A Guide to Exercise For Beginners

If you have never been a regular exerciser, this is an exercise for beginners tutorial that will teach you how to get started with an exercise program - and stick with it.

First of all, Congratulations! for taking the first step to better fitness and health.

It is the opinion of many experts, me included, that exercise can literally cure diseases like some forms of heart disease.It has helped people prevent or recover from some forms of cancer, it helps people with arthritis and helps prevent and reverse depression.

Another benefit is that exercise helps you lose weight, as well as look more toned and trim.

Unfortunatley, exercising just once, or for a short time won't bring many benefits. While you don't have to spend hours a day in the gym, you will have to make a consistent effort, say 3 to 5 times per week for at least 30 minutes per session. The exercise for beginners that you do doesn't have to be boring either...read on for some of the activities that won't seem like working out at all.

Remember that if you rarely engage in physical exertion (you know who you are!), any sort of exercise on a regular basis is going to bring immediate benefits.

Your exercise for beginners options are numerous, including walking, dancing, gardening, biking -- even doing household chores. The important thing is to choose activities you enjoy. That will increase your chances of making it a habit and the secret to a lasting program is to make it a habit.

And how much exercise should you do? For heart health, the AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking, on most days of the week.

If you're doing less than 30 minutes of exercise you're still going to see benefits, but not like doing 30 minutes.

This exercise for beginners tutorial includes definitions of some common exercise terms, sample workouts, and recommendations on home exercise equipment.

A way to measure the intensity of your exercise is to check you heart rate or pulse during physical activity. These should be within a target range during different levels of intensity.

For example, according to the CDC, for moderate-intensity physical activity, a person's target heart rate should be 50% to 70% of his or her maximum heart rate. Maximum Heart Rate is based on your age. An estimate of your maximum age-related heart rate can be obtained by subtracting your age from 220.

I always advise my clients to talk to their doctor before beginning an exercise for beginners program to make sure of what their limitations might be. I'll never forget a friend who insisted on distance running on a regular basis even though his doctor warned him against it because of signs of heart disease. A heart attack during a run took him from his family and us some years ago.

Even if your doctor places limitations on you, you can usually do some form of exercise for beginners.

So, now you have found out you are healthy and have no limitations on an exercise plan (as long as you start out slowly). The next thing you want to do is examine your goals. For example, do you want to prepare to run a 5K? hit the gym five times a week? just walk around the block without getting winded? or play with your grandchildren without frequent time-outs?

Just make sure the goals are clear, realistic, and concise.

Many beginners make the mistake of starting out too aggressively, only to give up when they end up tired, sore, or injured, he says. Don't look for instant results or you will get discouraged and may quit. Remember, you are a beginner and stick to exercises for beginners.

Most people who go about it too aggressively early in the program, tend not to stick with it over the long haul. What you really want to do is to develop some new habits that you can stick with for a lifetime.

Fitness Definitions

Even long-term exercisers may have misconceptions about exactly what some fitness terms mean. Here are some definition of words and phrases you're likely to encounter:

  • Aerobic/cardiovascular activity. These are exercises that are strenuous enough to temporarily speed up your breathing and heart rate. Running, cycling, walking, swimming, and dancing fall in this category.
  • Flexibility training or stretching. This type of workout enhances the range of motion of joints. Age and inactivity tend to cause muscles, tendons, and ligaments to shorten over time. Contrary to popular belief, however, stretching and warming up are not synonymous. In fact, stretching cold muscles and joints can make them prone to injury.
  • Strength, weight, or resistance training. This type of exercise is aimed at improving the strength and function of muscles. Specific exercises are done to strengthen each muscle group. Weight lifting and exercising with elastic resistance bands are examples of resistance training activities, as are exercises like pushups in which you work against the weight of your own body.
  • Set. Usually used in discussing strength training exercises, this term refers to repeating the same exercise a certain number of times. For instance, a weight lifter may do 10 biceps curls, rest for a few moments, then perform another "set" of 10 more biceps curls.
  • Repetition or "rep." This refers to the number of times you perform an exercise during a set. For example, the weight lifter mentioned above performed 10 reps of the bicep curl exercise in each set.
  • Warm up. This is the act of preparing your body for the stress of exercise. The body can be warmed up with light intensity aerobic movements like walking slowly. These movements increase blood flow, which in turn heats up muscles and joints. "Think of it as a lube job for the body," Bryant explains. At the end of your warm-up, it's a good idea to do a little light stretching.
  • Cool-down. This is the less-strenuous exercise you do to cool your body down after the more intense part of your workout. For example, after a walk on a treadmill, you might walk at a reduced speed and incline for several minutes until your breathing and heart rate slow down. Stretching is often part of a cool-down.

