How to Determine the Frequency of Your Exercise Program


Frequency refers to the number of times per week that a person partici­pates in physical activity. To develop physical fitness, you must exercise three to five days per week at the appropriate level of intensity. Fewer than three times per week is not enough of a stimulus to improve fit­ness, and more than 5 days per week results in diminishing returns and staleness and increases the likelihood of injury. If health improvement is the goal, however, low-intensity exercise of moderate duration (20 to 40 min­utes), such as strolling (walking at 3 mph) could be done every day without resulting in orthopedic problems or staleness.

A person does not have to exercise in one continuous bout to gain bene­fits from it. Exercise can be split into several shorter sessions during the day. Two groups of male subjects exercised for a total of 30 minutes a day, three times per week, at 65 percent to 75 percent of their HR max. One of the groups exercised continuously for 30 minutes, and the other group split the 30 minutes into three 10-minute exercise sessions. At the end of 8 weeks, the fitness level of both groups improved, but the one-exercise ses­sion group improved more. During the course of the study, however, both groups lost the same amount of weight. Short bouts of exercise spaced throughout the day is a realistic exer­cise option for busy people.

Days of rest are an important com­ponent of any training program. Rest is needed for physical and mental re­cuperation. Exercisers who don’t take days off run the risk of burning out or becoming stale. There is a fine line between the amount of exercise that produces maximum gains and the amount of exercise that results in the negative effects (staleness) associated with overtraining. Signs of over­training are:

1. A feeling of chronic fatigue and list-lessness

2. Inability to make further fitness gains (or even a loss of fitness)

3. Sudden loss of weight

4. An increase of 5 beats or more in the resting heart rate, taken in the morning prior to getting out of bed

5. Loss of enthusiasm for working out

6. vulnerability to injury and illness

7. Generalized anger

8. Depression.

Staleness can be psychological (lack of variety in the program or boredom after years of training) or physiological, or both. Regardless, the treatment is the same: Either stop training for a few days to a few weeks (depending upon the severity of stale­ness) or cut back substantially. In either case, the person should rebuild and regain fitness gradually. Prevention is the best treatment. The exer­ciser should recognize the signs and adjust accordingly before staleness becomes a problem.

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About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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