Starting Your Physical Activity Program
Submitted by: Zac Townsend, MS
One of the best New Year’s Resolutions you can set for yourself is starting a physical activity program. Regular physical activity has many health benefits and can lower the risk for several chronic health conditions such as Type II Diabetes, Hypertension, Heart Disease, and Stroke.
When starting your physical activity program, the first thing you should do is set a goal for yourself. This goal should be SMART:
1. “Specific- Your goal should be clear and easy to understand. A common goal, “get healthy,” is too general. How do you want to do it? Is it losing weight? Start exercising?
2. Measurable- A goal to “lose weight” is not enough. Making your goal measurable means adding a number.
3. Attainable- Before you can add a number, you have to know how high or low you want to go. Don’t be too extreme or too easy. Research suggests that a 5-10% weight loss is attainable for most overweight people.
4. Relevant- Set goals that are important to where you are in your life right now. Don’t set a goal that someone else is pressuring you to attain-that isn’t very motivating.
5. Time-bound- Include an end-point. Knowing that you have a deadline motivates you to get started. Since healthy weight loss is about 1-2 pounds per week, set your deadline accordingly.”
After establishing your goal, you can now begin to plan your exercise schedule. The American College of Sports Medicine recommendations for exercise are as follows:
Cardiorespiratory Exercise (walking, jogging, bike riding, rowing, elliptical, treadmill):
Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This can be accomplished by 30 minutes 5 days a week. If you do not have 30 minutes all at one time, your exercise can be broken up into shorter 10 minute sessions, 3 times a day.
Resistance Exercise (free weights/machines, body weight exercises, resistance bands):
“Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment. Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power. For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance. Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.”
Flexibility Exercise (stretches):
“Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion.
Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort. Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch. Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching.”
A few tips to help you stick with your program: use a workout tracker/journal, sign up for 5k/walk events (bring along a friend!), reward yourself for meeting goals along the way, use an activity tracker /step counter, try a new exercise class, and choose an activity that you enjoy!