Create an exercise plan this summer

Posted on by Lauren Updyke. This entry was posted in Being Active. Bookmark the permalink.

Being physically active is one of the most important actions that people of all ages and abilities can take to improve their health. These guidelines will help you create a personalized exercise plan this summer. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently published the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. This comprehensive publication offers guidelines for children, adolescents, adults (including women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, as well as adults with chronic health conditions and adults with disabilities), and older adults. The following strategies focus on the recommendations for adults. 

Move more, sit less

Some physical activity is better than none and some health benefits can be attained by doing any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. For significant health benefits, adults should do at least:

  • 150-300* minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, OR
  • 75-150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, OR
  • An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.
  • Ideally, aerobic activity is spread throughout the week.

*Note: additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.

If that’s more than you can do right now, do what you can. Even 5 minutes of physical activity has real health benefits.

Muscle-strengthening activities can provide additional health benefits:

  • Target all major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week.
  • Perform muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity.

So in a given week, at a minimum, you should be striving for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities.

Create your plan

Now that you know the basic formula, you can start to write your own personal fitness plan. Here are some examples:

In a week, you could do…

  • 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on 5 days and do muscle-strengthening activities the other two days.
  • 50 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on 3 days, muscle-strengthening activities on 2 days, and rest the other 2 days.
  • 25 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on 3 days, muscle-strengthening activities on 2 days, and rest the other 2 days.

Is walking or running a road race in your plan? Consider joining the UW Endurance Club, sponsored by UW Medicine, to train for a fall race! All activity levels are welcome.

Examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Recreational swimming
  • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour on level terrain
  • Group fitness classes like water aerobics
  • General yard work or home repair

Examples of vigorous-intensity physical activity include:

  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Bicycling faster than 10 miles per hour
  • Group fitness classes like kickboxing
  • Heavy yard work like shoveling

More on muscle-strengthening activities:

Muscle-strengthening includes resistance training and weight lifting (this includes body weight exercises like push-ups or rock climbing). This type of exercise focuses on the muscles of the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.

  • Consider the following variables:
    • Frequency – how often you do a muscle-strengthening activity, remember you’re aiming for 2 days per week
    • Intensity – how much weight or force is used relative to how much a person is able to lift, ideally to the point at which it would be difficult to do another repetition.
    • Sets/repetitions – one set of 8-12 repetitions of each exercise is effective; however, 2-3 sets may be more effective.

Before you launch into your new and improved fitness plan, consider the following safety recommendations:

  • There are certain risks associated with physical activity, but you can be confident that some level of physical activity can be safe for almost everyone.
  • Choose types of physical activity that are appropriate for your current fitness level and health goals.
  • Increase physical activity gradually over time to meet the guidelines.
  • Use appropriate gear and equipment, choose safe environments, follow rules and policies, and be sensible about when, where, and how to be active.
  • Consult with a health care professional if you have chronic conditions or symptoms. Your health care professional can make recommendations about the types and amounts of physical activity that are appropriate for you.

So now that you know the basic guidelines and safety recommendations, have some examples of physical activities, and have an interactive tool to help you set goals and design a plan, you’re ready to go!

Check out these free resources from The Whole U around being more active:

  • Join the UW Endurance Club, sponsored by UW Medicine, to build community while you train for a fall road race. We have training plans for walking, walk/run, or running a half marathon or a full marathon!
  • Virtual fitness: self-paced fitness classes and plans for walking, running, biking, swimming, stairs; strength development including weights, kettlebell workouts and exercise bands.
  • Virtual classes: virtual weight training, meditation, yoga and dance fitness.
  • The Whole U YouTube Fitness: a variety of 30 minute weight training videos.