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Exercise and Fitness

Very out of shape

06/09/2008

Question:

I am 55 y.o. and very out of shape. I become out of breath just carrying groceries from the car to the house. Starting next week I have to start taking a van pool to work because I can no longer afford the cost of gas. The problem is the van pool will let me off 7 blocks from where I work and I will have to walk the rest of the way. I am really worried about having to walk that far because I am so out of shape. I have tried walking short distances around home and if I walk very slowly I can do it without gasping for breath. But I also get cramps and pains in my sides and back and shin splints even just walking 4 blocks. How will I ever make it 7 blocks from the van to work every day and another 7 blocks back to the van at the end of the day? Help!

Answer:

Congratulations on your decision to improve your personal health.  Following a regular exercise program can help protect you from developing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and also can help to improve your mood.  The right exercise program can complement your life by providing you with benefits like more energy and strength.  This extra energy can increase your personal productivity while the extra strength can aid you in maintaining an independent life.

You need a workable plan to move from inactivity to becoming physically active.  Prior to beginning a vigorous exercise program, you should consult with your physician.  In some cases your doctor may have certain restrictions you need to follow.  Most importantly, you should choose exercises you enjoy and that you can perform year round.  Begin gradually, making sure your first sessions of physical activity are fun and not too tiring.

Set a weekly schedule that includes time off during the week.   For example, walk on Monday, Wednesday and Friday the first week.  Try to avoid exercising just after eating a meal.  Also, avoid exercising in extreme heat.  Choose shoes that are comfortable and that provide good arch support.

I recommend you chart your progress by recording the type of exercise you performed and the duration in a notebook.  Don't get discouraged if you don't see results right away.  Keep your focus on the process and celebrate the small steps along the way. 

The American College of Sports Medicine makes the following recommendations for an exercise program for a healthy adult to develop and maintain cardiovascular fitness, strength training and flexibility.

Cardiovascular Training
Frequency -- 3-5 days per week.
Intensity -- Low to moderate intensity, approximately 55/65-90% of estimated maximum heart rate.
Duration -- Approximately 20-60 minutes of continuous activity.
Mode of Activity -- Continuous, rhythmical and aerobic using large muscle groups (walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, rowing, in-line skating, stair climbing, aerobic dance and cross country skiing).

It is important to gradually increase the amount of time and intensity of your exercise.   When beginning an exercise program, 5-10 minutes of activity may be all you can do.

Resistance Training
Frequency -- 2-3 days per week with at least one day of rest between workouts; do not do resistance training on consecutive days.
Sets -- A minimum of one set, 8-12 repetitions to near muscular failure for general fitness.
Number of Exercises -- A minimum of 8-10 exercises involving the major muscle groups.
Speed -- Moderate to slow; each repetition should be approximately six seconds (3 up, 3 down).
Range of Motion -- Exercises should be performed through a full range of motion and should be pain free.


Flexibility
Flexibility exercises (stretching) should be included with every exercise session.  Before stretching, warm up with 5-10 minutes of light cycling, walking, rowing, etc.   Each stretch should be held for 15-30 seconds and repeated 2-4 times, alternating sides.
DO NOT stretch to the point of pain.


Wishing you the best of luck in all your exercise endeavors.

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Response by:

Rachael   Dotson, BS Rachael Dotson, BS
Program Manager
Certified Johnny G Spinning Instructor
Fitness Center at CARE\Crawley
University of Cincinnati