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The Facts of Fitness: How, When, and What

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Do you ever wonder whether you’re doing this whole exercise thing right? It’s understandable if you feel a bit confused, because the Internet is full of myths—and marketing ploys—about the how, what, and when of exercising. Today, let’s cut through the fluff and the sensational fads so we can get back to the fundamentals of fitness.

WHEN should I exercise?

  • Exercise when you’re mostly likely to keep with it. If your afternoons and evenings are particularly hectic, exercise in the morning so that you know you’ll be able to fit it in.
  • Exercise when your energy is the greatest. For example, if you’re a night owl, exercising after work might be the best choice.
  • Exercise whenever you can, even if it’s for only 10 minutes at a time.

HOW MUCH should I exercise?

Guy doing cardio workout

Cardio

Here are the guidelines for maintaining general health.

Cardio:

  • 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, 5 days a week

or

  • 20 minutes of high-intensity exercise, 3 days a week

Strength training:

  •  8–12 repetitions of 8–10 strength-training exercises, 2 days a week

A couple notes:

  • To lose weight or to maintain weight loss, you may need to participate in 60–90 minutes of cardio a day. The 20- to 30-minute guideline is for a healthy adult who wants to maintain health and decrease the risk of diseases.
  • To gauge your exercise intensity, use one of the following methods:
    • As a rough guide, you’re exercising at moderate intensity if your heart rate is elevated and you break into a sweat after about 10 minutes but you’re still able to carry on a conversation.
    • Determine your maximum heart rate (220 – age) and your heart rate at the time of exercising (count the number of times your heart beats in 6 seconds, and then add 0 to the end). If your exercise heart rate is 55–69% of your maximum heart rate, you’re exercising at moderate intensity; 70% and above is considered high intensity.
    • Rate your perceived exertion; on a scale of 1–10, 6 = moderate, 8 = high, 10 = maximum.

WHAT exercises should I do?

Here’s a basic guide to follow for fitting in the recommended cardio and strength training each week:

Cardio: 3–6 days a week

  • Shoot for 20–60 minutes per day.
  • Include both interval training and long-duration exercise.
  • Vary the type of exercise you complete, which can reduce your risk of overuse injuries, decrease your likelihood of getting bored, and increase your overall fitness.
Guy doing strength training

Resistance Training

Resistance training: 2–4 days a week

  • Start with and focus on working large muscles (legs, chest, back, and core).
  • If your goal is to increase muscle endurance, complete 12–20 reps; for bulk, complete 8–12 reps; and for strength, complete 6–8 reps.
  • Try circuit training, which provides cardiovascular benefits and is time efficient.
  • Working multiple muscles at once also provides more bang for the buck.

HOW can I motivate myself?

  • Select activities that you enjoy so you’ll look forward to regularly exercising.
  • Mix things up—vary your regular routine and try new activities .
  • Set goals that push you to continue improving. You’ll feel so satisfied at achieving the goals that you’ll be motivated to set and achieve even more.

Hopefully you’re already following many of these suggestions. If so…great job! If not…today’s a great day to set some fitness goals and start working toward them!

How do you plan to step up your workouts—or maybe even get off the couch and get started?

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