PhotobucketExercise is the fountain of youth.

Exercise not only keeps us feeling young and fit and energetic, it is critical for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.

Exercise stimulates the immune system, improves memory, prevents osteoporosis and fights aging. Regardless of your current level of fitness, be sure to increase your levels of exercise gradually as the muscles tend to get conditioned faster than the joints. By giving your joints time to get used to a new exercise program you will stay healthy with less chance for long term injury.

Remember that extreme exercise can be just as hard on your body as a lack of exercise altogether. Before starting any exercise program you should always check with your doctor, especially those with chronic conditions or over the age of 40.

The first step to becoming more physically fit is not to just implement a new workout program but to get used to the idea of being more active in general. The summary of Newton’s Laws of Motion is basically that “An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion.” Starting an outdoor hobby, joining a recreational sports team, and playing with children and pets are simple ways to increase the amount of movement in your day.

If you are working in an office and mostly sedentary you can obtain a basic pedometer to count how many steps you take each day. The average sedentary office worker only takes about 2000 steps per day. An optimal number of steps to work your way up to would be 10,000 steps per day. Get creative and find ways to add more movement in to your everyday activities! Walking at lunch, running up and down stairs, and parking as far away from your office as possible are a great place to start. Make it your job to fetch the things that someone else is supposed to get for you. Strolling around on breaks to chat with co-workers is also a simple way to get more steps in. Have a weekly contest with friends, family, or coworkers to see who is getting the most steps in each day.

The best place to start with an exercise program is to start doing twenty minutes of walking every other day. Work up to a twenty minute walk daily as your baseline. At the very least you should be doing this twenty minute walk every day. Walking is a great way to start the day, or is an asset after meals to improve digestion and jump start your metabolism.

Many people trying to burn fat and lose weight through exercise are simply exercising at too intense of a level that is not conducive to burning fat as the primary source of fuel. Whether you are trying to burn fat or improve your cardiovascular conditioning an investment in a basic heart rate monitor is a solid investment to ensure you meet your exercise goals. You really only need a basic heart rate monitor that tells you your heart rate as a number and as a percentage. Let’s save the fancy ones for the professional athletes.

To start a fat burning program, you should work up to exercising in the 50-70% for over 45 minutes to an hour each day. After 40 minutes of exercise in this zone our bodies are using fat for their primary source of energy.

For cardiovascular benefits, we need to work up to doing twenty minutes of exercise in the 70-80% range.

Even if your ultimate goal is to burn fat you still should spend some time in the cardiovascular range to prevent heart disease, and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.

To determine your heart target heart rates we must first calculate your max heart rate.

Max Heart Rate= 220-your age

So if you are 50 years old for instance, that means your max heart rate is 170bpm (beats per minute). To be in the fat burning range you need to be at about 60% of that which is 102bpm. Now most people will be above that 102bpm with just a brisk walk, and that is why most of us work out and wonder why we are not burning any of that stubborn fat! Still twenty minutes of your work out should be at about 75% of your max heart rate which would be about 127bpm. So if you are exercising for forty minutes the most of the time should be around 100-120bpm and less than half of that time should be spent in the 120-130bpm range.

Follow the specific recommendations from your doctor when getting started on a new exercise plan and be gentle with yourself as you develop a new fitness routine. Remember to schedule exercise in to every single day so that if something inevitably comes up you are at least meeting your goals 4-6 times per week.

What are your challenges with starting or maintaining a fitness program?

Please do leave me some questions in the comments if you have them. Thanks for stopping by my “kitchen table”.

~Dr. Nicole

Read all of our articles on exercise and weight loss

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