As regards how much to exercise, The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association have updated their recommendations of 1995 and laid new guidelines in 2007. They formulate an ideal exercise plan to follow every day and achieve all-around good health and fitness for healthy adults between the age of 18 and 65 years.

Besides, these recommended workouts help you lose weight if you are overweight or obese; they help you gain muscle if you are so inclined and they also improve your cardiorespiratory fitness.

These guidelines talk of moderate and vigorous aerobic exercises and lay down a plan for the type of exercises to do; combining aerobic with strength training exercises (anaerobic exercises).

They prescribe the minimum activity to maintain all-round good health. Innumerable studies have shown that persistent exercise minimizes the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and heart disease, and stroke.  You can increase these workouts in terms of frequency and duration to speed up your fitness goals.

Scientists say that you should burn at least 700 to 1000 calories every day to reduce the risk of these chronic diseases and extend your active life.

The U.S. Government too released a new set of modified guidelines in 2005 for weight loss and weight maintenance after taking into consideration the weight gain and obesity that are spreading across the United States.

The guidelines from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services too have been consulted to give you the best exercise routine, and a plan about how much you should exercise.

It is recommended that adults and children follow different exercise routines for good health and fitness.

Health and Fitness

To get the most from your exercise routine, it is necessary to be healthy. You can be fit only if you are healthy. An unhealthy person doing his daily workouts can never be fit. Therefore, pay proper attention to your diet and make sure you are eating the right things to stay well-nourished.

An undernourished person on a vigorous exercise routine can develop health problems such as bone loss leading to fractures, and menstrual irregularities in women.

Being healthy is just not an absence of illness. Health is defined as complete physical, mental and social wellbeing in a person.

In today’s world, you see more and more people working in sedentary jobs involving no or very little physical activity. In this negative and harmful lifestyle, health levels tend to fall as people hardly engage in exercise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical fitness is defined as ‘the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies.’ 

You can achieve this by proper conditioning through both regular well-planned exercise and leisurely hours.

It is sheer laziness or procrastination that makes men defer starting on a persistent exercise routine. One way to fight this is to build your physical exercise into your daily program.

Examples could be walking or cycling to work, taking part in games that you enjoy, spending weekends walking the countryside or taking a ride on your bicycle, taking the stairs up a few floors instead of taking the lift all the way.

Exercise, health, and fitness are closely related and it is a regular exercise routine that will give you both health and fitness.

Your Exercise Routine: What should it be?

Your exercise routine should include the following:

  1. Aerobic Exercise of (a) moderate or (b) vigorous intensity
  2. Strength training exercise in addition to the aerobic activity

1 (a) Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise

When you do aerobic exercises, your heart beats faster and your heart rate goes up. These types of exercises improve your cardiac and pulmonary (cardiorespiratory) fitness.

When you exercise at a medium or moderate intensity, your heart beats faster and you breathe faster and harder but you will still be able to talk comfortably.

Duration and intensity

You should get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise in one week. That would be 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. You could also combine moderate and vigorous aerobic activity and plan accordingly.

You could even distribute your daily quota over two or three sessions but each session should be at least 10 minutes. The emphasis is on “More is Better”. You could even speed up your health improvement plans by increasing this activity to 400 minutes/week and making it seven days a week.

Examples

  • Brisk walk and not a slow and easy lumber
  • Jogging at an easy pace
  • Elliptical training. An elliptical trainer is a stationary exercise machine used to simulate stair climbing, walking, or running at an easy pace, thereby lessening chances of injury.
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Aerobic dancing

Physical activity is considered a moderate aerobic activity when it increases your heart rate. A slow walk will not do that, and therefore you should not consider a stroll as part of your exercise program.

1 (b) Vigorous Aerobic Activity

Vigorous physical activity or exercise involves a higher amount of effort as compared to moderate exercise. Your body becomes warm and you begin to sweat. After the exercise, you will not be able to talk much and you will be out of breath.

Duration and intensity

If you are of the more vigorous type, you could instead do 75 minutes of vigorous activity distributed over the week. You should exercise with vigorous aerobic activity for 20 to 25 minutes thrice a week.

The thumb rule that applies here is that one minute of vigorous activity is equal to two minutes of moderate activity.

Examples

Vigorous aerobic exercise includes swimming, walking fast, running, or cycling at a more intense level. Vigorous aerobic activity will allow you to talk after the workout but there will some extra effort required due to shortness of breath.

To go into the mode of vigorous activity, always start slow and gradually build up. You should feel comfortable at all times during the activity.

Strength Training Exercises

Strength training exercises work your muscles by the use of a resistance against which the muscles need to exert pressure. The resistance could be in the form of your own bodyweight, weights, or dumbbells.

The resistance makes the exercise harder to perform and therefore your muscles are exercised more. It improves muscular strength and endurance.

Duration and intensity

You should do 8 to 10 strength-training exercises two days a week. You should plan them in an all-round fashion so that they build up and exercise all the major muscles of the body.

Strength training exercises are exercises, which require more strength than stamina. They are very short duration exercises.

Examples

  • Sit-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Squats
  • Weight lifting

You can do strength training exercises on the same days as the aerobic exercises or on different days but their minutes don’t count in the aerobic minutes’ recommendation. Their minute count should be in addition to the aerobic minute count.

As mentioned above, these are the minimum guidelines to maintain good health and fitness. You could increase them to speed up your fitness goals. Just don’t overdo it because over-exercising also creates health problems.

For children and teens, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend 60 minutes of physical activity preferably on all days of the week. This can include games and sports as well.

Exercise plan to lose weight

You have to get serious and move if you want to lose weight. An extra effort is required to shed those extra pounds. You can do your weight loss exercises at home to burn your calories.

Cardio exercises form the first line of physical activity, which you will start with. You could do these exercises at home or outdoors.

Cycling, swimming, and running are aerobic exercises, which you will have to do outdoors. However, there are quite a few exercises that you can do at home. They include skipping rope, elliptical trainer or exercise bike, and jogging on the spot.

Combining these cardio workouts with weight training and resistance exercises will provide a better outcome.

Sprinting, weightlifting, jump squats, pushups, jump squats are some anaerobic exercises, which you can start with to combine with your aerobic activity in one workout. These exercises will help you to lose fat and gain muscle.

These workouts last 20 to 30 minutes. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) consists of periods of aerobic activity alternating with periods of anaerobic activity.

The basic principle of HIIT consists of

  • a three- to five-minute warm-up period,
  • followed by  alternate short periods of anaerobic activity and aerobic activity,
  • and finally a five-minute cool-down.

Always consult your doctor before engaging in high-intensity exercise,

People who are obese and not losing weight with the 30-minute recommendation may require a 60-minute workout seven days a week or even more. The upper limit is a 90-minute workout seven days a week.

A 60-minute workout is for the grossly overweight, who have lost substantial weight with the 90-minute workout and wish to maintain their weight at a healthy level.

According to The US Government guidelines of 2005:

  • A 30-minute daily exercise recommendation is for the normal weight person who wants to conjure up the benefits of regular exercise.
  • A 60-minute daily workout recommendation is for those who are overweight and want to just control their newly acquired weight.
  • A 90-minute daily workout recommendation is for the obese who want to lose substantial pounds and maintain an ideal weight. These people are very prone to gain weight again and therefore, require a very vigorous workout not just to lose weight but also to maintain it.

Stick to these daily recommendations. If you have missed a day, do not try to make up and do extra time the next day. Forget the lost day and don’t let it bother you.

Please note:

  • If you are above the age of 65 years, there are a different set of recommendations.
  • If you are disabled, consult your doctor and physiotherapist before you start exercising.

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