If you have found the enthusiasm to begin an exercise regimen, the quickest way to cool your resolve is to do too much too fast, cautions Dr. Leonore Zohman. So we would advise those who want to exercise to begin a program gradually, regularly and progressively. This will of course require self-discipline.
Ideally, a previously sedentary prospective exerciser should have a checkup by his physician including an examination of the cardiovascular system, blood pressure, muscles and joints. His blood should be analyzed for cholesterol and triglycerides and a resting electrocardiogram should be evaluated.
Most importantly, the examination before starting an exercise program should include an exercise stress test.
Guidelines For Exercising. There is an amount (intensity or vigorousness) of exercise which is enough to condition the muscles and cardiovascular system leading to physical fitness, but is not overly strenuous. That is, there is a target zone in which there is enough activity to achieve fitness, but not too much to exceed safe limits. The name of the game is finding your target zone.
Each individual’s target zone is between 60 to 80 percent of his own maximum aerobic power. Below 60 percent of his capacity he achieves little fitness benefit – unless he has been bedridden for a prolonged period. Above 80 percent there is little benefit from a great deal of extra exercise.
The concept of maximal aerobic power (sometimes called maximal aerobic capacity or maximal oxygen intake) is merely the technical description of the fact that there is a point for each of us where, despite our best efforts, the heart and circulation cannot deliver any more oxygen to the tissues and we cannot exercise much longer or harder without approaching exhaustion.
At this point, the lungs are making oxygen available to the bloodstream but that oxygen cannot be transported by the blood to the muscles fast enough to create energy for exercise. The muscles cannot work aerobically anymore. Almost simultaneously with reaching this limitation of oxygen supply, the heart becomes unable to beat any faster.
Having begun your exercise program, certain situations may occur which indicate that you are doing too much. It is possible that exercising in the hot weather or at a higher altitude, or even under circumstances of competition may be causing your heart rate to climb faster than you suspect. Under such circumstances, your bodily awareness of your heart rate level may be inaccurate and inadvertently, you may overdo it.
(In Part 2, we will be discussing important medical questions to help you decide whether or not to see your doctor before starting an exercise training program. – J.P.)