MAKING A COMMITMENT
This information is from the President's Council for Physical
Fitness and Sports Web site.
You have taken the important first step on the path to physical fitness
by seeking information. The next step is to decide that you are going to be
physically fit. This pamphlet is designed to help you reach that decision
and your goal. The decision to carry out a physical fitness program cannot
be taken lightly. It requires a lifelong commitment of time and effort.
Exercise must become one of those things that you do without question,
like bathing and brushing your teeth. Unless you are convinced of the
benefits of fitness and the risks of unfitness, you will not succeed.
Patience is essential. Don't try to do too much too soon and don't quit
before you have a chance to experience the rewards of improved fitness.
You can't regain in a few days or weeks what you have lost in years of
sedentary living, but you can get it back if your persevere. And the prize
is worth the price.
In the following pages you will find the basic information you need to begin
and maintain a personal physical fitness program. These guidelines are
intended for the average healthy adult. It tells you what your goals should
be and how often, how long and how hard you must exercise to achieve them.
It also includes information that will make your workouts easier, safer and
more satisfying. The rest is up to you.
CHECKING YOUR HEALTH
If you're under 35 and in good health, you don't need to see a doctor before
beginning an exercise program. But if you are over 35 and have been inactive
for several years, you should consult your physician, who may or may not
recommend a graded exercise test. Other conditions that indicate a need for
medical clearance are:
High blood pressure.
Family history of early stroke or heart attack deaths.
Frequent dizzy spells.
Extreme breathlessness after mild exertion.
Arthritis or other bone problems.
Severe muscular, ligament or tendon problems.
Other known or suspected disease.
Vigorous exercise involves minimal health risks for persons in good health
or those following a doctor's advice. Far greater risks are presented by
habitual inactivity and obesity.
Physical fitness is to the human body what fine tuning is to an engine.
It enables us to perform up to our potential. Fitness can be described as a
condition that helps us look, feel and do our best. More specifically, it
is: "The ability to perform daily tasks vigorously and alertly,
with energy left over for enjoying leisure- time activities and meeting
emergency demands. It is the ability to endure, to bear up,
to withstand stress, to carry on in circumstances where an unfit person
could not continue, and is a major basis for good health and well-being."
Physical fitness involves the performance of the heart and lungs,
and the muscles of the body. And, since what we do
with our bodies also affects what we can do with our minds, fitness
influences to some degree qualities such as mental alertness and emotional
stability. As you undertake your fitness program, it's important to remember
that fitness is an individual quality that varies from person to person.
It is influenced by age, sex, heredity, personal habits, exercise and
eating practices. You can't do anything about the first three factors.
However, it is within your power to change and improve the others where
KNOWING THE BASICS
Physical fitness is most easily understood by examining its components,
or "parts." There is widespread agreement that these four components
are basic: Cardiorespiratory Endurance - the ability to deliver oxygen and
nutrients to tissues, and to remove wastes, over sustained periods of time.
Long runs and swims are among the methods employed in measuring this
component. Muscular Strength - the ability of a muscle to exert force for
a brief period of time. Upper-body strength, for example, can be measured
by various weight-lifting exercises. Muscular Endurance - the ability of a
muscle, or a group of muscles, to sustain repeated contractions or to
continue applying force against a fixed object. Pushups are often used to
test endurance of arm and shoulder muscles.
Flexibility - the ability to move joints and use muscles through their full
range of motion. The sit-and- reach test is a good measure of flexibility of
the lower back and backs of the upper legs.
BODY COMPOSITION is often considered a component of fitness.
It refers to the makeup of the body in terms of lean mass
(muscle, bone, vital tissue and organs) and fat mass. An optimal ratio of
fat to lean mass is an indication of fitness, and the right types of
exercises will help you decrease body fat and increase or maintain
A WORKOUT SCHEDULE
How often, how long and how hard you exercise, and what kinds of exercises
you do should be determined by what you are trying to accomplish.
Your goals, your present fitness level, age, health, skills, interest and
convenience are among the factors you should consider. For example,
an athlete training for high-level competition would follow a different
program than a person whose goals are good health and the ability to meet
work and recreational needs.
Your exercise program should include something from each of the four basic
fitness components described previously. Each workout should begin with a
warmup and end with a cooldown. As a general rule, space your workouts
throughout the week and avoid consecutive days of hard exercise.
Here are the amounts of activity necessary for the average healthy person to
maintain a minimum level of overall fitness. Included are some of the
popular exercises for each category.
WARMUP - 5-10 minutes of exercise such as walking, slow jogging, knee lifts,
arm circles or trunk rotations. Low intensity movements that simulate
movements to be used in the activity can also be included in the warmup.
MUSCULAR STRENGTH - a minimum of two 20-minute sessions per week that
include exercises for all the major muscle groups. Lifting weights is the
most effective way to increase strength.
MUSCULAR ENDURANCE - at least three 30-minute sessions each week that
include exercises such as calisthenics, pushups, situps, pullups, and weight
training for all the major muscle groups.
CARDIORESPIRATORY ENDURANCE - at least three 20-minute bouts of
continuous aerobic (activity requiring oxygen) rhythmic exercise each week.
Popular aerobic conditioning activities include brisk walking, jogging,
swimming, cycling, rope-jumping, rowing, cross-country skiing, and some
continuous action games like racquetball and handball.
FLEXIBILITY - 10-12 minutes of daily stretching exercises performed slowly,
without a bouncing motion. This can be included after a warmup or during
COOL DOWN - a minimum of 5-10 minutes of slow walking, low-level exercise,
combined with stretching.
A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE
The keys to selecting the right kinds of exercises for developing and
maintaining each of the basic components of fitness are found in these
SPECIFICITY- pick the right kind of activities to affect each component.
