Fitness Fundamentals: Guidelines
for Personal Exercise Programs
MAKING A COMMITMENT
You have taken the important first
step on the path to physical fitness by seeking information.
The next step is to decide that you are going to be
physically fit. This pamphlet is designed to help you
reach that decision and your goal.
The decision to carry out a physical
fitness program cannot be taken lightly. It requires
a lifelong commitment of time and effort. Exercise must
become one of those things that you do without question,
like bathing and brushing your teeth. Unless you are
convinced of the benefits of fitness and the risks of
unfitness, you will not succeed.
Patience is essential. Dont
try to do too much too soon and dont quit before
you have a chance to experience the rewards of improved
fitness. You cant regain in a few days or weeks
what you have lost in years of sedentary living, but
you can get it back if your persevere. And the prize
is worth the price.
In the following pages you will find
the basic information you need to begin and maintain
a personal physical fitness program. These guidelines
are intended for the average healthy adult. It tells
you what your goals should be and how often, how long
and how hard you must exercise to achieve them. It also
includes information that will make your workouts easier,
safer and more satisfying. The rest is up to you.
CHECKING YOUR HEALTH
If you're under 35 and in good health,
you don't need to see a doctor before beginning an exercise
program. But if you are over 35 and have been inactive
for several years, you should consult your physician,
who may or may not recommend a graded exercise test.
Other conditions that indicate a need for medical clearance
- High blood pressure.
- Heart trouble.
- Family history of early stroke or heart attack deaths.
- Frequent dizzy spells.
- Extreme breathlessness after mild exertion.
- Arthritis or other bone problems.
- Severe muscular, ligament or tendon problems.
- Other known or suspected disease.
Vigorous exercise involves minimal
health risks for persons in good health or those following
a doctors advice. Far greater risks are presented
by habitual inactivity and obesity.
Physical fitness is to the human body
what fine tuning is to an engine. It enables us to perform
up to our potential. Fitness can be described as a condition
that helps us look, feel and do our best. More specifically,
The ability to perform daily
tasks vigorously and alertly, with energy left over
for enjoying leisure- time activities and meeting emergency
demands. It is the ability to endure, to bear up, to
withstand stress, to carry on in circumstances where
an unfit person could not continue, and is a major basis
for good health and well-being.
Physical fitness involves the performance
of the heart and lungs, and the muscles of the body.
And, since what we do with our bodies also affects what
we can do with our minds, fitness influences to some
degree qualities such as mental alertness and emotional
As you undertake your fitness program,
its important to remember that fitness is an individual
quality that varies from person to person. It is influenced
by age, sex, heredity, personal habits, exercise and
eating practices. You cant do anything about the
first three factors. However, it is within your power
to change and improve the others where needed.
KNOWING THE BASICS
Physical fitness is most easily understood
by examining its components, or parts. There
is widespread agreement that these four components are
- the ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues,
and to remove wastes, over sustained periods of time.
Long runs and swims are among the methods employed in
measuring this component.
Muscular Strength - the ability
of a muscle to exert force for a brief period of time.
Upper-body strength, for example, can be measured by
various weight-lifting exercises.
Muscular Endurance - the ability
of a muscle, or a group of muscles, to sustain repeated
contractions or to continue applying force against a
fixed object. Pushups are often used to test endurance
of arm and shoulder muscles.
Flexibility - the ability to
move joints and use muscles through their full range
of motion. The sit-and- reach test is a good measure
of flexibility of the lower back and backs of the upper
Body Composition is often considered
a component of fitness. It refers to the makeup of the
body in terms of lean mass (muscle, bone, vital tissue
and organs) and fat mass. An optimal ratio of fat to
lean mass is an indication of fitness, and the right
types of exercises will help you decrease body fat and
increase or maintain muscle mass.
A WORKOUT SCHEDULE
How often, how long and how hard you
exercise, and what kinds of exercises you do should
be determined by what you are trying to accomplish.
Your goals, your present fitness level, age, health,
skills, interest and convenience are among the factors
you should consider. For example, an athlete training
for high-level competition would follow a different
program than a person whose goals are good health and
the ability to meet work and recreational needs.
Your exercise program should include
something from each of the four basic fitness components
described previously. Each workout should begin with
a warmup and end with a cooldown. As a general rule,
space your workouts throughout the week and avoid consecutive
days of hard exercise.
Here are the amounts of activity necessary
for the average healthy person to maintain a minimum
level of overall fitness. Included are some of the popular
exercises for each category.
WARMUP - 5-10 minutes of exercise
such as walking, slow jogging, knee lifts, arm circles
or trunk rotations. Low intensity movements that simulate
movements to be used in the activity can also be included
in the warmup.
MUSCULAR STRENGTH - a minimum
of two 20-minute sessions per week that include exercises
for all the major muscle groups. Lifting weights is
the most effective way to increase strength.
MUSCULAR ENDURANCE - at least
three 30-minute sessions each week that include exercises
such as calisthenics, pushups, situps, pullups, and
weight training for all the major muscle groups.
- at least three 20-minute bouts of continuous aerobic
(activity requiring oxygen) rhythmic exercise each week.
Popular aerobic conditioning activities include brisk
walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, rope-jumping, rowing,
cross-country skiing, and some continuous action games
like racquetball and handball.
FLEXIBILITY - 10-12 minutes
of daily stretching exercises performed slowly, without
a bouncing motion. This can be included after a warmup
or during a cooldown.
