Designing Your Way to Weight Loss

By: Debbie Sipe

Any effective weight loss plan needs to incorporate cardio activity to help burn calories. Why not design your own weight loss program?

Here's how... whether you go to the gym, the great outdoors, or workout classes at your local college or community center.

The Basics of Weight Loss Design

The most important factor about designing an exercise program is knowing some of the basics and why they are important.

Determine Max Heart Rate

Before you begin, determine your maximum heart rate.

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology recommends using 208 minus .7 times your age to find your maximum heart rate. This is also known as your target heart rate zone. It is the pulse rate, or your beats per minute, that allows you to safely exercise while getting the best results.

Exercise Intensity

Once you know what your maximum heart rate is, you can determine the exercise intensity you need to reach your weight loss goals.

If you are just beginning a fitness program, physicians recommended that you exercise at 50-60 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you have been at it for a while and get regular exercise, you should target 60-70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Those who are involved in intense fitness programs, generally conditioned athletes, the target should be 75-85 percent maximum heart rate.

The Talk Test

An easy test to know if you're working beyond your safe heart rate level is the talk test. If during your workout, you struggle to talk, you're pushing yourself too hard and you should take down the intensity level. Varying the intensity levels of your workouts is a good prescription for success. First, it will keep you from becoming bored with the routine and giving up. Secondly, more injuries occur during highly intense workouts so it's important to monitor how your body reacts during the workout and not overextend yourself. Lastly, an effective workout will raise your cardio level which burns fat, and include strength training to develop muscles.

Muscle Group Targeting

If your goal is overall body conditioning, focus on activities that use large muscle groups. Examples include swimming, running, walking, stair climbing, cycling or treadmills. For developing more specific muscle groups, you can use weights and incorporate more strength training activities, which target certain parts of your body.

Workout Frequency

The frequency of your workouts will have a direct impact on the results. You can improve your general fitness level with a simple 30 minutes three times a week. For more pronounced results and higher fitness level, you should exercise 3 to 5 times each week, hitting your maximum heart rate during the workout, with no more than 48 hours between workouts.

Stretch It Out

Be sure that you stretch before you begin exercising, and as you cool down after the workout. You should warm up and cool down for at least 5 to 10 minutes. You'll run less risk of injury during the workout, and you won't suffer from muscle fatigue.

Keeping these basics in mind will help as you "design" your way to weight loss. Keep moving and you are sure to have success!

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