Maybe you’d like to begin exercising but you don’t know where to start. You are not alone. That’s one of the most common questions Travis Hall, Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) with Prowers Medical Center, gets from his patients. Here are some tips to get you started, and to help you achieve a balanced workout that provides both muscular and cardiovascular benefits.
“There are a lot of options out there from cross training, Pilates, running, and weight lifting to recreational sports. What it really comes down to is finding something that interests you. If you pick something you enjoy, you’ll stick to it,” Hall said.
Once you choose an activity, Hall suggests starting off easy. Don’t try to prove yourself right away. Start slow and see how your body responds. Then you can build up from there by increasing how long you work out and how intensely you work out. Starting slow will help you avoid injury or extreme soreness, both of which will deter you from continuing your exercise plan.
“If you complete a high intensity workout, you can expect to be sore for 24 to 48 hours. If you are sore 72 hours later, you’ve probably pushed it too hard. Just back off on the intensity next time. If you are not sore or stiff at all, you didn’t work hard enough to warrant a change,” Hall said.
In order to achieve health benefits, aim to work out three days a week for 30 minutes. If you want to participate in sports or run a 5k or 10k, bump your workouts to 4 to 5 a week for 45 minutes to one hour.
“Studies show that three times a week at 30 minutes of moderate exercise is enough for most people to gain huge health benefits,” Hall said.
He recommends getting a good mix of moderate to high intensity workouts. High intensity workouts, when you reach 80% of your maximum heart rate, provide cardiovascular benefits, such as improved breathing, blood circulation and heart health. Resistance exercises such as weight lifting, promote muscle growth and mobility and stretching exercises keep muscles flexible.
“It’s best to get a good balance of exercises, but you don’t have to achieve a balance in one workout. It’s okay to spread it out over the week,” he added.
To determine when you’ve achieved a high intensity workout, use the “talking scale” as a guide. If you can carry on a conversation without breathing heavily, your intensity is still low to moderate. If you are unable to talk, feel focused on breathing, and start sweating, you are entering the high intensity realm. If you are feeling light headed or really out of breath, you should back down as that’s your body’s way of saying you’ve pushed too much, too soon.
When weight training, select a weight amount that allows you to complete three sets of 8 to 10 repetitions each set. Hall said that’s the minimum necessary to achieve muscle growth. Once you finish your three sets, you can up your weight amount and decrease your repetitions from there, even going to one rep maximum. But make sure you build up to that, then scale back down to avoid injury.
“It can take one to two months of steady exercise to get in shape. Once you reach a desired point of fitness, you can maintain your fitness by working out 3 to 4 times a week,” Hall said.
If you are unsure where to start with an exercise program, consult with your doctor, or a physical therapist, athletic trainer or personal trainer. For more information about physical therapy and rehabilitation services at Prowers Medical Center, call (719) 336-6728 or visit prowersmedical.com.