How to Start Exercising Part 3: Detail
In How to Start Exercise Part 2, we went from stage 0: preparation and making sure we were safe to exercise, to stage 1: a simple exercise start program.
What have we gained just by doing that?
How about this short list for a start
- More energy climbing the stairs, walking to the shops, and playing with the kids
- First step to fitness lifestyle: This baby step has laid the foundation for a healthier lifestyle to build upon
- Fit exercise into your schedule: You actually managed to do something in your busy schedule
- If you’re a patient with diabetes, a cardiac problem, or other chronic lifesyle condition, an initial foray into exercise and how much you could improve with relatively little investment in time and effort
- Confidence: Hey, I can do this!
Today we move on to stage 2, the detailed guide.
How to DO – Part B: DETAILED GUIDE
So far we’ve done good work. We started moving, probably more than we have in the last two months!
But as with anything in Life, we want to build on our successes and improve!
You’ve experienced a simple activity program. Now let’s look at how to create your own. To do this, we use the apt acronym FITT:
Frequency: How many times a week should I exercise?
Intensity: How hard should I exercise?
Time: How long should I exercise?
Type: What forms of exercise should I choose?
We started with 3 days a week, and that was good for a few reasons.
1. It gave you four days to recover, so your body could adapt to exercise stress.
2. It gave you a break-in period, so you started to get a taste for exercise.
3. Three days a week is the minimum required to reap health benefits. By this we mean REDUCED risk of disease such as stroke, heart problems and diabetes, and INCREASED energy, stamina and motivation.
However if we want weight loss, we need to exercise at a higher frequency to really get those calories. Hence, we’ll be increasing our exercise frequency to 4-7 days a week. Add a day here and there to your Quickstart Program, and you should be able to build up to this eventually.
In Part 1, I said that people often decide they want to lose weight, and just do any exercise they can think of. Getting started instantly feels good and is called dramatic relief. Unfortunately this relief happens whether that remedy is actually effective or not.
In my experience the number one reason why people don’t get results from exercise is incorrect exercise intensity. Either they work too hard and can’t sustain exercise for more than 15 minutes, or they assume a post-dinner stroll of an hour or two daily should be enough to see visible results in a couple of months.
For exercise intensity, we used 4-6 on a 10-point RPE scale for our Quickstart program. For this phase, we’re going for an RPE range of 4-7. Yes, we’re going to up the intensity a bit.
How long should you exercise each time? If you’re exercising at the correct intensity, you should get at least 150min a week. Research has shown you need at least this much to keep the weight you lost off. For my personal clients I set a 200min target because it’s a figure that gives a good buffer above the minimum and also a round number that my clients seem more motivated to achieve. In the hospital setting, this would depend on other factors such as co-morbidities, time, cost and availability. For example, a patient with diabetes has a higher chance of becoming hyperglycaemic the longer he exercises, so I’d recommend the same total time dose per week, but higher frequency of lower durations each.
To get your duration for each exercise session, simply divide 200min by the number of workouts you plan to do. For example:
As you can see, 3 days a week may become impractical because you must spare 70min each time. Plus… if you miss just one workout you would have lost 33% of the target volume of exercise. On the other hand, if you exercise 4 days a week, missing one workout means you only lost 25%. That drops to 20% if you exercise 5 days a week but miss one workout.
My personal clients usually get at least a 60min one-on-one session, during which I coach, cajole and motivate whatever way it takes to get the most out of them. At the hospital where I work, clients usually get a partially supervised session of at least 75min.
We’re talking about aerobic exercise, which:
- Is sustainable for at least 20min of continuous effort at a difficulty RPE of 4-7
- Uses large muscle groups in rhythmic movements
- Causes the heart and lungs to work harder
- Here are some modes of cardio exercise
- Brisk walking
- Inline skating
- Nordic walking/ skiing
- Cross trainer (elliptical machine)
- Step aerobics (on low step)
- Note on swimming: great to start with but your body is supported by the water. So when you get good and develop an efficient stroke, you will actually use a lot less energy. Also, if you swim in a non-heated pool, you get cold, stimulating your appetite so you eat more afterwards!
- Note on resistance training: Yes, some studies and experts claim that cardio is dead, resistance exercise raises metabolic rate and EPOC much higher, putting on muscle will help you burn fat etc etc. However working with over 400 clients and patients in the last 5 years has shown that for someone just starting out, cardio is easy to learn, less stressful as a break-in activity, works your all-important circulatory and pulmonary (breathing) systems, and (usually) taxes your muscles in a useful, functional way.
The Program: Detailed Guide
So, keeping all that in mind, here is your detailed program.
Notice that it builds on the Quickstart program, but incorporates the new elements of FITT discussed today. You get more options, and the time per session depends on the exercise frequency you choose. You will notice that you are increasing opportunistic NEPA too, so overall your calorie expenditure will increase.
To recap, here’s a handy table to get you started:
Well that’s it for now. Be sure to return for more and e-mail me about your progress too! Good luck!