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Student Health Services

Personal Exercise

Who should exercise?

Almost everyone can benefit from physical exercise. Most students can safely begin gradual, moderate exercise on their own. If you think there is a reason you may not be able to exercise safely, talk with us before starting a new exercise or workout program. In particular, we need to know if you have heart trouble, high blood pressure, or arthritis, or if you often feel dizzy or have chest pains.

Why should I exercise?

Increased physical activity can lead to a longer life and better health by preventing heart disease, diabetes, and many other problems. Exercise builds strength, gives you more energy, helps reduce stress, and can help you lose weight. It is also a good way to curb your appetite and burn calories.

How do I begin an exercise program?

Begin by exercising three or more times a week for 20 minutes or more, and work up to at least 30 to 45 minutes, four to six times a week. This can include several short bouts of activity in a day. Exercising during a lunch break or on your way to do errands may help you add physical activity to a busy schedule.

You should start an exercise session with five to 10 minutes of warm-up exercises. Stretch your muscles slowly at first, and then increase your level of activity gradually. For example, begin walking slowly and then speed up the pace.

Exercising with a friend or a family member can help make it more fun, and having a partner to encourage you can help you stick to it.

After you finish exercising, cool down for about five to 10 minutes. Again, stretch your muscles slowly, and let your heart rate slow down gradually. You can use the same stretches you did in the warm-up period.

How hard should I exercise?

Even a little exercise is better than none. Start with an activity you can do comfortably. As you become more used to exercising, try to keep your heart rate at about 60 to 85 percent of your "maximum heart rate." To figure out your target heart rate, subtract your age in years from 220 (this number equals your maximum heart rate), and then multiply that number by 0.60 or 0.85. For example, if you are 40 years old, you would subtract 40 from 220, which is 180 (220 - 40 = 180). Then you would multiply 180 by 0.60 or 0.85, which would give you 108 or 153 (180 X 0.60 = 108 and 180 X 0.85 = 153).

How do I keep from hurting myself?

The safest way to keep from hurting yourself during exercise is to avoid trying to do too much too soon. Start with an activity that is fairly easy for you, such as walking. Do it for a few minutes a day or several times a day. Then slowly increase the time and level of activity. For example, increase how fast you walk over several weeks. If you feel tired or sore, ease up on the level of exercise or take a day off to rest. Try not to give up even if you don't feel great right away! Talk with your doctor if you have questions or think you have hurt yourself.