Personal Exercise Programs
MAKING A COMMITMENT
You have taken the important
first step on the path to physical fitness by seeking information. The next
step is to decide that you are going to be physically fit. This pamphlet is
designed to help you reach that decision and your goal.
The decision to carry out a physical fitness
programme cannot be taken lightly. It requires a lifelong commitment of time
and effort. Exercise must become one of those things that you do without
question, like bathing and brushing your teeth. Unless you are convinced of
the benefits of fitness and the risks of unfitness, you will not succeed.
Patience is essential. Don't try to do too much
too soon and don't quit before you have a chance to experience the rewards
of improved fitness. You can't regain in a few days or weeks what you have
lost in years of sedentary living, but you can get it back if you persevere.
And the prize is worth the price.
In the following pages you will find the basic
information you need to begin and maintain a personal physical fitness
programme. These guidelines are intended for the average healthy adult. It
tells you what your goals should be and how often, how long and how hard you
must exercise to achieve them. It also includes information that will make
your workouts easier, safer and more satisfying. The rest is up to you.
CHECKING YOUR HEALTH
If you're under 35 and in good health, you don't
need to see a doctor before beginning an exercise program. But if you are
over 35 and have been inactive for several years, you should consult your
physician, who may or may not recommend a graded exercise test. Other
conditions that indicate a need for medical clearance are: High blood
pressure; Heart trouble; Family history of early stroke, or heart attack
deaths; Frequent dizzy spells; Extreme breathlessness after mild exertion;
Arthritis or other bone problems; Severe muscular, ligament or tendon
problems; Other known or suspected disease.
Vigorous exercise involves minimal health risks
for persons in good health or those following a doctor's advice. Far greater
risks are present by habitual inactivity and obesity.
Physical fitness is to the human body what
fine-tuning is to an engine. It enables us to perform up to our potential.
Fitness can be described as a condition that helps us look, feel and do our
best. More specifically, it is: "The ability to perform daily tasks
vigorously and alertly, with energy left over for enjoying leisure-time
activities and meeting emergency demands. It is the ability to endure, to
bear up, to withstand stress, to carry on in circumstances where an unfit
person could not continue, and is a major basis for good health and
Physical fitness involves the performance of the
heart and lungs, and the muscles of the body. And, since what we do with our
bodies also affects what we can do with our minds, fitness influences to
some degree qualities such as mental alertness and emotional stability.
As you undertake your fitness program, it's
important to remember that fitness is an individual quality that varies from
person to person. It is influenced by age, sex, heredity, personal habits,
exercise and eating practices. You can't do anything about the first three
factors. However, it is within your power to change and improve the others
KNOWING THE BASICS
Physical fitness is most easily understood by
examining its components, or "parts." There is widespread agreement that
these four components are basic.
Cardio Respiratory Endurance - the ability to
deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues, and to remove wastes, over
sustained periods of time. Long runs and swims are among the methods
employed in measuring this component.
Muscular Strength - the ability of a muscle to
exert force for a brief period of time. Upper-body strength, for example,
can be measured by various weight-lifting exercises.
Muscular Endurance - the ability of a muscle, or
a group of muscles, to sustain repeated contractions or to continue applying
force against a fixed object. Press-ups are often used to test endurance of
arm and shoulder muscles.
Flexibility - the ability to move joints and use
muscles through their full range of motion. The sit-and-reach test is a good
measure of flexibility of the lower back and backs of the upper legs.
Body Composition is often considered a component
of fitness. It refers to the makeup of the body in terms of lean mass
(muscle, bone, vital tissue and organs) and fat mass. An optimal ratio of
fat to lean mass is an indication of fitness, and the right types of
exercise will help you decrease body fat and increase or maintain muscle
A WORKOUT SCHEDULE
How often, how long and how hard you exercise,
and what kinds of exercises you do should be determined by what you are
trying to accomplish. Your goals, your present fitness level, age, health,
skills, interest and convenience are among the factors you should consider.
For example, an athlete training for high-level competition would follow a
different program than a person whose goals are good health and the ability
to meet work and recreational needs.
Your exercise program should include something
from each of the four basic fitness components described previously. Each
workout should begin with a warm-up and end with a cool-down. As a general
rule, space your workouts throughout the week and avoid consecutive days of
Here are the amounts of activity necessary for
the average, healthy person to maintain a minimum level of overall fitness.
Included are some of the popular exercises for each category.
WARM-UP - 5-10 minutes of exercises such as
walking, slow jogging, knee lifts, arm circles or trunk rotations. Low
intensity movements that stimulate movements to be used in the activity can
also be included in the warm-up.
