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Exercise and Living Well

Less than 60 percent of Americans are not regularly active and 25 percent report they are not active at all. Yet exercise may be the most important factor to consider in the promotion of cardiovascular health. People who exercise regularly are better able to control other risk factors, including diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and stress.

Exercise may be the most important risk factor to consider in the promotion of cardiovascular health. People who exercise regularly are better able to control other risk factors including diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, and stress.

Exercise Regularly

Less than 60% of Americans are not regularly active and 25% report they are not active at all. Lack of knowledge about the bene?ts of exercise and perceived shortage of time are two of the many reasons why some choose not to exercise and, as a result, significantly increase their risk of cardiovascular disease.

Activity vs. Exercise

Many people think that walking around the grocery store or shopping at the mall is "exercise". Because of this misconception, it is important for us to de?ne the difference between activity and exercise. Activity is defined as the state of being active, and exercise is defined as activity that requires physical exertion especially when performed to develop or maintain fitness.

Starting an Exercise Program

MD approval

  • Talk to your physician if a maximal stress test is appropriate for you
  • After a heart attack or stroke, physical therapy or cardiac rehab is recommended. Talk to your physician for more information.

Four components of exercise

  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness - large muscle group activities (walking, swimming, bicycling) that require your heart, vessels, and lungs to work together to deliver oxygen to your body
  • Flexibility - range of motion of a joint
  • Muscular endurance - ability to lift light loads many times
  • Muscular strength - ability to lift a heavy load one time

Benefits of Exercise
  • Prevent and manage cardiovascular disease
  • Prevent plaque build-up in the arteries
  • Improve circulation
  • Reduce blood clot formation
  • Control blood pressure
  • Manage angina and claudication
  • Improve breathing and oxygen use
  • Decrease shortness of breath
  • Deliver more oxygen to the heart and muscles
  • Strengthen muscles
  • Make daily activities easier
  • Strengthen the heart muscle
  • Improve flexibility, balance, and general coordination
  • Strengthen bones
  • Increase bone density and strength
  • Decrease chances of breaking bones
  • Help prevent osteoporosis
  • Decrease anxiety and depression
  • Increase feelings of control
  • Increase release of endorphins, which may improve your mood
  • Promote relaxation and sleep
  • Decrease fats in the blood and body
  • Improve appetite control and weight
  • Decrease overall body fat
  • Help control lipid levels
  • Boost immune system
  • Promote the healing process
  • Strengthen ability to recover from illness
  • Increase resistance to illness

Creating Your Exercise Program
There are four components of an exercise program: mode, frequency, duration and intensity.

  • Mode - type of exercise you choose to do. Examples of different modes of exercise are walking, cycling, swimming, baseball, weight lifting, calisthenics, and gymnastics
  • Frequency - how many days per week you exercise. It is recommended that you exercise 3 to 5 days per week
  • Duration - how long you should exercise. It is recommended that you exercise a total of 150 minutes per week
  • Intensity - how hard you need to exercise. The most ideal way to determine your exercise intensity is by using the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale (to the right). This scale was developed so people can rate how hard they work during exercise

Don't Forget

  • Warming up and cooling down are vital parts of every exercise session. Warming up is a gradual increase in intensity to prevent injury during exercise. Cooling down is a gradual decrease in intensity for slowing heart rate and breathing frequency to reduce the risk of dizziness and fainting
  • Chest pain - if you are experiencing chest pain, do not exercise without your physician's approval
  • Weather - use good judgement by never exercising in extreme hot or cold weather
  • Water - drink water before, during and after every exercise session

The Borg-RPE-Scale®

While exercising, rate your perception of exertion; i.e., how heavy and strenuous the exercise feels to you. The perception of exertion depends mainly on the strain and fatigue in your muscles and on your feeling of breathlessness or aches in the chest. Look at this rating scale; use this scale from 6-20, where 6 means "no exertion at all" and 20 means "maximal exertion". The optimal range is 11 "light" to 13 "somewhat hard".

  • 9 corresponds to "very light" exercise. For a normal, healthy person it is like walking slowly at his or her own pace.
  • 13 on the scale is "somewhat hard" exercise, but it still feels OK to continue.
  • 17 "very hard" is very strenuous. A healthy person can still go on, but he or she really has to push him or herself. It feels very heavy and the person is very tired.
  • 19 on the scale is an extremely strenuous exercise level. For most people this is the most strenuous exercise they have ever experienced.

Try to appraise your feeling of exertion as honestly as possible, without thinking about what the actual physical load is. Don't underestimate it, but don't overestimate it either. It's your own feeling of effort and exertion that's important, not how it compares to other people's. What other people think is not important either. Look at the scale and the expressions and give a number.

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