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Published: Monday, 7/27/2009

How much exercise do we need?

BY CODY SEMER
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

Each month physicians and others in health-related fi elds from ProMedica and Mercy Health Partners will write columns about weight loss and fitness.

Today s society has shifted drastically in the past few decades from an active culture to a sedentary one, with obesity rates soaring.

Ohio s obesity rate has risen from 15 to 19 percent in 1999 to an astounding 28 percent by last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Na t i o n w i d e, children ages 6 to 19 have seen nearly a threefold increase in obesity in the past few decades. With the jump in rates has come an outcry for help.

We are constantly bombarded with infomercials declaring we can have great abs in five minutes, tone our bodies in 10, or show amazing results in 20, but how long do we really need to work out? That s a great question.

In October, 2008, the United States Department of Health and Human Services decided to answer that question by providing new exercise guidelines. Other organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine have provided some as well.

First, the Department of Health and Human Services wants to differentiate between moderate and vigorous activity. If you can talk without becoming short of breath, most likely the activity would be considered moderate.

Vigorous activities would allow you to speak only a few words before catching your breath.

Children, adolescents, and adults have different physical activity guidelines to follow: Children and adolescents are grouped together ranging in age from 6 to 17 years, and adults range from 18 to 64 years.

Let s begin by looking at the physical activity guidelines for adults. Aerobic exercise primarily works your heart, lungs, and blood vessels, and are the activities you will choose to burn the most calories. Aim for a total of two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderately difficult activities, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity.

Keep in mind these are the minimum guidelines, and pushing beyond these boundaries can result in additional benefits. Start slow, around 10 minutes of activity at a time, and build up to 30 to 60 minutes per session three to five times per week.

It is necessary to noticeably increase your heart rate during this time.

Resistance training also is necessary to fully develop a healthy body and to burn even more calories. Resistance training should focus on the full body two to three times per week. Choose eight to 10 full-body exercises and perform eight to 12 repetitions, working for one to three sets. Again, remember to start slow and build your tolerance.

Children and adolescents 6 to 17 years old, have their own guidelines. Minimum recommendations are for an hour or more of activity a day moderate, vigorous, or a combination of both. Vigorous activities need to be performed at least three days per week.

These guidelines focus on the aerobic side of exercise, but muscle-building also is important.

Kids do not need fancy equipment for strengthening their muscles, and most children s games can be sufficient. Adolescents can begin a resistance training program with the same guidelines as adults, but need close supervision.

It can be very difficult to start an exercise program, but there is help. Find friends or family who have experience with exercise and see if they need a workout partner. Developing a social connection with a group of friends will help you stick to the program.

Some days it can be hard to get moving, but that is where support will help.

Also, check out local gyms. Most of these places offer guest passes that can be found online to help you get started. Again, if a gym is an intimidating place, recruit a workout buddy to go with you.

Look for exercise classes.

These classes are often intense workout experiences that last for up to an hour and include both aerobic and resistance training. If you are new to a class, introduce yourself to the instructor fitness professionals have chosen the field they are in to help people, so do not be afraid to ask for help.

Starting an exercise program can seem insurmountable, so start slow. With a few weeks of exercise and proper nutrition you will start to see results. Remember, this is a lifestyle change so it will take some time, but once the changes happen you will not look back!

Cody Semer is an exercise specialist and certified strength and conditioning specialist at Mercy Center for Health Promotion at St. Charles Mercy Hospital.



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