Burning calories is good, but it is just 1 of the 10 reasons we mentioned at the start of the article for doing exercise. Mowing the lawn, painting, shopping, and baking are nice things to do, but for most people they are not going to give your heart the exercise it needs, strengthen your muscles, or help you recover from an injury. To accomplish those needs, you must pursue exercises that get your heart-rate up and sustained.
So, today we are going to talk more about exercises that will raise your heart-rate and improve your health and fitness.
How much heart-healthy exercise do we need?
If you are willing to do exercise for an hour, then you only need to do it 3 times a week. If you only have 20 minutes a day to devote, then you should do them 5 times a week. The important thing is that you do exercises that get your heart-rate up to a certain level and then allow you to keep it there during the workout.
How do I find out my target heart ranges?
To know your heart range, you need to know both extremes of your heart - your resting heart-rate and you max heart rate for one minute. Calculating max heart rate is the easiest. It is 220 beats minus your age. So if you are 40, then that is 180 beats. To calculate your resting heart rate, you need to measure it when you are very very calm, first thing in the morning after a good night's sleep. Find your pulse on your wrist or neck and count it for 30 seconds. Then double the amount and that is your resting heart rate. (This method is more accurate that only measuring for 5 or 10 seconds and multiplying since there is less margin for error).
Now that you know those two numbers you can begin to calculate three different heart ranges, low, medium, and high.
Tips for Improving your Activity and Exercise Levels:
- Track your activities and exercise. If you have a smart phone, then download one of hundreds of FREE exercise apps such as MapMyFitness, Argus, or Strava (I start all three at the same time for different tracking purposes). These use the GPS and accelerometer in your phone to automatically track how many steps you take in a day. My wife and I started doing these and were amazed that we were already walking 2-3 miles a day just by walking around work and the house and taking care of our 4 kids. You can also use them to track your distance and speed on runs, bike rides, etc. Seeing your progress at the end of the week, month, and year is so incredibly motivating.
- Track your heart-rate. To track the progress of your health and fitness and to know if you are exercising in the right zones, you really need to start tracking your heart-rate. Do your warm up and at the end, take your pulse for 30 seconds and multiply by two. Then take it again about 5 minutes into your routine and every 5-10 minutes after. Soon you will be able to start feeling when you are pushing it too hard and need to pull back a bit.
- Reward yourself. Set goals for yourself with health-related incentives attached. If I can run 3x a week for a month, then I will buy myself a running jacket or new running shoes. Another great incentive to save up for and "earn" is to invest in a fitness band, smart watch, or fitness watch. These give you the additional tracking of your heart-rate (sometimes with a chest strap and sometimes without), they double as a watch during the day, they do GPS tracking like your smart-phone and some are even water-proof and track your swim laps!
- Get a good night's sleep and then get started first thing in the morning. There's something about getting up before everyone else and quietly tiptoeing out of the house. It's like you're a part of the greatest secret in the world. Like you're setting out presents on Christmas Eve. And you wonder if you're the only human up at this hour. But then you get on the freeway and there are thousands of other cars. What are people doing up at this hour? And then you pull into the gym or rec center parking lot. And its half full. Who are all these crazy people? They are your friends. They are your peeps. Get to know them. They are in on the secret as well.
- Take turns with your spouse. This is huge. I truly believe that you need to take turns. One of you chooses Monday, Wednesday, Friday and the other takes Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. And those are your mornings. You can do whatever you want. Use it for sleep, use it for exercise, use it for cooking, baking, shopping, reading, writing. But those are your mornings. And both of you need them. I promise that this will be one of the greatest compromises you will ever make in your marriage.
- Find a friend who you are committing to meeting at the gym or who you can carpool with. It's so good to have someone that you enjoy spending time with, but who also is understanding if you are throwing up, but is also not a pushover and will try to encourage you to come, and who you don't want to disappoint. This is what got me going on my morning routines. Friends like these. And they may only last half a season until they move away or their job changes and then you search out a new friend.
- Get a cute outfit - This is especially for the ladies. I've heard that if you feel frumpy you aren't going to want to be seen in public. Guys don't care quite as much, but some will, and this will then apply to them too. Save up $40 if you can, and buy a top and some exercise pants. If you have an extra $10 get a few pairs of super soft running socks from a running store. I buy a size bigger than I need that are nice and comfy on my feet. They are like heaven and honestly help motivate me to exercise.
- Buy some snacks - Now that you're working out you should have a little something to eat before your workout and after your workout: low-sugar energy bar, Nuun drink tablets, a smoothie, etc . If you spent $1-2 on this snack and exercise 3x per week, then that is only going to cost you $12-25 a month for these snacks. But if they can help motivate you to get up and get moving, then they have served their purpose and saved you thousands of dollars in medical costs, sick days at work, etc.
Ok, those all might sound like a bunch of silly little things, but they add up. you've got the knowledge, the equipment, the resources, the plan, and the motivation. Now get out there and start exercising your mind, body, and will. You can do this!
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