MUSCULAR STRENGTH - a minimum of two 20-minute
sessions per week that include exercises for the entire major muscle groups.
Lifting weights is the most effective way to increase strength.
MUSCULAR ENDURANCE - at least three 30-minute
sessions each week that include exercises such as calisthenics, push-ups,
sit-ups, pull-ups, and weight training for all the major muscle groups.
CARDIO RESPIRATORY ENDURANCE –do at least three
20-minute bouts of continuous aerobic (activity requiring oxygen) rhythmic
exercise each week. Popular aerobic conditioning activities include brisk
walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, rope jumping, rowing, cross-country
skiing, and some continuous action games like racquetball and handball.
FLEXIBILITY - 10-12 minutes of daily stretching
exercises performed slowly without a bouncing motion. This can be included
after a warm-up or during a cool-down.
COOL DOWN - a minimum of 5-10 minutes of slow
walking, low-level exercise, combined with stretching.
A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE
The keys to selecting the right kinds of
exercises for developing and maintaining each of the basic components of
fitness are found in these principles:
Specificity - pick the right kind of activities
to affect each component. Strength training results in specific strength
changes. Also, train for the specific activity you're interested in. For
example, optimal swimming performance is best achieved when the muscles
involved in swimming are trained for the movements required. It does not
necessarily follow that a good runner is a good swimmer.
Overload - work hard enough, at levels that are
vigorous and long enough to overload your body above its resting level, to
bring about improvement.
Regularity - you can't hoard physical fitness.
At least three balanced workouts a week are necessary to maintain a
desirable level of fitness.
Progression - increase the intensity, frequency
and/or duration of activity over periods of time in order to improve.
Some activities can be used to fulfil more than
one of your basic exercise requirements. For example, in addition to
increasing cardiorespiratory endurance, running builds muscular endurance in
the legs, and swimming develops the arm, shoulder and chest muscles. If you
select the proper activities, it is possible to fit parts of your muscular
endurance workout into your cardio-respiratory workout and save time.
MEASURING YOUR HEART RATE
Heart rate is widely accepted as a good method
for measuring intensity during running, swimming, cycling and other aerobic
activities. Exercise that doesn't raise your heart rate to a certain level
and keep it there for 20 minutes won't contribute significantly to
The heart rate you should maintain is called
your Target Heart Rate. There are several ways of arriving at this figure.
One of the simplest is: Maximum Heart Rate (220 - age) X 70%. Thus, the
target heart rate for a 40 year-old would be 126.
Some methods for figuring the target rate take
individual differences into consideration. Here is one of them. 1. Subtract
age from 220 to find Maximum Heart Rate.
2. Subtract resting heart rate (see below) from
maximum heart rate to determine Heart Rate Reserve.
3. Take 70% of heart rate reserve to determine
Heart Rate Raise.
4. Add heart rate raise to resting heart rate to
find Target Rate.
Resting heart rate should be determined by
taking your pulse after sitting quietly for five minutes. When checking
heart rate during a workout, take your pulse within five seconds after
interrupting exercise because it starts to go down once you stop moving.
Count pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by six to get the per-minute rate.
CONTROLLING YOUR WEIGHT
The key to weight control is keeping energy
intake (food) and energy output (physical activity) in balance. When
consuming only as many calories as your body needs, your weight will usually
remain constant. If you take in more calories than your body needs, you will
put on excess fat. If you expend more energy than you take in you will burn
Exercise plays an important role in weight
control by increasing energy output, calling on stored calories for extra
fuel. Recent studies show that not only does exercise increase metabolism
during a workout, but it causes your metabolism to stay increased for a
period of time after exercising, allowing you to burn more calories.
How much exercise is needed to make a difference
in your weight depends on the amount and type of activity, and on how much
you eat. Aerobic exercise burns body fat. A medium-sized adult would have to
walk more than 30 miles to burn up 3,500 calories, the equivalent of one
pound of fat. Although that may seem like a lot, you don't have to walk the
30 miles all at once. Walking a mile a day for 30 days will achieve the same
result, providing you don't increase your food intake to negate the effects
If you consume 100 calories a day more than your
body needs, you will gain approximately 10 pounds in year. You could take
that weight off, or keep it off, by doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise
daily. The combination of exercise and diet offers the most flexible and
effective approach to weight control.
Since muscle tissue weighs more than fat tissue,
and exercise develops muscle to a certain degree, your bathroom scale won't
necessarily tell you whether or not you are "fat." Well-muscled individuals,
with relatively little body fat, invariably are "overweight" according to
standard weight charts. If you are doing a regular program of strength
training, your muscles will increase in weight, and possibly your overall
weight will increase. Body composition is a better indicator of your
condition than body weight.
