You’ve assessed your health with the aid of the PAR-Q and now you’re ready to start an exercise regime. The first step is to decide your primary aim and set your goals.
Do you want to:
- improve heart fitness
- improve muscle tone and flexibility
- improve muscle strength
- reduce weight
Where and how do you want to do it?
- The gym (individual circuit program, group circuit program, classes)
- At home
- Outdoors (walking, exercise class, running)
- In a pool (swimming, hydrotherapy, aquarobics)
- With a friend or alone
All styles of exercise (strengthening, toning, cardio) can be done at a gym, home, outdoors or in a pool. The choice is yours.
Click NEXT to find out how to get started at the gym or in the comfort of your own home The gym
If you want to be involved in a gym program:
- have a fitness assessment at your local gym
- disclose your general health (including results from your medical check-up)
- supply the name of your health professional if there are any concerns and encourage the fitness advisor to consult where necessary
- be clear about your goals (cardio, toning, strengthening, or weight reduction)
- be clear about your needs (gym program or group class.
You should be given a gym program that is recorded on a chart and checked regularly. If you have any problems with the program, speak to the fitness advisor who set it up. You may also choose to be supervised by a personal trainer.
For all exercise regimes, wear loose fitting cotton clothing that allows good ventilation, thick socks to protect legs from ankle weights and good, supportive walking/running shoes.
Choose your goal (cardio, toning, strengthening, weight reduction). Record your starting weight and use a tape measure to measure your waist. Next, record your resting heart rate. Take your pulse at your wrist, on the thumb side – using your index finger, not your thumb – to measure the heart rate at rest.
To reduce the risk of injury, and improve the recovery rate after exercise, divide your program into:
- warm-up and stretching
- cardio-vascular and strengthening and toning exercises
- cool-down and stretching.
Click NEXT to read up on stretching, cardio-vascular excercise, toning and strengthening your muscles and warming up/cooling downWarm-up and stretching
Low intensity exercise is good for the warm-up as it allows for a gradual increase in heart rate and oxygen supply, preparing the heart, lungs and muscles of the body for the more vigorous exercise to follow.
At home, this would involve a walk, starting at a gentle pace. Stretching exercises prepare the muscles and reduce the risk of damaging them. For a walking program, it is essential to stretch calf muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hips. As a guide, 10-15 second stretches maintaining a reasonable level of comfort, not pain.
Activities that improve your aerobic fitness have a good effect on your heart. They include walking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing. Choose exercises you enjoy and that are within your physical capacity. Aim to reach a target heart rate for 20-60 minutes, exercising with a rate of exertion between somewhat hard and hard.
Strengthening and toning exercises
There are many different styles of resistance exercise to improve your strength and tone. You will need hand weights (dumbbells) and strap-on ankle weights (with weighted inserts). Try out different weights, starting with a weight that allows you to do eight repetitions of exercise in a safe manner before needing to rest. Better to start with a lower weight, and build up gradually. A simple program of exercises is illustrated in a book called Strong Women Stay Young by Miriam E. Nelson PhD. These exercises are suitable for both women and men.
How many sets and repetitions are enough? And how often?
Start with one set of eight repetitions, and increase to two sets of eight repetitions when you feel one set requires only a moderate effort. These exercises need to be performed twice a week, with at least a one-day rest between sessions.
Flexibility and stability exercises
Simple programs of exercises for men and women are outlined in two books: Fit for 50+ men, by Greg Chappell and Fit for 50+ women, by Shane Gould. They show a program of exercises to improve flexibility and strength in the spine that you can perform twice daily.
Cool-down and stretching period
The cool-down period allows the extra blood that has moved into the exercising muscles to be pumped back to the heart. In addition, it reduces the likelihood of lactic acid build-up, therefore reducing the post-exercise sore-ness that is common, particularly in the early stages of exercise. You can use the same stretching exercises as the warm up.
Click NEXT to learn how to measure your heart rate properly How to measure your heart rate
If you time your heart rate for 15 seconds x 4, you will have your average resting heart rate per minute. This is usually 60-80 beats per minute, but it can vary.
Now calculate your target heart rate
Maximum heart rate is roughly measured at 220 minus your age. For example, if you are 50 years old, your maximum heart rate is 220 minus 50 = 170 beats a minute.
Target heart rate is 70-85 per cent of maximum heart rate – in this case, 110-144 beats per minute.
You should aim to reach and maintain your target heart rate for 20-60 minutes for 3-5 sessions per week, exercising with a rate of exertion between somewhat hard and hard.
Note: If your personal checklist shows an injury or a risk of injury, contact your health professional before starting your fitness program. You may need treatment before starting, advice regarding the type of exercise best for you or how to modify an exercise.
So you are motivated to get fit, but don’t know how to start. Working through the next three articles will help you not only to plan a new fitness regime, but also increase the likelihood of making it an ongoing and satisfying aspect of your life.