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How to Meet Your Fitness Goals

By Carol Krucoff
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, February 9, 1999; Page Z10

How much exercise is enough?

The answer depends upon your goals. Here are some general guidelines to help you reach specific goals.

Health Benefits

Burn 150 calories per day through physical activity such as a 30-minute walk, 15-minute run or 30 to 45 minutes of gardening. Or think of it this way: Accumulate 30 minutes of moderate activity each day.

Heart and Lung Fitness

Do an aerobic exercise (such as walking, cycling, running or swimming) three to five days a week, at 60 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate, for 20 to 60 minutes. You can work continuously or in intermittent bouts of at least 10 minutes each.

The higher intensity the exercise, the shorter the workout needed to achieve the "training effect"--a complex constellation of physiological changes that occur as your body begins to adapt to the demands of aerobic conditioning. For example, a jog that gets your heart rate up to 140 beats per minute will give you a training effect in just 20 minutes. A walk that gets your heart rate slightly over 110 beats per minute would take about 45 minutes.

To calculate your target heart rate or "training zone":

  • Subtract your age from 220; this is your approximate maximum heart rate.

  • Multiply this number by 0.6 to get your lower heart rate limit for aerobic exercise and by 0.9 to get your upper heart rate limit for aerobic exercise.

Example: If you are 40 years old, subtract 40 from 220 and get 180. Then multiply 180 by 0.6 to get your lower-limit heart rate, 108, and by 0.9 to get your upper-limit heart rate limit, 162. That means, when you exercise, your heart rate should stay in the range of 108 to 162 beats per minute.

Bone and Muscle Strength

Do resistance exercises (lifting weights or using a strength-training machine) two to three days a week.

Do one set each of 8 to 10 exercises that strengthen the major muscle groups--arms, shoulders, chest, back, abdominals, hips and legs. Pick a weight heavy enough for you to lift at least eight, but no more than 12, times. (Older people-- 50 years old and above--and especially those who are frail may find it more appropriate to choose a lighter weight they can lift at least 10, but no more than 15, times.)

One set of each exercise is sufficient to boost strength and prevent loss of muscle mass in most adults. Three-set regimens may provide slightly greater benefits, if time allows.


Do range-of-motion and flexibility exercises for all the major muscle groups a minimum of two to three days a week by incorporating stretches into your overall fitness program.

Stretch before and after aerobic activity, but be sure to warm up with some gentle activity before you stretch. Get in the habit of stretching tense muscles throughout the day, particularly after sitting or standing for an extended period of time. Don't bounce. Go to the point where you feel mild tension, then hold the stretch for 6 to 15 seconds while breathing naturally.

Weight Loss

Do exercise that burns about 300 to 500 calories a day, four to six days a week. (A 175-pound person burns about 360 calories during a brisk one-hour walk.)

Be sure to eat properly, too, by controlling calorie intake and choosing appropriate portions of healthy, low-fat foods.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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