Customize Exercise Level to Individual Health Needs

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Exercise is one of the best things a person can do for themselves. Regular exercise can help manage weight, reduce stress and reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. But what level of exercise will yield the health benefits a person is looking for?

William Kraus, M.D., director of clinical research at Duke University Medical Center's Center for Living, says the answer may depend on what a person needs to work on.

"The kind of exercise program you should choose depends on what health outcome you want to achieve," says Kraus. "If you want to improve your cholesterol profile, a high-intensity program most days of the week probably will be most effective. If you want to control blood sugar and prevent progression to diabetes, then a more moderate-intensity program such as brisk walking most days of the week is probably as effective as any program you can do."

Kraus, an associate professor of medicine in Duke's department of cardiology, says many people fear they won't see meaningful results from exercise unless they push themselves, but Kraus adds frequency is key.

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"I don't think you can go wrong with the exercise program that we have traditionally recommended, which is a high-intensity program, a vigorous program, 30 minutes a day most days of the week. Studies show that this type of program benefits everyone from the very young to the very old. However, depending on individual health parameters, there are a number of health benefits of a lower-intensity program -- maybe not as many, but a substantial number.

"So I certainly would not discourage anyone from doing brisk walking most days of the week," says Kraus. "I think the guideline should follow the recommendation of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control): most days of the week, 30 minutes at a time. Then the intensity can vary according to the comfort of the individual and the specific health outcomes you're trying to achieve."

Starting a moderate exercise program should be safe for most people. However, the American Council on Exercise recommends that any man over age 40 and any woman over 50, or anyone with risk factors for heart disease, should have a medical exam and talk with a physician before starting a program of vigorous exercise.

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The source of this article is http://www.dukehealth.org

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