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How To Get Moving Safely and Effectively

safe exercise

By Abbey Fecher, DPT

It’s no secret that regular exercise is important to your overall health. It’s not too late to keep that New Year’s resolution you might have set for yourself to be more physically active. Exercise is defined as planned and structured physical activity with the purpose of training a specific part of the body.  So how much do you really know about exercise and why it is so important?

Exercise has many proven health benefits:

  1. Exercise can help control weight to keep your BMI (body mass index) in a healthy range. Physical activity helps you burn calories and the more intense the activity is, the more calories you burn.
  2. Exercise can help combat and control health conditions. It will help you increase your good cholesterol (HDL), control or prevent type 2 diabetes, eliminate risk of heart attack and stroke, manage depression, control arthritis, and decrease your risk of falling.
  3. Exercise can help improve your mood. Physical activity stimulates the release of hormones that leave you feeling relaxed and happy. It can also make you feel more confident about your appearance and improve your self-esteem.
  4. Exercise can help boost your energy level. Physical activity helps deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and can improve the efficiency of your heart and lungs, thus improving your overall energy level.
  5. Exercise promotes better sleep. Regular physical exercise can help you fall asleep faster and have longer periods of deep sleep allowing you to wake up more rested and alert.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise per week to help increase your overall heart and lung health. This breaks down to be about 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week.  If your goal is to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, it is recommended you perform 40 minutes aerobic exercise (moderate or vigorous intensity) 3 to 4 times per week.  

Moderate exercise is when you get your heart rate 50-60% above your resting heart rate. Some examples of moderate exercise are walking 2 miles in 30 minutes, biking 5 miles in 30 minutes, running 1.5 miles in 15 minutes, and dancing for 30 minutes. Moderate exercise should feel somewhat hard. You should notice an increase in breathing rate, develop a sweat after 10 minutes, and you should still be able to carry on a conversation, but you should not be able to sing.

Vigorous exercise is when you get your heart rate 70-80% above your resting heart rate. Some examples of vigorous exercise include running 1.5 miles in 9 minutes, biking 5 miles in 20 minutes, shoveling snow, or playing basketball. Vigorous exercise should feel tough. Your breathing should be deep and rapid and you should develop a sweat after a few minutes. You should only be able to say a few words at a time without pausing for a breath.  

In addition to regular aerobic exercise, the American Heart Association also recommends moderate to high muscle strengthening activities 2 days per week. This could include using free weights, weight machines at the gym, or body weight strengthening such as pushups or planks.

Whenever you start a new exercise routine, regardless of your fitness level, you need to start slowly to avoid injury. If you do not already lead an active lifestyle, start with 10 to 15 minute bursts of exercise at a time. This way, you will not feel overly tired or stress your body too much. As your tolerance of exercise increases, you can work your way up to 30 minutes at a time and eventually go the recommended amount of activity per week. When you are starting a strength training program, you should start with 1 set of 15 repetitions of each exercise. Your muscles should feel tired after 15 repetitions. When you are able to perform 1 set without any muscle fatigue, you can increase to 2 sets, and then to 3 sets. After you can complete 3 sets of 15 without any significant muscle fatigue you can increase the weight and lower your repetitions back down to 1 set of 15. If you follow these guidelines you will be able to improve your strength and muscle endurance with minimal risk of injury.

Exercise should aim to improve your lifestyle and general well-being. If you have any questions about fitness tips or if you need help figuring out where to start with your exercise plan, call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center at 703-450-4300. You can speak with one of our expert clinicians and start your journey to a healthier you!