” Getting into a regular exercise regimen doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming.”
Do you want to get into regular exercise, but don’t know where to start? Or maybe your doctor said you should work in some gym time, but didn’t give lots of specifics?
Never fear! Getting into a regular exercise regimen doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming. As a registered nurse working in a cardiac rehab, I encounter a lot of people who have never exercised before. They come to us on a doctor’s recommendation, after experiencing some sort of cardiac event/procedure (heart attack, heart valve surgery, coronary artery bypass, heart failure diagnosis, etc…), and often don’t know where to start. So whether you’re thinking of taking up exercise to lose weight, feel better, or just overall get healthier, here are some of the basics you should know:
Begin by getting out and getting moving
There is no better way to injure yourself than beginning with hour-long gym sessions or intense fitness classes like Orange Theory Fitness or SoulCycle. Don’t jump right in with HIIT, even if it is a great way to exercise; give yourself some time. Start with 15-20 minute bouts of whatever exercise you like to do – walking, jogging, biking, rowing, whatever! If you need to take breaks, take breaks. Build yourself up. Set goals! Your body and mind will thank you.
Aim for 150 minutes per week
Now the recommended amount of cardio is 150 minutes per week (moderate intensity). This is what’s been shown to provide a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and many other problems. If you’re looking to lose weight try to aim for more, up to 300 minutes. The 150 minutes could be divided into 30 min. 5 days/week, 50 min. 3 days/week, or however you like.
This time is devoted to PURPOSEFUL exercise. On many occasions I have patients come tell me they did house chores for 30 minutes yesterday or walked the dog for 15 minutes (but they have stop and sniff pups). Now these are great – they are activity and activity promotes bloodflow and is good for you. BUT! It’s not exercise. Exercise needs to be purposeful, i.e. I’m going on a continuous walk for 20 minutes. This will get your heart rate and blood pressure up for a prolonged amount of time, strengthens your heart, and is where the benefits come from. You may have to slowly work up to 150+ minutes and that’s okay.
Find an exercise you like
If you HATE exercise classes, don’t do them! If you’re not a fan of exercising alone, go join a group for motivation and support. It’s all about having it be something you look forward to so it doesn’t become another dreaded chore.
Incorporate cardio AND strength training
Aim for at least 2 days/week. I used to only run and lemme tell you, when I started lifting weights I saw wayyy more of a change in my body. Both have so many benefits. With cardio, you strengthen your heart and improve your endurance. With strength training, you become capable of doing more things and put less work on your heart/require less endurance. Think about it like this: if you’re carrying in the groceries it will be beneficial to have the endurance to walk in from the car, and will require less endurance if you have strong arms and legs to carry them. Double win!
Switch it up
If you tend to get bored doing the same exercises, switch it up! Try different things! Walk 30 minutes on the treadmill altering the incline and speed every couple minutes. Use the stationary bike one day and the elliptical the next. Changing up your exercise routine also helps prevent plateauing because it keeps your body guessing.
And no, I’m not contradicting myself. While switching up your chosen mode of exercise, stay consistent with your exercise schedule and you will see results. If you can only exercise M, W, F, hold yourself to it! This is probably the most difficult thing to do, but is the one that will keep you healthy long-term.
I hope this helps! These are just some of the basics when getting started. I suppose the most important thing is to just start!
And of course, always talk with your physician before beginning a new exercise regimen, and stay within their parameters. If you’ve had a recent procedure or new diagnosis, you may need trained professionals to supervise you first before taking to the streets yourself. Whatever you do, take time to enjoy the fact that you can exercise, as many people are incapable and wish they could.
Disclaimer: Before starting any exercise regimen you should consult your physician. I am not a medical doctor. While I am a registered nurse and certified personal trainer, my scope of practice does not permit me to diagnose or provide treatment plans. While this information is from scientific sources, this post is meant to be informative and does not replace the professional advice from a physician.