Sample Exercise for Beginners Workouts

Before beginning any exercise for beginners, it's important to warm up, then do some light stretching. Running on the spot or on a treadmill for 5 minutes at an easy pace is a good start. Save the bulk of the stretching for after the workout.

Once you're warmed up, I and most personal trainers recommend three different types of exercise for overall physical fitness: cardiovascular, strength training, and flexibility training. These don't all have to be done at once, but doing each on a regular basis will result in balanced fitness.

Cardiovascular Exercise For Beginners
Start by doing an aerobic activity, like walking or running, for a sustained 20-30 minutes, two to three times a week. Alternate days of cardio exercise with days of strength training for 20 to 30 minutes. 20 to 30 minutes of continuous running can be a pretty difficult exercise for beginners so pace yourself - remember I said not to overdo an exercise or you will likely quit in frustration (and pain!). If you want to do some running, start at an easy pace and walk for brief periods to regain your breathe. Soon -after a few weeks - you will be able to run for the complete time. A great way to get motivated for this type of activity is to sign up for a charity run such as the Terry Fox 10 Kilometer run of something similar. Your daily exercise will be training for the charity event.

Strength training Exercise For Beginners
Start by doing one set of exercises targeting each of the major muscle groups. I suggest using a weight at which you can comfortably perform the exercise eight to 12 times (repetitions) in a set. When you think you can handle more, gradually increase either the weight, the number of repetitions, or number of sets. To maximize the benefits, do strength training at least twice a week. Never work the same body parts two days in a row. Experienced exercisers will alternate upper body exercises (above the waist) with lower body exercises (below the waist) on different days. It is important to alternate your exercises to allow the body to heal between workouts.

Flexibility training Exercise For Beginners.
The American College on Exercise recommends doing slow, sustained static (don't bounce) stretches three to seven days per week. Each stretch should last 10-30 seconds. I usually recommend stretching at the end of each workout for about 10 minutes. Be sure to stretch the muscles you used during your workout. See my page on stretching exercise for beginners

To learn how to perform certain exercises and to help with repetitions, sets and over all exercise for beginners, consider hiring a personal trainer for at least a few sessions or take advantage of free sessions offered when you join a gym.

Home Exercise Equipment

Many people don't like going to a gym for fear of being seen as the only 'out of shape' person there and also because they are intimidated by the complicated equipment and their lack of knowledge. You can work out in the comfort of your own home. And with body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups, and sit-ups, you can use the resistance of your own weight to condition your body. To boost your strength and aerobic capacity, you may also want to invest in some home exercise equipment.

Here are some popular home exercise for beginners items:

  • Treadmill. This best-selling piece of equipment is great for cardiovascular exercise. I recommend starting out walking at a low intensity for 30 minutes.
  • Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells make up this category of strength-training equipment. Dumbbells are recommended for beginners. Fichera suggests purchasing an 18 pound adjustable dumbbell set, which can be adjusted in 3 pound increments.
  • Other strength training equipment. This includes weight stacks (plates with cables and pulleys), flexible bands, and flexible rods. Flexible bands are good for beginners and for people who travel, especially since they come with instructions. But I doesn't recommend them for long-term use; your muscles will likely adapt to the resistance and need more of a challenge.
  • Exercise ball. Also called a stability ball if you enjoy working out with an exercise ball, it can provide a great workout.
  • Exercise videos and DVDs. Before working out with a home exercise video or DVD, I recommend watching through it at least once to observe the structure and proper form of the workout. To further improve form, work out in front of a mirror, if possible, or having someone else watch you do the exercise.

    I hope this advice on exercise for beginners helps you out!