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The First Steps: The Basics Of Exercise

January 13, 2011 - Dalia Jakubauskas

By: Dalia Jakubauskas

Another New Year has burst upon you and, along with it, a bucket full of New Year’s resolutions that you probably won’t keep. One, of them of course, is the easily made and easily forgotten promise to exercise. How many years have you talked yourself out of fulfilling this promise and how many excuses have you come up with not to do it? If one of them is, “well, I just don’t know where to begin or what I should do,” then let me make it harder to claim ignorance on this one. Starting or improving an exercise program is not rocket science, and only takes a nominal amount of effort and desire. There is a flood of easily accessible information out there including the Internet, print, television and video that either, a) simplifies your exercise regimen, or b) confuses the heck out of you. For most people, it is the latter. So lets keep it simple and start with the basics. Like say, how often and how long should you work out? Well, the Center For Disease Control and Prevention has put together some easy to follow guidelines for adults ages 18 and older with no physical disabilities. Plan to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity like brisk walking. Or do 75 minutes of vigorous or intense exercise like jogging or running. Or equal combinations of the two are also recommended. The CDC also recommends 2 or more days of some sort of strength training. What this means is engaging in any weight-bearing exercises including, but not limited to, light weight training using rubber bands or free weights, exercises that use your body weight like squats or push ups. Yoga or Pilates also fits into the weight-bearing exercise category. You don’t even need a gym for these things, although a gym provides a lot of the equipment and classes that can help. This and more helpful information on exercise can be found on the CDC’s website at Now, these recommendations don’t seem time consuming or difficult to follow. Yet, shockingly, 80% of us don’t meet these goals according to the latest government surveys. That means the vast majority of us can’t seem to carve out of our busy schedules what amounts to less than 4 hours of exercise per week. Maybe 4 hours sounds just too daunting, or maybe extra time is so scarce that you forgot to include you in a long list of priorities. Newsflash: if you don’t make your health a priority, no one else will. So, rather than look at these hours as a marathon, break it down into manageable pieces. Alternating days of aerobic activity with days of light resistance training, your week of exercise might look something like this:

Monday: Take a 40-minute walk at a moderate pace, meaning, a pace fast enough to break a light sweat but not get so winded that you couldn’t draw a breath to speak. If you can, do this on your favorite beach or walking trail.

Tuesday: Do 30 minutes of light resistance training using light free weights and body weight. Exercises like squats and push-ups fall into the latter category.

Wednesday: Swim for 40 minutes (preferably using a stroke more challenging than a doggie paddle).

Thursday: Try a gentle yoga or body sculpting class at your local gym or recreation center. These normally last about an hour.

Friday: Take a long bike ride on Sanibel’s bike paths peddling hard enough that you break a sweat. Shoot for an hour or 10 miles whichever comes first.

Saturday: End your week with an active recovery day. Kayak or canoe Tarpon Bay or one of the area’s other breathtaking waterways. Stroll the beach with your family just before sunset. These are as much soothing mental exercises as they are physical. So, there you have it –a little less than 4 hours of exercise and it actually resembled something fun. Of course you can pick any activity that moves your body at least once a day for, ideally, 5 days per week. Even if you don’t at first have the time, or are too de-conditioned to make it for 30 minutes or and hour of exercise, start with shorter increments. Each week, add a few minutes more to your workout sessions until you’ve met your goals. No matter your age, the more you can move, the stronger you’ll get. We’ll explore the particulars of cardio vascular exercise and strength training in more detail in subsequent columns. But, right now, it’s time to get moving.


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