Exercise Primer

Exercise Overview

Exercise is a key element of any diet plan. Exercise not only burns calories but also speeds up your metabolism. Adding exercise to a weight loss plan enhances weight loss results and helps to keep the pounds off for good.

Exercise has many benefits beyond burning calories:

Helps decrease fat deposited in blood vessels
Strengthens bones and may prevent bone loss
Builds muscles to improve stability and prevent injury
May improve sleep patterns
Increase HDL cholesterol
Lowers blood pressure
Aids in stress relief
Releases endorphins (feel good chemicals in the brain)

If you do not currently exercise starting a routine may be difficult at first but the more you exercise the easier and more enjoyable it will be.

Different Types of Exercise:

Cardiovascular fitness Cardio (heart) Vascular (relating to the blood vessels): Refers to the hearts ability to pump blood and the blood vessels ability to deliver blood to the muscles in order to process oxygen. Cardiovascular fitness strengthens the heart, body and lungs. Because oxygen is used during any kind of cardiovascular activity it is also referred to as “aerobic activity”

Examples of Cardiovascular activity include: jogging, running, cycling, swimming, aerobics, kickboxing, brisk walking

**Cardiovascular activity raises the heart rate and requires more oxygen. An easy way to remember is to think of activities that make you breathe hard (running, swimming, biking)

Muscular Strength: is the ability of a muscle to exert force and overcome resistance.

Muscular Endurance: is the ability of muscles or groups to persist or to keep going in an activity or movement.

Weight lifting is a great way to build muscular strength and endurance. Building muscle is key to burning more calories. A pound of muscle will burn more calories than a pound of fat. This is why weight lifting is essential to any weight loss program. The benefits of muscle training include:

  1. Building definition and firmness to your body 
  2. Building muscle for more calorie burn
  3. Improving balance
  4. Pain from arthritis decreases and range of motion increases

Flexibility: the ability to use a muscle and joint throughout its whole range of motion. Flexibility is crucial to avoid the risk of injury and soreness. Flexibility is increased by stretching and activities like yoga and pilates.

Incorporating all three types of exercise: Any exercise plan should include all three types of exercise. They can be done all in one session or broken up throughout the week.

Cardiovascular activity should be the base of your exercise program. The American College of Sports medicine recommends at least 20-45 minutes of cardiovascular activity most –and preferably all- days of the week. For weight loss specifically, it is recommended that you should burn at least 200-300 calories a day at least 3 days of the week.

Sample workout plan:

Warm up: walk for 5 minutes to gradually increase the activity of the heart and circulatory system

Cardio: most days of the week Weeks one and two: select an aerobic activity for 20 minutes. Weeks three and four: select an aerobic activity for 30-40 minutes Weeks 5 and after: select an aerobic activity for 45-60 minutes

Muscular strength and endurance: 3 days a week In the beginning use a weight that you can comfortably lift. Start with 2 sets of 15 repetitions for each major muscle group. If you are a beginner you may want to consult a personal trainer.

Flexibility: Cool down; incorporate 5-10 minutes of slow stretching following exercise and weight lifting.

Guidelines Summary: Cardio Activity: 20-60 minutes 5 –7 days a week Weight training: 3 x a week Flexibility: 5-10 minutes every day after weight training or cardio activities

Food and Exercise: a new perspective!

Take a look at some common foods we eat, and how much exercise it takes to burn off the calories in each food.

***Calories burned per hour will be higher for persons who weigh more than 184 lbs and lower for persons who weigh less.

1Calories burned per hour will be higher for persons who weigh more than 154 lbs (70 kg) and lower for persons who weigh less. Source: Adapted from Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.

To calculate your calories burned for your weight and height use:






Dieting for Dummies handbook

Krause’s Food Nutrition and Diet Therapy

Idaho Department of Health

Good Housekeeping

YMCA’s Guide to Weight Management