If you've not been physically active in a while, you may be wondering how to get started again. For starters, those with chronic diseases, such as a heart condition, arthritis, diabetes or high blood pressure, should talk to their doctor about what types and amounts of physical activity are appropriate. Below are answers to the most common exercise-related questions.
What type of activities should I do?
Physical activity should consist of aerobic activity or "cardio", which gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster, and muscle strength activities.
How long and often should I exercise for health benefits?
- Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you're working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat.
- Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity means you're breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit.
- Besides aerobic activity, you need to do muscle strength training two days a week. These activities should work all the major muscle groups of your body (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms).
- To gain health benefits, muscle-strengthening activities need to be done to the point where it's hard for you to do another repetition without help. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing a sit-up.
- Try to do eight to 12 repetitions per activity that count as one set. Try to do at least one set of muscle-strengthening activities, but to gain even more benefits, do two or three sets.
- There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it's at home or the gym. You may want to try the following:
- Lifting weights
- Working with resistance bands
- Doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (i.e., push ups, sit ups)
- Heavy gardening (i.e., digging, shoveling)
There are three combinations of cardio and strength training you can do for important health benefits:
- Two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
- One hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
- An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
Get out there and get active!