Question: I want to get in better shape, but don’t know where to start. How much exercise is enough? What type of exercise is best, and how much time do I need to spend on it?
Answer: The answers to those questions depend on a number of factors, including your age, general health, present fitness level, and metabolism. There are, however, a few general guidelines for a successful exercise program.
The people who say they don’t have time to take care of themselves will soon discover they’re spending all their time being sick.—Patricia Alexander
* Cardiovascular exercise, also called aerobic exercise or “cardio” for short, is any activity that gets your heart beating at 60-80% of its maximum rate for a period of time—at least 20 minutes, as a general rule. To calculate your maximum heart rate on the safe side, subtract your age from 220.
** Resistance exercise is any activity that brings weight to bear on your muscles, bones, and joints by means of weight-training equipment (barbells, dumbbells, weight machines, etc.) or body weight (pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups, etc.). Resistance exercise is even more important when you get older and bone and muscle loss occur naturally, if not combated. Choose exercises that target each major muscle group once or twice each week. Unless you have special needs or are an amateur or professional bodybuilder, three 20- to 30-minute routines each week is enough to strengthen bones and tone muscles.