A few simple rules are helpful as you develop your own routine.
When exercising, listen to the body's warning symptoms, and consult a doctor if exercise causes chest pain, irregular heartbeat, unusual fatigue, nausea, unexpected breathlessness, or light-headedness.
Heart rate is the standard guide for determining aerobic exercise intensity. It is useful for people training at aerobic intensity, or people with certain cardiac risk factors who have been set a maximum heart rate by their doctor. You can determine your heart rate by counting your pulse, or by using a heart rate monitor. To feel your own pulse, press the first two fingers of one hand gently down on the inside of the wrist or under the jaw on the right or left side of the front of the neck. You should feel a faint pounding as blood passes through the artery. Each pounding is a beat.
There are different types of heart rates.
Resting heart rate. The average heart rate for a person at rest is 60 - 80 beats per minute. It is usually lower for people who are physically fit, and often rises as you get older. You can determine your resting heart rate by counting how many times your heart beats in one minute. The best time to do this is in the morning after a good night's sleep before you get out of bed.
Maximum heart rate. To determine your own maximum heart rate per minute subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 45, you would calculate your maximum heart rate as follows: 220 - 45= 175.
Target heart rate. Your target rate is 50 - 75% of your maximum heart rate. You should measure your pulse off and on while you exercise to make sure you stay within this range. After about 6 months of regular exercise, you may be able to increase your target heart rate to 85% (but only if you can comfortably do so).
Certain heart medications may lower your maximum and target heart rates. Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Note: Swimmers should use a heart rate target of 75% of the maximum and then subtract 12 beats per minute. The reason for this is that swimming will not raise the heart rate quite as much as other sports because of the so-called "diving reflex," which causes the heart to slow down automatically when the body is immersed in water.
Target Heart Rates for a One-minute Pulse Count
Source: American Heart Association
VO2 Max. Serious exercisers may use a VO2 max calculation, which measures the amount of oxygen consumed during intensive, all-out exercise. The most accurate testing method uses computers, but anyone can estimate V02 without instrumentation (with an accuracy of about 95%):
Olympic and professional athletes train for VO2 max levels above 80. A VO2 max equaling between 50 and 80 is considered an excellent score for overall fitness. For the average person exercising for fitness and health, this value is not necessary.
Warming up and cooling down are important parts of every exercise routine. They help the body make the transition from rest to activity and back again, and can help prevent soreness or injury, especially in older people.
For most people, exercise may be divided into three general categories:
A balanced program should include all three. Speed training is also a major category, but generally only competitive athletes practice it.
Benefits of Aerobic Exercise. Regular aerobic exercise provides the following benefits:
Types of Aerobic Exercise. Aerobic exercise is usually categorized as high or low intensity. High intensity aerobic exercise is further classified as high or low impact. Examples of each include the following:
Aerobic Regimens. As little as one hour a week of aerobic exercises is helpful, but 3 - 4 hours per week are best. Some research indicates that simply walking briskly for 3 or more hours a week reduces the risk for coronary heart disease by 45%. In general, the following guidelines are useful for most individuals:
One way of gauging the aerobic intensity of exercise is to aim for a "talking pace," which is enough to work up a sweat and still be able to converse with a friend without gasping for breath. As fitness increases, the "talking pace" will become faster and faster.
Shoes. All that's really necessary for a workout is a good pair of shoes that are made well and fit well. They should be broken in, but not worn down. They should support the ankle and provide cushioning for walking as well as for impact sports such as running or aerobic dancing. Airing out the shoes and feet after exercising reduces chances for skin conditions such as athlete's foot.
Clothing. Comfort and safety are the key words for workout clothing. For outdoor nighttime exercise, a reflective vest and light-colored clothing must be worn. Bikers, inline skaters, and equestrians should always wear safety devices such as helmets, wrist guards, and knee and elbow pads. Goggles are mandatory for indoor racquet sports. For vigorous athletic activities, such as football, ankle braces may be more effective than tape in preventing ankle injuries.
