From aerobic exercise to resistance training and stretching, get the answers to these eight common questions:

1. What is aerobic exercise?

Aerobic exercise literally means “with oxygen.”  It is sometimes also referred to as cardiovascular exercise.  Any activity that raises your heart rate into your target zone and keeps it there for an extended period of time could be considered an aerobic activity.

2. What can I get from performing aerobic exercise?

Aerobic exercise has many benefits.  Some general effects are an increase in heart health and muscular endurance, as well as self-esteem.  Other benefits include decreases in body fat, blood pressure, cholesterol, anxiety and depression, as well as a decrease in risk of diabetes, some forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

3. How much aerobic activity should I be doing?

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends “doing moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week or doing vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, three days a week.”  Moderately intense cardio means working hard enough to break a sweat, but still being able to maintain a normal conversation. 

4. What is resistance training?

Resistance training refers to any activity that strengthens specific muscles or muscle groups.  This can be done by lifting weights, using resistance (elastic) bands, or by simply using your own body weight. 

5. Will I get big and bulky if I lift weights?

Not necessarily.  While it is possible with a very specific and strenuous program to bulk up like a body builder, it doesn’t automatically happen simply by touching a weight.  There are many different protocols for a variety of desired results, from muscle toning to increasing functional strength.  If you are unsure what you should be doing to get your desired results, consult with a personal trainer. 

6. How does resistance training help me lose weight?

Resistance training can help you lose body fat by increasing your lean muscle tissue.  The more lean muscle tissue you have, the more calories you will burn throughout the day. 

7. How much resistance training should I be doing?

The ACSM recommends doing 8 to 10 strength-training exercises targeting your major muscle groups, 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.  It is important to allow your muscles to fully recover between sessions, so make sure you do not perform exercises targeting the same muscle groups on consecutive days. 

8. Do I really need to stretch?

YES!  Stretching is a very important component to every workout routine.  What good is having the strength to perform a task if you don’t have the range of motion needed to complete it?  However, you don’t need to spend hours and hours stretching to get any benefit from it.  For most activities, about 10 minutes worth of stretching at the end of your workout will do.  If you choose to stretch before your workout (and you should if you will be doing any vigorous activity that requires a large range of motion), it is important that you do 3-5 minutes of a warm-up activity first!  You should never stretch a cold muscle!