The Five Steps It Really Takes To Get Fit

By Jessica Poole, Certified Athletic Trainer

Ahhhh, it’s a new year. What are your resolutions? Mine, well I am human, so they are the same as last year and probably the same as yours:

Spend less, eat healthier and exercise more. Get back into shape for the upcoming-please-get-here-fast summer wardrobe.

Why wait another year? It’s time to make that resolution a habit and strive for a new, healthy lifestyle.


Today I want to offer you some basic information regarding the types and quantity of exercise we should aim for and remind those with a healthy lifestyle of the fundamentals. So here goes…

Physician clearance
Before beginning any new exercise program or making changes to a current program, make sure to clear the change with your doctor if you are:
Over the age of 40 or inactive
Have a chronic disease (heart or lung illness or disease)
Have a chronic orthopedic issue
Have shortness of breath, dizziness or fatigue when increasing activity levels.
Easily lose your balance
Have any concerns about health and beginning physical activity

What type of exercise do I need?
So here’s a quick run down of the types of exercise and how much we should complete to see a change in our well being.

(Remember, how hard you work determines the amount of change. Results vary per person and are dependent on a wide number of variables. If I do nothing, it shows in how much weight I gain and how poor my stamina becomes. If I work out, eat right, sweat and sweat hard, I loose weight look and feel stronger, and improve my heart and lung health.)

The recommendations according to the American College of Sports Medicine are as follows:
Cardiovascular Exercise (improves heart and lung function and main deliver of weight loss when eating a healthy diet)

#1: Moderate intensity cardio exercise increases your heart rate to a target zone of 50-70 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you don’t want to do all the math, here’s a handy link that will calculate this for you: Target Heart Rate Calculator.

If you want to do the math, to find your estimated maximum heart rate take 220 and subtract your age. For me that’s 220-36= 184. So my estimated maximum heart rate is 184. If I want to go for a moderate intensity run I am going to target my heart rate to be 65% of my max, or 119.

To keep your heart rate in the zone you want, while exercising, periodically check your pulse and either increase or decrease speed or change terrain to work harder or easier.
Aim to sustain this target heart rate for at least 30 minutes.

A simpler rule of thumb is the talk, not sing test. You should be able to talk but not sing. If you can sing, increase your intensity (speed, hilly terrain, resistance…) If you can’t talk, decrease your intensity.

Some examples of cardiovascular exercise are running, cycling, walking, swimming, singles tennis, skating, cross country skiing, etc.

How much moderate intensity exercise? Complete at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 days a week (150 minutes total of cardio work a week for moderate results)

#2: Vigorous intensity cardio exercise raises your heart rate 70-85% of your max heart rate (220-age, then multiply max by the percentage you want to exercise at and that is your target)

How much vigorous intensity cardio? At least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise, 3 days per week totaling 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.            

#3: Resistance training = muscle building. We need muscle mass to burn fat. We need strength in our joints and muscles to help us maintain our posture and spinal alignment as we age.

How much resistance training? We should resistance train (weight lifting, calestinics, cross fit, yoga, Pilates, barre, etc) two to three times per week.

#4: Flexibility training is important, too, especially as we age. Muscles need to be long in order to withstand the demands of cardio and resistance training. Stretching is essential and two days a week or more is suggested, but I find I feel better when I stretch daily.

#5: Neuromotor training, which is exercise that combines balance, agility and coordination. Programs such as yoga will improve these areas. Aim to participate in neuromotor training two to three times per week.

I do hope you find this helpful in setting a foundation to begin exercise. In future posts I will be sharing tips to meet the recommendations above. Don’t be discouraged. Even moderate exercise three days a week for 30 minutes is beneficial. Get going on that new lifestyle in the new 2015!


How GMC Can Help

At Gwinnett Medical Center we offer fitness classes for the community, including some developed specifically for PrimeTime Health members. Get in your recommended exercise in a fun, supportive group environment. Classes are held in both Lawrenceville and Duluth.


References: Garber, C. E., Blissmer, B., Deschenes, M. R., Franklin, B. A., Lamonte, M. J., Lee, I. M., ... & Swain, D. P. (2011). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 43(7), 1334-1359.

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