Start Your Fitness Plan ~ Phase 1

your-goal-highway-signMany of you are making goals to go the gym, do thousands of crunches and run miles and miles through your neighborhoods. But what exactly is a balanced fitness plan, where should a beginner begin? Today we're going to talk about where to start for cardio. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), you should perform moderately intense activity 5 days per week for 30 minutes OR intense activity 3 days per week for 20 minutes. Here's some examples of moderate to intense activity. Walking briskly Gardening with a shovel Cycling 8 to 11 mph Roller or Ice skating Doubles tennis Here are some examples of intense activity Jogging Rowing Vigorous basketball Raquetball Spinning or vigorous cycling Another way to look at it from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control): if you have a heart rate monitor or use cardio equipment at the gym, moderate activity is between 3.5 and 7.0 calories per minute and intense activity is higher than 7.0 calories per minute. (This is a general guideline based on the average sedentary US adult, if you’re very heavy, or have a health issue, the guidelines could be different for you, check with your doctor!) The Rules. 1. You must do a minimum of 10 minutes at a time for it to count to your daily total. A two-minute dash to catch the bus doesn’t count. 2. You must break a sweat before you start counting the 10 minutes. The first bead of sweat on your brow is when you should check your watch and begin tracking. 3. Cool down period doesn’t count either. Stretching and slowing down your intensity at the end of your workout is great but it’s not cardio. So here’s how to structure a brisk walk. 0 to 5 minutes. Start moving slowly to loosen up the joints and then start picking up speed. Somewhere in the first five minutes you should break a sweat. When you do check your watch. 5 to 15/35 minutes. Now you’re in the “cardio zone” keep going for a reasonable time period for you. If it’s 10 minutes and you feel like you’re cooked, fine, just slow down and head home. If you’re more fit or you have more time keep going as long as the 35-minute mark. The last five minutes. You should be heading back home and walking leisurely. Your heart rate will start to drop off and you’ll feel relaxed. Some Caveats 1. If you’re very out of shape or have a medical issue such as arthritis, 10 minutes might be too much. Just go as far as you can on the first workout and then add one minute to your time each time you exercise again. Keep adding minutes until you reach 30 minutes per day. 2. The ACSM is a big proponent of 10-minute exercise bouts. As you can see above, that’s really more like a 20-minute commitment if you include warm up and cool down. Try sneaking in 10 minutes by a. hopping on the exercise bike first thing in the a.m. for a fast 15 minutes, quick stretch, then cool down in the shower. b. walk the dog briskly in the neighborhood. A 20 minute walk should be enough for the dog to do his business and for you both to get your heart rate up for at least 10 minutes. c. walk to get your lunch. Remember you have to break a sweat so don't wear that great silk blouse. You need to walk about 15 minutes away to get your lunch and then 15 minutes back. That'll count for 20 minutes. Quick stretch and then back to your desk and your lunch! 3. This is only considered the minimum requirements to “maintain health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.” The ACSM adds, “it should be noted that to lose weight or maintain weight loss, 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity most days of the week may be necessary.” I hope this clarified what can be some confusing guidelines. I'd love any feedback you have. Tomorrow we'll talk about strength training guidelines. Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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6 Responses to Start Your Fitness Plan ~ Phase 1

  1. Max Letni March 26, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Hey Lisa,

    First, your website looks pretty neat (different from most)

    If i was to incorporate a fitness program or even a customized fitness plan and integrate it with pull-ups or push-ups would that mash together well?

    +Max Letni

  2. Lisa Johnson March 26, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    Both exercises work arms and shoulders. The pushups includes a big more engagement of the chest and back muscles. So they’d be fine to do together if you wanted to, during an upper body workout. I’d recommend doing the pushups first, until fatigue and then doing the pullups. You’ll burn out on the pullups quickly but in my opinion, pushups are a better overall upper body exercise.

    Thanks for asking :-)

  3. Amanda Woods April 5, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    This is great information for me and something to share with my husband we are both trying to get more fit. I am 100lbs overweight and trying to lose the weight and get pregnant at the same time is hard for me. I do not want to over do it just in case i am pregnant i would not want an aggressive fitness plan to be the cause that a pregnancy does not take since i have heard do not exercise when pregnant if it was not a regular part of your daily life prior to pregnancy. Do you think just a brisk walk and lite gardening is moderate to intense enough to show some results without any risk i am always looking for ways to make a fitness plan and pregnancy work together. Right now i am registered with to track my progress and calorie intake.

  4. Lisa Johnson April 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Hi Amanda,

    The best advice is always going to be from your Obstetrician, so anything I say I would check with him/her and make sure it applies to you as an individual.

    There was advice out there not to start a fitness routine while pregnant but that has been debunked recently with new research information. You certainly shouldn’t start anything high impact (why do that to yourself when there are so many other options) and the ACOG recommends not doing anything that thumps too much, like horseback riding. But a good brisk walk, elliptical workout, etc. should all be fine.

    Your doctor will have specific information about working with a fairly large weight loss and getting pregnant, there could be some complications that I’m not aware of. If I remember correctly there is a higher correlation between obesity/pregnancy and gestational diabetes …

    Good luck with everything that you’re doing, let me know if you have any more questions :-)


  5. Health Votes September 26, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    I take 30+ minutes brisk walk in the evening, during the 5 to 20 minutes of the walk, the road kind of goes a bit higher/inclined… that makes the walk slightly harder and gives me a bit of a sweat. I take the garden path coming back, so it is kind of relaxing wayback. over all it is just a 3 Kms walk.

  6. Lisa Johnson September 26, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    HV, that’s a good place to start and 3 km is great. Now take it up a notch and go a little bit faster. I’m doing a post later this week on cardio. I’ll go over all the guidelines then and I specifically address walking :-) L–

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