What’s In Your Exercise Program?

What’s In Your Exercise Program?

By now, it’s no secret that regular exercise is a key component to improving overall fitness, health and wellness.  Exercise and physical activity decrease the risk of developing

  1. Heart Disease, 
  2. Stroke
  3. Type 2 diabetes 
  4. Some forms of cancer (e.g., colon and breast cancers) 
  1. Exercise and physical activity 
    1. lower blood pressure
    2. improve cholesterol profile 
    3. reduce inflammation 
    4. enhance insulin sensitivity 
    5. play an important role in weight management 

But what constitutes regular exercise? 

Is walking enough?

Does housework or gardening count as exercise?

How much exercise do I need to do?

Do I need to exercise every day?

If I’m sweating does that mean I’m working hard enough?


In the coming weeks, through “I-MOVE”,  we will make an effort to answer these and many other questions surrounding exercise and take a deeper dive into the nuances of each key component.  


Any comprehensive exercise plan should include the following components:

  1.  cardiovascular exercise
  2.  muscle power/strength/endurance exercise
  3.  flexibility exercise
  4.  neuromotor exercise


This week we will focus on cardiovascular exercise.

Cardiovascular exercise is sometimes referred to as aerobic exercise because these exercises requires increased quantities of oxygen  to be delivered to the working muscles in order to perform and sustain them. 


Activities which could qualify as cardiovascular or aerobic include but are not limited to things like:

  1.  walking
  2.  running
  3.  bike riding
  4.  swimming
  5.  skating
  6.  rowing/sculling
  7.  cross country skiing
  1. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 

recommends that most adults engage in 

moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise training for at least 30 minutes on at least 5 days per week or at least a total of 150 minutes per week or  vigorous-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise training for at least 20 - 30 minutes per day on at least 3 days per week or at least 75 minutes per week or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise.


  1. OK, so how do you monitor intensity?  There are a few 

ways to do that.  

  1. Percentage of Maximum Heart Rate is probably the most commonly used method to monitor exercise intensity but it is also the most difficult method to use accurately and wouldn’t be my first choice.
  2. Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is easier to use and equally as accurate as using the Heart Rate method.  Simply rate your exercise intensity on a scale of 0-10.  Zero is the intensity of your activity while you are at rest.  Ten is the intensity of your activity while you are working at your absolute maximum.  Any activity that puts your RPE between 3-5 would be considered moderate intensity.  Any activity with an RPE between 6-8 would be considered vigorous intensity.
  3. The Talk Test is the easiest method of monitoring intensity.  If you can talk but not sing during an activity, you are likely working at a moderate intensity.  If you can only speak a few words but not a full sentence, your activity is at a vigorous intensity.


As an example, let’s look at Harry and Sally.  


Harry is just starting his exercise program so he opts for walking around the track at Pine Banks Park for his cardiovascular exercise.  Each morning before he leaves for work he heads out for his 30 minute walk. He’s listening to music from his smartphone and singing along to his favorite tunes.  Harry now knows that he’s walking at the right speed when he can no longer sing his favorite songs!  


Sally , an experienced runner, prefers to run for her cardio exercise and she wants to train for the upcoming YMCA 5K.  However, Sally has to commute into Boston each day for work and can only commit to running 3 times per week, Tuesday evenings and Saturday and Sunday mornings.  She decides she’s going to run in her neighborhood for her training. Sally, with the help of her personal trainer from MOVE, determines her Heart Rate Training Zone.  Using her wearable heart rate monitor, Sally now knows how fast she should run in order to reach the vigorous intensity level needed to successfully train for the 5K.


Both Harry and Sally are starting from different fitness levels and each have different objectives for their training.  However they both will reap significant health benefits from their exercise.