Working Toward a Healthier Weight
Working toward a healthier weight is one of the best choices you can make to improve your health and well-being. There are many benefits to exercising, including having more energy and getting stronger. By keeping your weight at a healthy level, you can lower your risk of getting diseases such as:
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- cardiovascular disease
- some forms of cancer.
Even losing a few pounds can have health benefits.
How Do I Get Started?
It can be hard to start a new fitness program. But before you begin, check with your doctor to see if it is safe for you to exercise and be sure to follow their instructions. Because you are trying to become more active, you should start gradually with exercises that you enjoy and that are not too tiring.
Keep in mind the following physical activity guidelines for healthy adults. Your fitness plan should have aerobic activities (cardio) AND weight training activities. You can meet the guidelines in one of these three ways:
- 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of medium level cardio activity every week and weight training on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
- 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of high level cardio every week and weight training on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
- An equal mix of medium and high level cardio and weight training on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
How Can I Get Even More Health Benefits?
In addition to doing weight training twice a week, you can achieve even greater health benefits by doing:
- 300 minutes each week of medium level cardio (about 40 minutes a day)
- 150 minutes of high level cardio (about 20 minutes a day)
- an equal mix of medium and high level cardio activity.
So, What Kinds of Activities Count?
Aerobic activity or “cardio” is any activity that gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster. You should be moving at a moderate or vigorous intensity for at least 10 minutes at a time. Examples include:
Medium level cardio means you are working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell is that you will be able to talk but not sing the words to your favorite song. Moderate level activities are:
- walking fast
- pushing a lawn mower
- water aerobics.
High level cardio means you are breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up a lot. If you are working at this level, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Vigorous level activities are:
- fast cycling.
A rule of thumb is that 1 minute of vigorous-cardio is about the same as 2 minutes of moderate-cardio.
There are many ways you can do muscle-strengthening activities, whether it is at home or the gym. You could try:
- weight lifting
- resistance bands
- using your body weight for resistance (push ups, sit ups)
- heavy gardening (digging, shoveling)
When weight training, be sure to exercise all of your major muscle groups:
Build Up Gradually.
Be sure you build up over time. That is, increase the amount of time and intensity of your exercise slowly. When beginning an exercise program, 5-10 minutes of activity may be all you can do. If you want to do more high level activities, slowly replace those that take medium effort. For example, replace fast walking with jogging. Also, be sure to stretch at the beginning and end of each workout.
I recommend you write down the type of exercise you do and for how long you do it in a notebook. That way you can see your progress. Do not be discouraged if you do not see results right away. Keep your focus on the process and celebrate the small steps along the way.
For more information:
Go to the Exercise and Fitness health topic.