If your cardiologist, primary care physician or other medical provider told you that you need to start exercising more, you might be thinking “where do I even start” or “what exercise is best for me”.
There are a variety of different types of exercises that can provide benefits to your overall health and fitness. We sat down with the Penn Sports Cardiology and Fitness Program to talk about some of the most popular exercise programs:
Which Exercise Is Best For You?
Aerobic exercise, which may be referred to as “cardio” or “endurance” exercise, is one of the best training methods for stimulating your heart rate and keeping your circulatory system healthy. Cardio exercise can include a brisk walk, running, swimming or biking. If you are a beginner, start with 10 to 15 minutes of walking at a pace where you feel a little short of breath while talking with someone next to you and gradually increase intensity over time. Remember, the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is another great training method for increasing your overall cardiovascular health, and it has also been shown to improve blood pressure and aerobic fitness, while reducing abdominal fat and body weight. HIIT is recommended for individuals that have been exercising for several weeks and have built a foundation of fitness. HIIT programs consist of repeated high-intensity efforts followed by varied recovery times. If you are short on time, this method may be right for you. Just 10 minutes of HIIT has been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness.
Strength and Resistance Training
Want to strengthen your muscles and improve cardiovascular health? The American Heart Association recommends strength training twice a week with two days of rest in between each session. Increasing muscle mass helps boost your metabolic rate which then enables you to burn more calories throughout the day. If you don’t have access to gym equipment or weights, doing a body-weight strength training program is a great way to get started.
Yoga is an exercise method that has been around for centuries and is beneficial for strength, flexibility, balance and stamina. Research has suggested a benefit of yoga on cardiovascular and overall health. Meditation also plays a role in yoga, improving stress, anxiety and depression levels. There are yoga classes all over! To get started, visit your local gym or search online.
Flexibility training gives you more freedom of movement by improving the range of motion in your joints. You should stretch your major muscle groups at least two to three times per week. Each stretch should be held for 10 to 30 seconds and repeated two to four times.
Flexibility exercises are most effective at the end of an aerobic workout when your muscles are warmed up.
Hate exercise, but love dancing? If so, then Zumba may be an exercise option for you. A workout-in-disguise, Zumba raises your heart rate and strengthens your core muscles. Bonus: it’s fun, too! If you’re feeling nervous about dancing in public, start by dancing at home for several minutes to try it out. When you’re ready to actively practice Zumba, search online or call your local gym to find classes.
Track Your Progress
Wearable fitness devices like Fitbit are perfect for tracking your activity and providing motivation. But if you don’t own one, there are some great apps that you can install on your smart devices for tracking workouts, nutrition intake and overall progress. Here are a few to keep you on top of your fitness goals:
Lose It! and MyFitnessPal
Lose It! and MyFitnessPal are two of the best apps to help you achieve your training goals. Whether you are trying to lose weight, build muscle or track nutrients, these apps will help you stay on top of it! Tracking your meals is important if you are trying to lose weight – these apps can help you track your caloric intake with ease. To start, download the free versions and input your height, weight, gender and fitness goals.
Weekend runner or training for a race? MapMyRun is an app that will track your workout activities, run routes and workout details. Save your workouts and track the progress you’re making!
Most smartphones or smartwatches can track workouts, heart rate and nutrition. Just look for apps that have already been installed referencing “Health” “Workout” or “Heart Rate”. If you are utilizing a heart rate tracking device to guide your workouts, remember that the wrist devices often lose their accuracy at high rates or during high intensity activities. Chest strap heart rate monitors are more expensive, but can provide greater accuracy.
Starting a new exercise program or trying a different exercise method may seem daunting, but it’s ok to start slow. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor for suggestions on types of exercise, target heart rate ranges, frequency and duration. In fact, we recommend it! And always remember, if you experience chest pain or shortness of breath during exercise, call your doctor or 9-1-1.