American Heart Association Guidelines for Physical Activity
What is the right amount of exercise for weight loss? The AHA suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). 30 minutes a day, five times a week is an easy goal to remember, however you will also experience benefits even if you divide your time into two or three segments of 10 -15 minutes per day.
Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories, such as climbing stairs or playing sports. Aerobic exercises benefit your heart, such as walking, jogging, swimming or biking. Strength and stretching exercises are best for overall stamina and flexibility.
Our bodies need regular activity, especially if they are carrying around extra weight. Satisfying this need requires a definite plan, and a commitment.
Although any kind of physical movement will burn calories, the type of exercise that uses the most energy is aerobic exercise. Regular aerobic exercise will improve your ability to use oxygen to produce energy needed for activity. You’ll build a healthier body and get rid of excess body fat.
Do different types of aerobic activities. Mix it up! Try walking one day, riding a bike the next. Make sure you choose an activity that can be done regularly, and is enjoyable for you. If music helps, blast the radio or wear a personal stereo.
The important thing to remember is not to skip too many days between workouts or you’ll lose the fitness benefits. As a rule of thumb, space your workouts throughout the week and avoid consecutive days of hard exercise.
How hard is hard enough?
It is important to exercise at an intensity level that’s hard enough to cause your heart rate and breathing to increase. How hard you should exercise depends to a certain degree on your age, and is determined by measuring your heart rate in beats per minute.
The heart rate you should maintain is called your target heart rate. Use a target heart rate guide to see what you should aim for. Beginners should maintain the 60 percent level of that figure; if you’re more advanced, you can work up to the 80 percent level. This is just a guide, however. Talk to your physician about the right heart rate for you.
In addition to the aerobic exercise, round out your program with muscle strengthening and stretching exercises. The stronger your muscles, the longer you will be able to keep going during aerobic activity, and the less chance of injury. And always remember that each workout should begin with a warmup and end with a cool down.
What are some physical limitations to exercise?
- morbid obesity
- having the use of only one arm or leg
- spinal cord injury
- broken bones
- heart disease
Can I exercise if I have a physical limitation?
If you have a physical limitation that you think might affect your fitness plans, talk with your health professional before you start any exercise. A health care professional can give you guidance on:
- What kinds of exercises to avoid.
- The risks and benefits of exercising with your physical abilities.
- Signs to watch for while exercising that show something might be wrong.
Tips to get you started
- Get your doctor’s “OK” before starting an exercise program.
- Choose activities that you think you’ll enjoy.
- Set aside a regular exercise time — make time for this addition to your routine and don’t let anything get in your way.
- Be realistic — set short term goals. Don’t expect to lose 20 pounds in two weeks.
- Keep a record of your progress and tell your friends and family about your achievements.
- Vary your exercise program. There is no “best” exercise – just one that works best for you.
It won’t be easy, especially at the start. But as you begin to feel better and look better, you’ll see that the effort is more than worthwhile.
Tips to keep you going
- Create a plan and write it down.
- Keep a log to record your progress.
- Upgrade your fitness program as you build strength.
- Avoid injuries by pacing yourself and including a warmup and cool down in every workout.
- Try new sports, equipment, classes, to stay motivated.
- Reward yourself for a job well done!
Maybe you’ve never exercised before and you’re afraid to start. Or perhaps you’ve started an exercise program – more than once – that fell by the wayside.
However many reasons you have for not exercising, there are at least as many for you to get moving:
What you’ll get:
- Stronger heart muscle
- More energy
- Stronger bones, ligaments and tendons
- Improved self-esteem
- Stronger immune system
- Increased metabolism – you’ll burn calories faster!
- Increased blood flow to all muscles, including the heart
- Increased HDL (good) cholesterol
- Improved balance
- Improved muscle endurance for everyday activities
- Improved diabetes management (if you have diabetes)
- Improved mood – exercise is a natural mood-booster
What you’ll reduce:
- Your risk for heart disease
- Your risk for certain cancers
- Your risk for developing diabetes
- Body fat and body weight
- Your resting heart rate
- Your blood pressure
- LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Total cholesterol
- Blood sugar
- Your risk for developing or worsening osteoporosis
- Stress and its effects on your mind and body
You don’t have to run a marathon. Start slow. Any regular exercise effort can translate into some gains in your health, especially if you increase from doing almost no exercise to exercising several days per week. Remember to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.