Duke Medicine HealthLine
Published: Nov. 26, 2007
Updated: May 31, 2011
How much exercise you should do depends on your goal: health, or fitness. There is a distinction, says Maria Nardini at the Duke Health & Fitness Center, and the time invested and commitment required for each are actually a bit different.
Your goal: To lower risk factors for illnesses such as cancer and heart disease by reducing excess weight, lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol and triglyceride counts, and improving glucose tolerance
Your plan: Moderate physical activity such as brisk walking for 30 minutes on most days
Try this: If you hate the gym, try dance lessons; if you don’t dance, try a cycling or group hiking club.
Your goal: To reach a level of overall physical fitness, which includes not only a strong heart and lungs, but also strong muscles, flexible joints, and a healthy body weight
Your plan: Moderately intense or intense aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes at least three times a week; eight to 10 strength training exercises (of eight to 10 repetitions each) at least two times a week; stretching exercises every day
Try this: To get more bang for your workout buck, choose the random protocol on the stairclimber, bike, or treadmill and put your towel over the readout so you can’t see what’s coming ahead. That way your body is always adjusting and you’re never in a set routine.
Maria Nardini gives some advice on these checkpoints for your activity routine:
How do I know if I’m working hard enough? You can gauge your exertion by your breathing: it should be hard -- but not so hard that you’re panting or can’t talk.
How do I know if I’m doing too much? Exercise should make you feel tired, but ultimately good, Nardini says. If you feel nauseated, overheated, or just plain lousy after your workout, then you’ve done too much during that workout. If you feel worn out on a day-to-day basis, despite a consistent exercise program, you could be over-training and not giving your body enough time to recover.
How do I know I’m doing something that works? If you don’t see improvements in your health, performance, and general well-being after three months, seek the advice of an exercise physiologist or personal trainer. You also may want to see your doctor, to make sure a health problem isn’t underlying your lack of progress.
How do I know it’s something I can stick with? Nardini says people who maintain an active lifestyle in the long term often credit one of two things: they choose activities that they truly enjoy, and they exercise with a partner.
When many people hear the term sports medicine, they think of team physicians and specialized care for athletes.
Alison Toth, MD, director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Duke, thinks this stereotype can be misleading. “People do not have to be athletes to see us,” Toth says. “Our practice is for anyone who has musculoskeletal problems and wants to stay active, whether through sports, walking for exercise, or simply being able to reach overhead and comb her hair. We can help people maximize their ability to stay active and remain injury-free.”
Toth says visiting a primary care sports medicine physician would be helpful for:
Visiting a sports medicine surgeon would be helpful for: