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Need guidelines to start a new exercise program?

Are you ready to start a new exercise program, but don’t know where to start? Before you get started, make sure you have clearance from your health provider if you recently had a baby, are pregnant, or have medical conditions.

Benefits of Exercise According to The American Heart Association

  • Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s, several types of cancer, and some complications of pregnancy

  • Better sleep, including improvements in insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea

  • Improved cognition, including memory, attention and processing speed

  • Less weight gain, obesity and related chronic health conditions

  • Better bone health and balance, with less risk of injury from falls

  • Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety

  • Better quality of life and sense of overall well-being

General Guidelines

General guidelines for exercise according to The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of both each week.

You also want to add muscle strengthening/resistance training at least 2 days per week. You can use free weights (dumbbells), body-weight resistance (e.g.planks, squats, push-ups), or use exercise machines. When deciding how heavy your resistance should be, consider a weight that you can tolerate for 12-15 repetitions.

How do I know moderate versus vigorous-intensity activity levels?

Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise typically causes you to develop a light sweat after about 10 minutes of exercise. You should still be able to carry on a conversation. You should not be out of breath. An example of a moderate-intensity exercise is brisk walking.

Vigorous-intensity exercise, on the other hand, feels more like fast-paced breathing and inability to carry on a conversation. You should develop a sweat after just a few minutes of exercise. An example of vigorous-intensity exercise is running.

Target Heart Rate

Calculating your target heart rate (THR) is another easy way to assess the intensity of your exercise.

The American Heart Association generally recommends a THR of:

  • Moderate exercise intensity: 50% to about 70% of your maximum heart rate

  • Vigorous exercise intensity: 70% to about 85% of your maximum heart rate

You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you're 40 years old, subtract 40 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 180. This is the average maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise.

Once you know your maximum heart rate, you can calculate your desired target heart rate zone based on the percentages recommended above from The American Heart Association.

If you're just starting a new exercise program, stick with the lower end of your target heart rate zone. You can gradually increase the intensity as your body adapts.

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