Essential Exercise Program

The essentials of a good exercise program

by Dr. Michelle Vallie, LCPC, PhD.

The right kind of exercise for you is exercise that will benefit your own body in its current state of fitness. The following recommendations are based on three sets of guidelines that apply to almost everyone who wants to embark on a successful exercise program.

1) Have at least three and possibly more exercise sessions every week, preferably at regular intervals and start times. Make each session 20 minutes or longer, with little or no pause for rest. Choose a level of activity high enough to make you breathless, sweaty and aware of your heart beating. Exercise without violent movement that would get you dizzy or nauseated, or risk straining muscles or joints. Do warm-up exercise before the main exercise session and cool-down exercise at the end.

2) Choose forms of exercise that you enjoy, and that you can fit in your schedule. If you dislike sports, energetic gardening or do-it-yourself work around the house can be good purposeful ways to stay active. Exercise equipment, bicycling or brisk walking will often fit into everyday routines. The goal is to develop a habit of physical fitness, and enjoyment will be an extra incentive.

3) Do not attempt to get into shape too rapidly. Start gently, exercising just hard enough to become aware of mild strain, and increase your efforts gradually over the first four weeks. If you start a new sport, beware of early over-competitiveness. If you take up a potentially strenuous game such as racquetball or handball, try to improve on your last performance rather than competing with your opponent.

Warning: If you belong to one of these groups ask your physician for advice before any sort of strenuous activity!

  • People over 60 years of age, or those over 45 who have little or no hard exercise since early childhood.
  • Heavy smokers (anyone who smokes more than 20 cigarettes a day)
  • People who are seriously overweight if you are in this category.
  • People under treatment or supervision for a long term health problem such as high blood pressure, heart, and lung ailments.