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How Much Exercise Does The Average Person Need?

Those of you who regularly follow the UpForIt Facebook posts will know that we take a Wholehearted 4-Pillars approach to Self-Care in promoting a healthy lifestyle. The second of the 4 Pillars is Get Moving, which is essentially about physical activity or exercise. This week we will take a look at some home-based exercise options developed by experts at the Mayo Clinic and others at the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in the USA.

But before we go any further, please complete this simple Physical Activity Readiness self-assessment questionnaire to ascertain if you should first chat to your doctor before you ‘Get Moving’. To complete the questionnaire simply answer Yes or No to the questions below:

  1. Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart or other condition and that you should only undertake physical activity recommended by a doctor?
  2. Do you feel pain in your chest when undertaking physical activity?
  3. Are you using medicines for blood pressure or any heart condition?
  4. In the past month, have you had any chest pain when not undertaking physical activity?
  5. Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever get faint or lose consciousness?
  6. Do you have any bone or joint problems that might be aggravated by exercise?
  7. Do you know of any other reason why you should not exercise?

If you answered YES to any of the above questions then I suggest that you consult your doctor by phone or in person BEFORE you start exercising or BEFORE you have a fitness appraisal. Tell your doctor about the questionnaire and indicate which questions you answered YES to. If you answered NO to all the questions then you may be able to undertake any exercise activity you want—as long as you start slowly and build up gradually. If uncertain, then chat to your doctor about the kinds of physical activities you wish to participate in and follow his/her advice.

Behavior Change is a Process

Before you ‘leap’ into exercising, it’s really important that you think carefully about where exactly you find yourself on the exercise continuum. To help you do this we are going to take a look at the Stages of Change Model developed by psychologists Prochaska and DiClemente. According to the model we go through 5 stages as we change behaviour, e.g. such as when we start exercising.

  1. Precontemplation – no interest in exercising
  2. Contemplation – thinking about exercising but no plan made
  3. Preparation – exercise plan in place
  4. Action – start exercising
  5. Maintenance – sustained exercise

Research shows that when people fail to get moving and keep exercising its often because they skip Preparation and go from Precontemplation or Contemplation directly to Action. You need to prepare well – think through the process in detail and, most importantly, choose exercises that you LIKE doing.

Step 1: Moderate Intensity

Let’s assume that you did not answer YES to any one the questions included in the earlier post and you have moved through the first two stages of change. You’re now ready to consider the first suggested exercise option we call Foundation. This option consists of a total of 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week (e.g. 30 minutes per day 5 times a week). Add a daily dose of core muscle-strengthening exercises which will help you strengthen and stabilise your core muscles so that you are better able to prevent injury when you move on to more general-muscle strengthening exercises.

An excellent, safe and cheap moderate intensity aerobic activity that you can do, indoors or out and at any time of the day or night, is brisk walking. This short YouTube video provide some useful tips on brisk walking:

Core Muscle-Strengthening Exercises

The world-famous Mayo Clinic suggests a simple and effective core strengthening excise as demonstrated below;

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Lie on your back with your knees bent. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise your hips off the floor until your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold for three deep breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat. Do this 10 times for one set and then repeat until you can comfortably complete 3 sets. Do this exercise once or twice a day.

Watch this video below for the best core exercises for beginners to get you started.

Once you feel that you have improved the stabilisation and strength of your core muscles then you are ready to move on the Progress phase of your exercise programme. Walking briskly for at least 150 minutes per week and doing your core muscle strengthening exercises are key. Listen to your body but ‘push the envelope’ if you feel comfortable in doing so.

Continue to Get Moving: Exercise Part 2 now.