Summer is upon us and with the warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, many of us are tempted to get more physically active and some of us are feeling the pressure to shed some of those extra pounds to look more attractive in those swimsuits. Not a bad idea to take advantage of those seasonal reasons to get more physically active as this could be molded into a lifelong habit for good health. Here are some common questions I get when a person is thinking about getting into a fitness program:
Q: What is the best form of exercise?
A: It depends on what your goals for exercise are, what condition you are in and what you are willing to do. For most of the people I come across who are looking to get more fit, I find that most need a basic aerobic conditioning program along with a basic flexibility conditioning program. Aerobic means exercise that conditions the heart and lungs by increasing the efficiency of oxygen intake by the body. My personal bias for aerobic conditioning is brisk walking. Walking is an activity that can be done almost anywhere, without equipment and doesn’t require special training.
Q: How should I start a walking program?
A: I usually advise people to start off easy, usually 10-15 minutes at a comfortable pace. By comfortable pace, I mean that you should be able to talk to someone without gasping for air while walking.
Q: Why does talking easily mean I am exercising aerobically?
A: Since aerobic exercise means using oxygen, talking easily while walking indicates that your body is using oxygen and is in an aerobic exercise mode that is using mostly fat stores of energy. When you start gasping for air, your body switches to a different exercise mode that uses stored energy in the muscles (not fat). So, aerobic exercise will have an added benefit to those who wish to trim the fat off the body as well. With that other form of exercise (anaerobic, meaning without oxygen), there is also greater risk of building up waste products in the form of lactic acid in the muscle which can be painful.
Q: Are there other types of aerobic exercise?
A: As long as you do a repetitive activity that involves a greater demand on your heart and lungs for a sustained period of time (usually 20 minutes is advised), you are doing aerobic exercise. Swimming, bicycling, skating, stair climbing, rowing, and hiking are other common forms. Increased heart rate, breathing and sweat response usually accompany aerobic exercise.
Q: How should I progress?
A: If you have no soreness or difficulty after starting at the comfortable pace, you can
increase the time by 5 minutes each session, rechecking for soreness after each time you walk. You can progress gradually by increasing your time to 45-60 minutes, 2-3 times per week to daily.
Q: What are the benefits of this type of exercise?
A: You will be trimmer, heart and lungs stronger, there will be greater blood flow (which brings all those nutrients to different parts of the body) to your entire body.