Exercise has been shown to be beneficial in many ways. Beyond just helping control weight, it can elevate mood, improve sleep and reduce chronic pain. Blood pressure can be reduced, and cholesterol and blood sugar frequently improve, decreasing the risk of heart attack, stroke and certain cancers. Listed below are some tips to get the most benefit from your exercise:
- Stay Active – Try to engage in at least a total of 150 minutes of mild to moderate exercise per week. This involves any activity that increases the heart rate to 70% of maximal based on age (see #2 to calculate). Any activity that increases heart rate will do, including walking, running, swimming, yard work, house chores, stair climbing, cycling, etc.
- Watch Your Heart Rate – Cardiovascular target heart rate is determined by subtracting your age from 220 and then multiplying by 0.7. For example, I am 56 years old…220-56=164×0.7=115 beats per minute. Check your pulse at the wrist or neck while working out (do NOT push the carotid artery on your neck too hard).
- Exercise In Intervals – Interval exercise has recently been demonstrated to be superior to continuous exercise for weight loss. While both types of exercise are beneficial, intervals seem to suppress appetite for longer periods of time. This type of exercise is characterized by short bursts of speed alternating with a brief cool-down period.
- Push Past 30 – Evidence seems to suggest that continuous exercise beyond 30 minutes more efficiently burns calories stored as fat. Conversely, the first 30 minutes of a workout generally utilizes sugar in the bloodstream broken down from glycogen in the liver.
- Go For Early, But Not Too Early – If possible, try to exercise earlier in the day. Exercising within 3 hours of bedtime may interfere with sleep. However, very early morning, intense exercise (such as between 4-7am) can increase the risk of heart attack in predisposed individuals.
- Step Into It – When starting an exercise regimen, ease into it by going slower and for shorter periods of time. Work your way up. Try to vary your exercise for variety sake, and consider exercising with others to increase the odds of sticking with it. Remember, it typically takes 3-4 weeks to establish a habit, good or bad.
- Keep Drinking – Always stay hydrated. This helps protects your heart and kidneys.
Consult a physician if you are unsure your heart is healthy enough for exercise, or you have one or more risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or a strong family history of vascular disease. Frequently, we perform a physician-supervised exercise treadmill test prior to an exercise regimen to make sure that the planned program is safe.
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