Advice for the Beginner
The strongest advice I can give the beginner is to exercise often.
Lots of articles in magazines state that maximum benefits are
obtained by exercising three times a week, an hour each session.
Such statements are misleading. Moderately fit people can do fairly
well with such a schedule, but not the beginner. Aerobic exercise
instructors love this advice because it fits their class schedules.
But the advice doesn't fit high-level athletes who need much,
much more than three hours a week, and it doesn't fit the beginner.
Beginners should not exercise for an hour without stopping. And
they should not limit their sessions to three times a week. Instead,
they should exercise three or more times a day, for fifteen to
twenty minutes at a time.
body isn't used to exercise. Doing 3 or 4 fifteen-minute sessions
a day instead of one long bout not only makes you feel less tired
but also seems to stimulate the body to initiate the various changes
I've discussed in my books. As you become more fit, longer sessions
produce better results, but in the beginning I urge you to stick
with short, frequent sessions. At times I do this myself, even
though I have exercised all my life. On cold winter days when
I'm at home writing in my study, I turn the heat down and hop
on my stationary bicycle every hour or so. Pedaling for ten or
fifteen minutes warms me up for the next hour and makes me feel
more alert. I profit in three ways: I get fit; being alert helps
me write more efficiently; and I save on the gas bill!
benefit from exercising seven days a week. The experienced athlete
does just as well with fewer sessions, but not the beginner. Like
a new puppy that hasn't been housebroken, the untrained body has
to be constantly reminded with exercise before it starts behaving
the way it should.
ask whether it's better to exercise in the morning or in the evening.
Some studies have shown that morning exercisers are less likely
to quit than those who do it in the evening. Other people claim
that it doesn't matter when you exercise as long as you do it
at the same time every day. They say that your body seems to prepare
itself for the exercise by elevating temperature and heart rate,
as if all the muscles were "warming up." I think morning versus
evening versus same-time-of-day arguments are silly. The real
issue is to make exercise fit your lifestyle. My lifestyle allows
me to exercise at various times during the day, which I prefer
because I don't get bored.
As a beginner,
you should select at least one indoor and one outdoor exercise.
There are many to choose from, and in The New Fit or Fat I discussed
the merits and disadvantages of several. Rather than reviewing
them again, here's a quick selection. New readers can refer to
the earlier book for more details.
|Outdoor Exercises for The Beginner
||Indoor Exercises for The Beginner
|Walking/walking with hand-held weights
||Cross-country ski machine
||Video aerobic classes
||Aerobic dance classes
recommend aerobic dance classes for women. They're fun, and they
offer a camaraderie that encourages the beginner to stick with
it. Because of the variety of movements and exercise, the beginner
is less like to experience the problems (shin splints, sore ankles,
hips, knees) associated with other, more repetitious kinds of
As a beginner,
you have option that a fit person who exercises for longer periods
might not consider. You can park a half-mile from work and walk
the extra distance in ten or fifteen minutes. While dinner is
in the oven, you can sneak in twelve minutes to walk or slowly
jog around the block. One woman I know wears a small backpack,
walks one mile to the store, and, European style, buys just the
groceries she needs for the day. In a way you have an advantage
over the experienced athlete who has to make time to exercise.
It's easy to slip in ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there.
You may also
wish to do something anaerobic for your muscles, such as sit-ups,
or you may want to exercise by playing a game such as golf; but
be sure to do aerobic exercise for fat control.
We need a
clear definition of aerobics so that you won't buy a gizmo or
program that doesn't yield aerobic benefits.
Program is Aerobic If It:
- Uses the
large muscles in the lower part of the body (buttocks, thighs),
because working the big muscles has systemic effects.
- Gets you
warm and breathing heavily without being really out of breath
and without producing lactic acid. This means your hear rate
is 65-80 percent of its maximum.
- Goes on
without interruption for twelve minutes if all the muscles are
used, as in a rowing machine or cross-country skiing; or thirty-five
minutes if very few muscles are used, as in walking. The more
muscle used, the less time it takes to get a systemic response.