaps brisk walking. Do the same thing when you're done working out until your heart rate returns to normal.
Pay attention to your body. Stop exercising if you feel very out of breath, dizzy, faint, nauseous or have pain.
Measuring your heart rate (beats per minute) can tell you how hard your heart is working. You can check your heart rate by counting your pulse for 15 seconds and multiplying the beats by 4.
The chart below shows the target heart rates for people of different ages. When you're just beginning an exercise program, shoot for the lower target heart rate (60%). As your fitness improves, you can exercise harder to get your heart rate closer to the top number (85%).
Aerobic exercise is the type that moves large muscle groups and causes you to breathe more deeply and your heart to work harder to pump blood. It's also called cardiovascular exercise. It improves the health of your heart and lungs.
Examples include walking, jogging, running, aerobic dance, bicycling, rowing, swimming and cross-country skiing.
The term “weight-bearing” is used to describe exercises that work against the force of gravity. Weight-bearing exercise is important for building strong bones. Having strong bones helps prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life.
Examples of weight-bearing exercises include walking, jogging, hiking, climbing stairs, dancing and weight training.
Weight training, or strength training, builds strength and muscles. Calisthenics like push-ups are weight-training exercises too. Lifting weights is a weight-training exercise. If you have high blood pressure or other health problems, talk to your family doctor before beginning weight training.
The best exercise is the one that you will do on a regular basis. Walking is considered one of the best choices because it's easy, safe and inexpensive. Brisk walking can burn as many calories as running, but is less likely than running or jogging to cause injuries. Walking also doesn't require any training or special equipment, except for good shoes.
Walking is an aerobic and weight-bearing exercise, so it is good for your heart and helps prevent osteoporosis.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff