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itness & Your Health
Transformation: How To Take Them From Sedentary To Active

© Wayne L. Westcott PhD

Endurance Training For The New Exerciser
Exercise Type: We start unfit or obese participants on cycles, because the equipment supports their body weight. This permits the target muscles to work only against a controllable external resistance. We prefer to begin with recumbent cycling because it offers built-in back support and enhanced cardiovascular efficiency. By keeping the legs higher and moving horizontally, recumbent cycling facilities blood return to the heart and places less stress on the circulatory system.

We then move to upright cycling, which is somewhat more demanding but still provides body weight support. We follow this with treadmill walking, a body weight exercise that provides a largely horizontal movement pattern. Of course, increasing the incline or speed can add a more vertical component, making the exercise progressively more difficult.

For those able to work at higher aerobic levels, we introduce stair stepping and stair climbing machines, in that order. Although stair climbing requires greater effort, both activities involve body weight exercise and a vertical movement pattern. Because lifting the body mass repeatedly is a demanding physical activity, stair climbing is typically the final step in our exercise progression. How soon we introduce clients to each new phase depends on the individual. An average progression includes several weeks in each phase.

We have recently introduced the skating machine, with positive responses from most participants. Although training on this machine undoubtedly requires more coordination than stair stepping or stair climbing, it provides lateral movement and addresses different muscle groups (hip abductors and adductors) than the other exercise modes.

Frequency. The majority of our exercise classes train three days per week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We encourage those classes that meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays to perform an additional aerobic session on Saturday or Sunday.

Intensity. Depending on the individual's general health, fitness level and medical limitations, we recommend a target heart rate range of 60 to 75 percent of the age-predicted maximum heart rate. We also use the Borg scale of perceived exertion and do not allow participants to exceed the moderately hard level (RPE: of 14). Of course, we abide by whatever guidelines a physician has indicated with respect to the exercise program.

Duration. For some of our beginning exercisers, the walk from the parking lot is about all the endurance activity they can handle. It is therefore not unusual for us to start a deconditioned participant with less than five minutes of continuous aerobic activity, and that at a very low effort level. We progressively increase duration to 25 minutes.

Once a participant can sustain 25 minutes of endurance exercise, we gradually increase intensity, often through interval training. For example, someone who can cycle for 25 minutes at 75 watts may next alternate four minutes at 75 watts with one minute at 100 watts, then progress to alternating three minutes at 75 watts with two minutes at 100 watts, and so on until he or she can perform all 25 minutes at 100 watts.

Strength Training For The New Exerciser
Exercise Type: Our goal is to perform a specific strength exercise for the following major muscle groups.

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About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and......more
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