Lack of physical activity causes muscles to get
soft, and if food intake is not decreased, added body weight is almost
always fat. Once-active people, who continue to eat as they always have
after settling into sedentary lifestyles, tend to suffer from "creeping
All exercise clothing should be loose-fitting to
permit freedom of movement, and should make the wearer feel comfortable and
As a general rule, you should wear lighter
clothes than temperatures might indicate. Exercise generates great amounts
of body heat. Light-coloured clothing that reflects the sun's rays is cooler
in the summer, and dark clothes are warmer in winter. When the weather is
very cold, it's better to wear several layers of light clothing than one or
two heavy layers. The extra layers help trap heat, and it's easy to shed one
of them if you become too warm.
In cold weather, and in hot, sunny weather, it's
a good idea to wear something on your head. Wool watch or ski caps are
recommended for winter-wear, and some form of tennis or sailor's hat that
provides shade and can be soaked in water is good for summer.
Never wear rubberised or plastic clothing. Such
garments interfere with the evaporation of perspiration and can cause body
temperature to rise to dangerous levels.
The most important item of equipment for the
runner is a pair of sturdy, properly fitting running shoes. Training shoes
with heavy, cushioned soles and arch supports are preferable to flimsy
sneakers and light racing flats.
WHEN TO EXERCISE
The hour just before the evening meal is a
popular time for exercise. The late afternoon workout provides a welcome
change of pace at the end of the workday and helps dissolve the day's
worries and tensions.
Another popular time to work out is early
morning, before the workday begins. Advocates of the early start say it
makes them more alert and energetic on the job.
Among the factors you should consider in
developing your workout schedule are personal preference, job and family
responsibilities, availability of exercise facilities and weather. It's
important to schedule your workouts for a time when there is little chance
that you will have to cancel or interrupt them because of other demands on
You should not exercise strenuously during
extreme hot, humid weather, or within two hours after eating. Heat and/or
digestion both make heavy demands on the circulatory system, and in
combination with exercise can be an overtaxing double load.
Fitness and Exercise Introduction
Today, there is a growing emphasis on looking good, feeling good and
living longer. Increasingly, scientific evidence tells us that one of
the keys to achieving these ideals is fitness and exercise. But if you
spend your days at a sedentary job and pass your evenings as a "couch
potato," it may require some determination and commitment to make
regular activity a part of your daily routine.
Equal Opportunity Benefits
Exercise is not just for Olympic hopefuls or supermodels. In fact,
you're never too unfit, too young or too old to get started. Regardless
of your age, gender or role in life, you can benefit from regular
physical activity. If you're committed, exercise in combination with a
sensible diet can help provide an overall sense of well-being and can
even help prevent chronic illness, disability and premature death. Some
of the benefits of increased activity are:
* increased efficiency of heart and lungs
* reduced cholesterol levels
* increased muscle strength
* reduced blood pressure
* reduced risk of major illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease
* weight loss
Improved Sense of Well-Being
* more energy
* less stress
* improved quality of sleep
* improved ability to cope with stress
* increased mental acuity
* weight loss
* toned muscles
* improved posture
Enhanced Social Life
* improved self-image
* increased opportunities to make new friends
* increased opportunities to share an activity with friends or family
* increased productivity
* increased physical capabilities
* less frequent injuries
* improved immunity to minor illnesses
Mind Over Immobility
Getting moving is a challenge because today physical activity is less a
part of our daily lives. There are fewer jobs that require physical
exertion. We've become a mechanically mobile society, relying on
machines rather than muscle to get around. In addition, we've become a
nation of observers with more people (including children) spending their
leisure time pursuing just that - leisure. Consequently, statistics show
that obesity and the problems that come with it (high blood pressure,
diabetes, stroke, etc.) is on the rise. But statistics also show that
preventive medicine pays off, so don't wait until your doctor gives you
an ultimatum. Take the initiative to get active now.
The Fitness Formula
If you're interested in improving your overall conditioning, health
experts recommend that you should get at least 30 minutes of moderately
intense physical activity on all or most days of the week. Examples of
moderate activity include brisk walking, cycling, swimming or doing home
repairs or yard work. If you can't get in 30 minutes all at once, aim
for shorter bouts of activity (at least 10 minutes) that add up to a
half hour per day.
Instead of thinking in terms of a specific exercise program, work toward
permanently changing your lifestyle to incorporate more activity. Don't
forget that muscles used in any activity, any time of day, contribute to
fitness. Try working in a little more movement with these extras:
* Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
* Park at the far end of a parking lot and walk to the office or store.
* Get off public transportation a few blocks before your stop.
* Get up from your desk during the day to stretch and walk around.