Aerobic-Exercise Equipment. Home aerobic exercise machines can be adapted to any fitness level and used day or night. Before investing in any exercise machine, however, it is wise to first test it at a gym. In addition, initial supervised training when using these machines can reduce the risk of injury that might occur with self-instruction.
Very inexpensive exercise machines tend to be flimsy and hard to adjust, but many sturdy machines are available at moderate prices. The higher-end models may utilize computers to record calories burned, speed, and mileage. Their readouts may provide motivation and gauge the intensity of a workout, however, they are not always accurate.
The following are a few observations on specific equipment:
Rowing and cross-country ski machines exercise both the upper and lower body.
Shoes for Sports
Sufficient cushioning to absorb shock and pressure that are many times greater than ordinary walking. Arches that maintain side-to-side stability. Thick upper leather support. Toe-box. Orthotics may be required for people with ankles that over-turn inward or outward. Soles should allow for twisting and turning.
Rigid support across the arch to prevent collapse during pedaling. Heel lift. Cross-training or combination hiking/cycling shoes may be sufficient for casual bikers. Toe clips or specially designed shoe cleats for serious cyclers. In some cases, orthotics may be needed to control arch and heel and balance forefoot.
Sufficient cushioning to absorb shock and pressure. Fully bendable at the ball of the foot. Sufficient traction on sole to prevent slipping. Consider insoles or orthotics with arch support for problem feet.
Allow side-to-side sliding. Low-traction soles. Snug fitting heels with cushioning. Padded toe box with adequate depth. Soft-support arch.
Lightweight. Breathable upper material (leather or mesh). Wide enough to accommodate ball of the foot. Firm padded heel counter that does not bite into heel or touch ankle bone. Low heel close to ground for stability. Good arch support. Front provides support and flexibility.
Benefits of Strength Exercise. While aerobic exercise increases endurance and helps the heart, it does not build upper body strength or tone muscles. Strength-training exercises provide the following benefits:
It is also associated with a lower risk for heart disease, possibly because it lowers LDL (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) levels.
Strength exercise is beneficial for everyone, even people in their 90s. It is the only form of exercise that can slow and even reverse the decline in muscle mass, bone density, and strength that occur with aging.
Please note: People at risk for cardiovascular disease should not perform strength exercises without checking with a doctor.
Types of Muscle Contractions. There are three types of muscle contractions involved in strength training:
Strength-Training Regimens. Strength training involves intense and short-duration activities. For beginners, adding 10 - 20 minutes of modest strength training two to three times a week may be appropriate. The following are some guidelines for starting a strength regimen:
Strength-Training Equipment. Unlike aerobic exercise, strength training almost always requires some equipment. Strength-training equipment does not, however, have to cost anything.
More elaborate and expensive home equipment for working body muscles is also available, costing from $100 to over $1,000. No one should purchase or use strength-training equipment without instruction from a professional.
Benefits of Flexibility Training. Flexibility training uses stretching exercises. Many stretching exercises are particularly beneficial for the back. In general, flexibility training provides the following benefits:
Certain flexibility practices, such as yoga and tai chi, also involve meditation and breathing techniques that reduce stress. Such practices appear to have many health and mental benefits. They may be very suitable and highly beneficial for older people, and for patients with certain chronic diseases.
Flexibility Training Regiments. Doctors recommend performing stretching exercises for 10 - 12 minutes at least three times a week. The following are some general guidelines:
Studies continue to show that it is never too late to start exercising. Elderly adults who exercise twice a week can significantly increased their body strength, flexibility, balance, and agility. Studies show that even small improvements in physical fitness and activity can prolong life and independent living. A recent study based on a 35-year follow-up showed that in men who increased their physical activity at age 50, the reduction in mortality rate was similar to that of smoking cessation. In fact, after 10 years of increased physical activity, these men had the same mortality rate for their age group as men who were highly physically active throughout entire adult their lives.
Still, about half of Americans over 60 describe themselves as sedentary (inactive). According to a 2004 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 12% of people aged 65 - 75 years, and 10% of people aged 75 years or older, meet current recommendations for strength training.
The following tips for exercising may be helpful:
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