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  Home  > Personal Wellness  > Creating an Aerobic Exercise Program (Part B)

Creating an Aerobic Exercise Program (Part B)

How Long and How Often?

Regular exercise is imperative. As we mentioned, twenty minutes, three times per week is good for a maintenance program. Four or five times a week is ideal for increasing your fitness or aerobic capacity. Weekend exercisers-or only-now-and-then exercisers-place themselves in potential danger because the heart and body are not strengthened sufficiently to withstand a really vigorous workout.

Note: While regular exercise is important, you should temporarily suspend it when ill or excessively fatigued.

Warm up. About five minutes is all you need. Calisthenics (such as sit-ups and push-ups) or any forms of movement that elevate your heart rate are particularly good for warming up. These exercises serve to get blood into the muscles and raise their temperature so they're not operating cold. They also get the heart going gradually, rather than in one quick burst, which could potentially be dangerous.

Cool down. After a period of vigorous exercise, cooling down is just as important as warming up.

A gradual transition is good for the heart. During exercise such as running or cycling, there's a greater volume of blood in the large leg muscles. While the activity continues, the muscles are squeezing the blood back to the heart and rest of the body. When the exercise is stopped suddenly and completely, the increased volume of blood is still in the legs, but now there is no contraction of the leg muscles to return it to the heart and brain, so the blood pools there. Dizziness, fainting, or even more serious consequences can occur. A gradual (three- to five-minute) cool-down allows the heart rate to gradually return to resting and eases the transition between vigorous exercise and rest. Walking after running is a good example. (continues)

Adapted from B. Franklin, ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (American College of Sports Medicine, 2000), and an out-of-print publication by Susan Stewart, RN, and Richelle Aschenbrener, RPT., produced by the Calabasas Park (California) Center for Cervical and TMJ/Craniomandibular Orthopedics.

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