* Take a brisk walk when you get the urge to snack.
* Increase your pace when working in the house or yard.
* Mow your own lawn and rake your own leaves.
* Carry your own groceries.
If you're ready to move up to more vigorous activity, remember that "no
pain, no gain" isn't exactly true. The best laid plans of many a fitness
program have been ruined by too much enthusiasm on the first day and
sore muscles on the second. A goal is an end point, not a beginning, so
work toward your goal gradually. Once you're in better shape, you can
gradually increase your time or distance or change to a more vigorous
If you have cardiovascular disease, you should check with your physician
before undertaking more vigorous activity. Likewise, if you're a man
over 40 or a woman over 50 with risk factors such as smoking, high blood
pressure, high cholesterol or obesity, seek your doctor's advice.
The key to a lifetime of fitness is consistency. Here are some tips to
help you make exercise a habit.
* Choose an activity you enjoy.
* Tailor your program to your own fitness level.
* Set realistic goals.
* Choose an exercise that fits your lifestyle.
* Give your body a chance to adjust to your new routine.
* Don't get discouraged if you don't see immediate results.
* Don't give up if you miss a day; just get back on track the next day.
* Find a partner for a little motivation and socialization.
* Build some rest days into your exercise schedule.
* Listen to your body. If you have difficulty breathing or experience
faintness or prolonged weakness during or after exercise, consult your
It's a good idea to choose more than one type of exercise to give your
body a thorough workout and to prevent boredom. Also, you might want to
choose one indoor exercise and one outdoor activity to allow for changes
in your schedule or for inclement weather. Very few people live in a
climate that's temperate year-round. But weather extremes don't have to
interfere with your exercise routine if you make some minor adjustments.
When it's hot or humid:
* Exercise during cooler and/or less humid times of day. Try early
morning or evening.
plenty of fluids - especially water. Avoid alcohol, which encourages
light, loose-fitting clothing.
* Stop at the first sign of muscle cramping or dizziness.
When it's cold:
* Dress in layers.
* Wear gloves or mittens to protect your hands.
* Wear a hat or cap. Up to 40% of body heat is lost through your neck
* Adjust the size of your shoes if you need to wear thicker
* Warm up slowly.
* Drink plenty of fluids. You can get dehydrated in the winter, too.
* Stop if you experience shivering, drowsiness or disorientation. You
may need help for hypothermia.
* Let someone know where you're going and when you'll be back.
* Carry identification with you when exercising outside the home.
* Exercise indoors or try mall walking when it's stormy. Don't risk a
run-in with lightning or ice.
* Build in warm-up and cool-down periods to decrease risk of injury.
* Avoid strenuous exercise for one to two hours after eating.
* Wear sturdy, well-fitting shoes appropriate for the activity.
* Wear brightly coloured clothing when exercising outdoors.
* Add lights and reflector tape to your body or bike if you
exercise after dark.
* Wear helmets and safety pads appropriate for the activity.
* Move against traffic if you must run or walk on the road.
* Don't let headphones distract you from observing traffic and
* Respect pollution alerts and exercise indoors when warnings are
posted, especially if you have heart or lung disease. Avoid areas where
traffic is heavy.
* Take special care of your feet if you are diabetic or have vascular
Diet and Action - the Fitness Combo
Did you know you need to burn off 3,500 calories more than you take in
to lose just one pound? If you're overweight, eating your usual amount
of calories while increasing activity is good for you, but eating fewer
calories and being more active is even better. The following chart gives
you an idea of the calories used per hour in common activities. Calories
burned vary in proportion to body weight, however, so these figures are
Activity Calories burned per hour
Bicycling 6 mph 240
Bicycling 12 mph 410
Jogging 5.5 mph 740
Jogging 7 mph 920
Jumping rope 750
Running in place 650
Running 10 mph 1,280
Skiing (cross-country) 700
Swimming 25 yds/min 275
Swimming 50 yds/min 500
Tennis (singles) 400
Walking 2 mph 240
Walking 4 mph 440
Source: American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and
Before making any major dietary changes, you should check with your
doctor. But there are plenty of small changes you can make on your own,
such as avoiding sweets and salty foods and cutting down on fat in your
diet, especially saturated fat.
No More Excuses
You can probably come up with plenty of excuses for why you're not more
active. You're too young, you're too old, you're too busy, you're too
tired or you're in pretty good shape - for your age. But with few
exceptions, these excuses are flimsy. There are activities for
the young and old and for those with little time. So the next time you
think about getting fit, don't ask "Who has time?" Instead, ask yourself
"Who doesn't want to feel better?"
Developed by the President's
Council on Physical Fitness and Sports