Many of you may not be familiar with some of the terminology used when talking about exercise and some basic exercise principles. Exercise, like any other topic, has jargon, which is meaningless to someone who does not engage with such information on a regular basis. Seeing as you are all about to get started, if you haven’t already, I thought I’d provide some insight into the basics of exercise.
Three main types of exercise exist, namely cardiovascular, resistance and range of motion exercise. Cardiovascular fitness refers to the ability of your heart and circulatory system to efficiently and effectively supply the body with sufficient oxygen and energy when it is placed under physical stress, that is, when you are exercising. Types of cardiovascular exercise include walking, running, swimming, cycling and rowing. Cardiovascular exercise is essential in reducing the risk for heart disease and for weight loss/management. Resistance exercise is when the muscles are required to perform an action against some sort of resistance. In the gym, these are usually weights, toning circuits and body-weight exercises. Resistance exercise builds muscle, which in turn decreases fat percent. With age, one loses muscle mass. Therefore, it is important to do light weight exercises in order to maintain muscle mass and keep the fat percent at a healthy level. A high fat percent increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. Finally, range of motion exercises refer to stretching, an important but often forgotten part of the exercise regimen. Stretching is essential in maintaining mobility around the joint and flexibility of the muscles, thus reducing the risk for injury.
Ideally, one should include all of these three components during an exercise session. Depending on your exercise goals, you will spend more or less time on each component in a session and the structure of the session will vary accordingly.
Heart rate refers to the number of times your heart beats in a minute. The average resting heart rate for adults is 72 beats per minute (bpm). To calculate your estimated maximum heart rate, the following simple formula is used:
Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – Age
Fitter individuals will have a lower resting heart rate and will be able to elevate their heart rate to near-maximum levels during exercise. Less fit individuals will struggle to get the heart rate to the maximum, as the cardiovascular system will be unable to cope with the stress. Unfit individuals will have a quicker increase in heart rate during exercise than fitter individuals, as they are unable to cope as efficiently with the increase in exercise intensity. It is, therefore, important that you slowly increase your exercise intensity so that your body systems are able to adapt to the increased stress placed on them.
Aerobic activity is exercise of long duration and low intensity. Your heart rate is elevated to between 60 and 80 percent of your maximum. At this level, you should still be able to breathe comfortably, although you will feel that your heart rate is increased. Aerobic activity is important to improve cardiovascular fitness, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease, and for weight management.
Anaerobic activity is maximal effort performed for short bursts, for example sprinting. Your heart rate is increased to between 80 and 100 percent of your maximum. You will be very short of breath immediately after the exertion. This type of training also improves cardiovascular fitness, but is often used more in sport-specific training.
So, as you begin your exercise regimen, first decide what your training goals are and then plan your exercise sessions accordingly. Remember: never exercise when you are sick and always have at least 1 rest day per week!