Strength training results in specific strength changes. Also, train for the
specific activity you're interested in. For example, optimal swimming
performance is best achieved when the muscles involved in swimming are
trained for the movements required. It does not necessarily follow that a
good runner is a good swimmer.
OVERLOAD - work hard enough, at levels that are vigorous and long enough to
overload your body above its resting level, to bring about improvement.
REGULARITY - you can't hoard physical fitness. At least three balanced
workouts a week are necessary to maintain a desirable level of fitness.
PROGRESSION- increase the intensity, frequency and/or duration of
activity over periods of time in order to improve.
Some activities can be used to fulfill more than one of your basic exercise
requirements. For example, in addition to increasing cardiorespiratory
endurance, running builds muscular endurance in the legs, and swimming
develops the arm, shoulder and chest muscles. If you select the proper
activities, it is possible to fit parts of your muscular endurance workout
into your cardiorespiratory workout and save time.
MEASURING YOUR HEART RATE
Heart rate is widely accepted as a good method for measuring intensity
during running, swimming, cycling, and other aerobic activities.
Exercise that doesn't raise your heart rate to a certain level and keep
it there for 20 minutes won't contribute significantly to cardiovascular
fitness. The heart rate you should maintain is called your target heart
rate. There are several ways of arriving at this figure.
One of the simplest is: maximum heart rate (220 - age) x 70%.
Thus, the target heart rate for a 40 year-old would be 126.
Some methods for figuring the target rate take individual differences into
consideration. Here is one of them:
Subtract age from 220 to find maximum heart rate.
Subtract resting heart rate (see below) from maximum heart rate to
determine heart rate reserve.
Take 70% of heart rate reserve to determine heart rate raise.
Add heart rate raise to resting heart rate to find target rate.
Resting heart rate should be determined by taking your pulse after sitting
quietly for five minutes. When checking heart rate during a workout,
take your pulse within five seconds after interrupting exercise because it
starts to go down once you stop moving. Count pulse for 10 seconds and
multiply by six to get the per-minute rate.
CONTROLLING YOUR WEIGHT
The key to weight control is keeping energy intake (food) and energy output
(physical activity) in balance. When you consume only as many calories as
your body needs, your weight will usually remain constant. If you take in
more calories than your body needs, you will put on excess fat. If you
expend more energy than you take in you will burn excess fat.
Exercise plays an important role in weight control by increasing energy
output, calling on stored calories for extra fuel. Recent studies show that
not only does exercise increase metabolism during a workout, but it causes
your metabolism to stay increased for a period of time after exercising,
allowing you to burn more calories.
How much exercise is needed to make a difference in your weight depends
on the amount and type of activity, and on how much you eat. Aerobic
exercise burns body fat. A medium-sized adult would have to walk more
than 30 miles to burn up 3,500 calories, the equivalent of one pound of fat.
Although that may seem like a lot, you don't have to walk the 30 miles all
at once. Walking a mile a day for 30 days will achieve the same result,
providing you don't increase your food intake to negate the effects of
walking. If you consume 100 calories a day more than your body needs,
you will gain approximately 10 pounds in a year. You could take that weight
off, or keep it off, by doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily.
The combination of exercise and diet offers the most flexible and effective
approach to weight control.
Since muscle tissue weighs more than fat tissue, and exercise develops
muscle to a certain degree, your bathroom scale won't necessarily tell you
whether or not you are "fat." Well-muscled individuals, with relatively
little body fat, invariably are "overweight" according to standard weight
charts. If you are doing a regular program of strength training, your
muscles will increase in weight, and possibly your overall weight will
Body composition is a better indicator of your condition than body weight.
Lack of physical activity causes muscles to get soft, and if food intake is
not decreased, added body weight is almost always fat. Once-active people,
who continue to eat as they always have after settling into sedentary
lifestyles, tend to suffer from "creeping obesity."
All exercise clothing should be loose-fitting to permit freedom of movement,
and should make the wearer feel comfortable and self-assured.
As a general rule, you should wear lighter clothes than temperatures might
indicate. Exercise generates great amounts of body heat. Light-colored
clothing that reflects the sun's rays is cooler in the summer, and dark
clothes are warmer in winter. When the weather is very cold,
it's better to wear several layers of light clothing than one or two heavy
layers. The extra layers help trap heat, and it's easy to shed one of them
if you become too warm. In cold weather, and in hot, sunny weather,
it's a good idea to wear something on your head. Wool watch or ski caps
are recommended for winter wear, and some form of tennis or sailor's hat
that provides shade and can be soaked in water is good for summer.
Never wear rubberized or plastic clothing, such garments interfere with
the evaporation of perspiration and can cause body temperature to rise
to dangerous levels.
The most important item of equipment for the runner is a pair of sturdy,
properly-fitting running shoes. Training shoes with heavy, cushioned soles
and arch supports are preferable to flimsy sneakers and light racing flats.
WHEN TO EXERCISE
The hour just before the evening meal is a popular time for exercise.
The late afternoon workout provides a welcome change of pace at the end
of the work day and helps dissolve the day's worries and tensions.
Another popular time to work out is early morning, before the work day
begins. Advocates of the early start say it makes them more alert and
energetic on the job.
Among the factors you should consider in developing your workout schedule
are personal preference, job and family responsibilities, availability of
exercise facilities and weather. It's important to schedule your workouts
for a time when there is little chance that you will have to cancel or
interrupt them because of other demands on your time.
You should not exercise strenuously during extremely hot, humid weather or
within two hours after eating. Heat and/or digestion both make heavy demands
on the circulatory system, and in combination with exercise can be an
overtaxing double load.