For many people, beginning any exercise routine can seem intimidating. Where to start? How do I begin? Well, exercise is actually very similar to medical prescriptions. Did you know that physical activity and exercise also require doses just like medical prescriptions? Exercise doses need to be specific in order to achieve the goals and benefits desired. As with a medical prescription, an exercise prescription must include the name of the medicine as well as the dosage to be effective. The factors for determining exercise prescriptions are referred to as FITT.
• Frequency – how often you workout
• Intensity – how hard you workout
• Time – how long you workout
• Type – Specific type of activity you choose
Frequency – Is the number of times per week you engage in exercise. Not exercising very often will result in limited progress. Exercising too often can lead to injury. Cardiovascular exercise should be done 2-4 days per week for beginners and 4-6 days per week for those with average to high levels of fitness. For weight training it is suggested that beginners workout for 2-3 days per week and 3-6 days per week for those with average to high levels of fitness. Seven days per week is rarely prescribed because rest is essential to mental and physical recovery.
Intensity– The difficulty level of your exercise. If the difficulty level is too low, you may not achieve your desired results. If the difficulty level is too high, you may fatigue rapidly and increase your chance of injury. Your heart rate is how you determine the intensity of your workout. You should workout within your training zone, which is 60-80% of your maximal (max) heart rate (HR) for the average individual. Younger or fitter individuals can sustain a higher percentage like 80-90% of their maximal heart rate for extended periods of time. While putting your training zone to the test, you find that you can sustain a higher percentage of your max HR. In this case feel free to increase the higher end of your percentage to 85%. I would not recommend increasing it any higher. 85%-90% of max HR is usually an area reserved for high level athletes, but if you insist use the Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE). Then again, if you are hitting the higher percentages of your training zone and sustaining these numbers for extended periods of time, you are not a beginner and this blog may be a little elementary for you.
To find your training zone you must first compute your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from the number 220. Then, by multiplying your max HR by .6 (60%) for the low end and .8 (80%) for the high end of your training zone, you will have your approximate HR range needed to achieve benefit from exercise. There is a more accurate formula using your resting heart rate, but this formula is simple and easier to use. You will get a good idea of where you need your heart rate in order to receive benefit from the exercise you are performing.
Try it out!
(220-age) x .6 = low end of heart rate zone (bpm)
(220-age) x .8 = high end of heart rate zone (bpm)
Time – Is the duration of a single workout. Workouts that are too short may not provide benefits needed. Workouts that are too long can increase chance for injury and motivation. Of course, this would all depend on the intensity of your workout. For beginners it is suggested that 20 to 35 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 2-4 times per week and strength training 30-40 minutes, 2-3 days per week is a good way to start before gradually increasing exercise bouts. While 40 minutes to 1 hour plus, 2-6 times per week is suggested for those with average to high fitness levels.
Type – The particular kind of physical activity or exercise you choose to do. Other factors that may impact the kinds of exercise used are: equipment availability and time it takes for the activity. You should try to choose a variety of modes of exercise. Sometimes we fall in love with a piece of equipment or a particular mode of exercise like the treadmill, but choosing one mode adapts our muscles to one motion. The idea is to continually stimulate muscle growth, but if it adapts it will not be stimulated to grow. I recommend that you continually stimulate your muscles with different biomechanical motions that only a variety of exercises can provide. This is so your body does not adapt and your muscles are continually stimulated intern reducing any causes of injury that may result from a frequently performed repetitive motion.
Principles to Improve Fitness Levels
Overload – In order to improve fitness levels, you must increase the amount of exercise that you would normally do. Pushing yourself to do more than the body wants to do without causing injury would sacrifice form.
Progression – Over time, workloads can become easier, and it becomes necessary to challenge you body to tougher workloads to achieve increased fitness levels. Listen to your body as you adapt to these new challenges.
Specificity – Working out specific body parts will lead to gains in those areas. If certain muscles are not worked, they will not receive the same benefit. To avoid injuries from muscle imbalance, be sure that all muscles are worked with specific days to target them.
These are the guidelines you should be using to create an effective, goal specific workout. Stay tuned for my next blog where I will post a simple easy to use full body workout using FITT as the basis for the prescription. Hope you enjoyed this read and found it informative!