COOL DOWN - a minimum of 5-10
minutes of slow walking, low-level exercise, combined
A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE
The keys to selecting the right kinds
of exercises for developing and maintaining each of
the basic components of fitness are found in these principles:
SPECIFICITY - pick the right
kind of activities to affect each component. Strength
training results in specific strength changes. Also,
train for the specific activity youre interested
in. For example, optimal swimming performance is best
achieved when the muscles involved in swimming are trained
for the movements required. It does not necessarily
follow that a good runner is a good swimmer.
OVERLOAD - work hard enough,
at levels that are vigorous and long enough to overload
your body above its resting level, to bring about improvement.
REGULARITY - you cant
hoard physical fitness. At least three balanced workouts
a week are necessary to maintain a desirable level of
PROGRESSION - increase the
intensity, frequency and/or duration of activity over
periods of time in order to improve.
Some activities can be used to fulfill
more than one of your basic exercise requirements. For
example, in addition to increasing cardiorespiratory
endurance, running builds muscular endurance in the
legs, and swimming develops the arm, shoulder and chest
muscles. If you select the proper activities, it is
possible to fit parts of your muscular endurance workout
into your cardiorespiratory workout and save time.
MEASURING YOUR HEART RATE
Heart rate is widely accepted as a
good method for measuring intensity during running,
swimming, cycling, and other aerobic activities. Exercise
that doesnt raise your heart rate to a certain
level and keep it there for 20 minutes wont contribute
significantly to cardiovascular fitness.
The heart rate you should maintain
is called your target heart rate. There are several
ways of arriving at this figure. One of the simplest
is: maximum heart rate (220 - age) x 70%. Thus, the
target heart rate for a 40 year-old would be 126.
Some methods for figuring the target
rate take individual differences into consideration.
Here is one of them:
- Subtract age from 220 to find maximum heart rate.
- Subtract resting heart rate (see below) from maximum
heart rate to determine heart rate reserve.
- Take 70% of heart rate reserve to determine heart
- Add heart rate raise to resting heart rate to find
Resting heart rate should be determined
by taking your pulse after sitting quietly for five
minutes. When checking heart rate during a workout,
take your pulse within five seconds after interrupting
exercise because it starts to go down once you stop
moving. Count pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by six
to get the per-minute rate.
CONTROLLING YOUR WEIGHT
The key to weight control is keeping
energy intake (food) and energy output (physical activity)
in balance. When you consume only as many calories as
your body needs, your weight will usually remain constant.
If you take in more calories than your body needs, you
will put on excess fat. If you expend more energy than
you take in you will burn excess fat.
Exercise plays an important role in
weight control by increasing energy output, calling
on stored calories for extra fuel. Recent studies show
that not only does exercise increase metabolism during
a workout, but it causes your metabolism to stay increased
for a period of time after exercising, allowing you
to burn more calories.
How much exercise is needed to make
a difference in your weight depends on the amount and
type of activity, and on how much you eat. Aerobic exercise
burns body fat. A medium-sized adult would have to walk
more than 30 miles to burn up 3,500 calories, the equivalent
of one pound of fat. Although that may seem like a lot,
you dont have to walk the 30 miles all at once.
Walking a mile a day for 30 days will achieve the same
result, providing you dont increase your food
intake to negate the effects of walking.
If you consume 100 calories a day
more than your body needs, you will gain approximately
10 pounds in a year. You could take that weight off,
or keep it off, by doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise
daily. The combination of exercise and diet offers the
most flexible and effective approach to weight control.
Since muscle tissue weighs more than
fat tissue, and exercise develops muscle to a certain
degree, your bathroom scale wont necessarily tell
you whether or not you are fat. Well-muscled
individuals, with relatively little body fat, invariably
are overweight according to standard weight
charts. If you are doing a regular program of strength
training, your muscles will increase in weight, and
possibly your overall weight will increase. Body composition
is a better indicator of your condition than body weight.
Lack of physical activity causes muscles
to get soft, and if food intake is not decreased, added
body weight is almost always fat. Once-active people,
who continue to eat as they always have after settling
into sedentary lifestyles, tend to suffer from creeping
All exercise clothing should be loose-fitting
to permit freedom of movement, and should make the wearer
feel comfortable and self-assured.
As a general rule, you should wear
lighter clothes than temperatures might indicate. Exercise
generates great amounts of body heat. Light-colored
clothing that reflects the suns rays is cooler
in the summer, and dark clothes are warmer in winter.
When the weather is very cold, its better to wear
several layers of light clothing than one or two heavy
layers. The extra layers help trap heat, and its
easy to shed one of them if you become too warm.
In cold weather, and in hot, sunny
weather, its a good idea to wear something on
your head. Wool watch or ski caps are recommended for
winter wear, and some form of tennis or sailors
hat that provides shade and can be soaked in water is
good for summer.
Never wear rubberized or plastic clothing,
such garments interfere with the evaporation of perspiration
and can cause body temperature to rise to dangerous
The most important item of equipment
for the runner is a pair of sturdy, properly-fitting
running shoes. Training shoes with heavy, cushioned
soles and arch supports are preferable to flimsy sneakers
and light racing flats.
WHEN TO EXERCISE
The hour just before the evening meal
is a popular time for exercise. The late afternoon workout
provides a welcome change of pace at the end of the
work day and helps dissolve the days worries and
Another popular time to work out is
early morning, before the work day begins. Advocates
of the early start say it makes them more alert and
energetic on the job.
Among the factors you should consider
in developing your workout schedule are personal preference,
job and family responsibilities, availability of exercise
facilities and weather. Its important to schedule
your workouts for a time when there is little chance
that you will have to cancel or interrupt them because
of other demands on your time.
You should not exercise strenuously
during extremely hot, humid weather or within two hours
after eating. Heat and/or digestion both make heavy
demands on the circulatory system, and in combination
with exercise can be an overtaxing double load.