If you tend to be inactive, but have thoughts of getting fit this spring, you may be interested to know that starting and consistently following an exercise program can bring about more significant health benefits than those achieved by someone who is fit (it becomes more difficult to improve when you are already fit).
The good news about exercise for inactive people is this: The less active you are, the more you can improve your health through exercise. And, older individuals (65+) who become fit improve their health and lifespan.
How to start an exercise program
Participating in a strength-training program at least twice a week is a good start, with aerobic exercise added as much as possible throughout the week (30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week). Also, do a self-assessment [see Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire below, which is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)]. Results from this assessment suggest whether you should consult with a healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.
Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire
- Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor?
- Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity?
- In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?
- Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?
- Do you have a bone or joint problem (for example, back, knee or hip) that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
- Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (e.g., water pills) for your blood pressure or heart condition?
- Do you know of any other reason you should not do physical activity?
According to the ACSM, if you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you should see your healthcare professional before becoming physically active.
Theresa Gracik, MBA, is an exercise physiologist and program director of the University of Michigan Preventive Cardiology Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.