Beginning With The Fitness B.A.S.I.C.S
You've decided to commit to incorporating some form of physical activity into your lifestyle because you understand the benefit and importance. You may have obtained information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that Black women between the ages of 25-34 are more likely to gain weight than any other female group in the United States (Dixon 1994). Perhaps you aware that Dr. Lorraine Bonner, a practicing physician in Oakland, CA, is quoted as saying, "there is evidence to suggest that the Africans who survived the Middle Passage to this country were those who were best able to utilize and retain the meager scraps of food they were fed (Villarosa, Ed 1994)." Dr. Bonner believes African Americans today have retained "this genetic marker from [our] African ancestors who were brought here as slaves (Ibid)."
You are probably aware that our traditional eating habits (soul food, etc) have left a legacy of high fat, sugar, and cholesterol with us. The bottom line is, once you decide to do something about your health and fitness, you've must choose a starting point.
This article will be the first in a series entitled B.A.S.I.C.S., aimed at providing you with the tools to not only begin your quest to a healthier self, but also to help you remain on a positive path of good health and fitness.
B-Begin at the beginning with a thorough physical examination. It is very important for you to be made aware of any aliments or medical conditions that may have to be addressed before you begin your activity. An important measure for consideration is your heart rate and the effects that exercise will have on it. The overall goal is for your heart rate to remain within its target or training zone while you exercise. Review any medications that you take with your doctor because they may have an effect on your heart rate. You will need to know how to make the necessary adjustments to your fitness regiment to assure that you are exercising safely.
After your physical examination finds you fit to begin on a new fitness program, you must deal with your level of "fitness". Fitness is comprised of three equally important components, strength, flexibility, and endurance. Let's examine each of these factors.
Strength: I can't tell you how many times I've heard sisters tell me "I don't want large muscles." We think by weight training or lifting weights, we will increase in size and take on the appearance of a professional body builder. Generally speaking, the average person does not lift the massive amounts of weights necessary to create that level of muscular bulking. It is important to understand the benefits of weight training and how increasing muscle mass will allow the body to burn more calories. Weight training can help you tone muscles in key areas that begin to defy gravity as time goes on. The results will be a leaner and healthier look (without the sagging triceps muscles on the back of the arm that we despise for example). Before you start any exercise program get, sound advice from a certified fitness professional. A fitness professional can support your endeavors by showing you the proper way to exercise, and direct you as to what types of weight training exercise are conducive to help you meet your goals. Begin your weight training regiment slowly (low weight).
Flexibility: As we get older, many of us lose flexibility. You can, however take actions to improve your flexibility. You should always stretch before and after any physical activity. Stretching increases range of motion and helps to stimulate muscle growth. It will also help eliminate lactic acid (the burn) from muscle tissue once you've completed exercising. Allow ten minutes before and after you finish your workout to stretch and relax your muscles. Participating in a [Hatha] yoga or a stretch class can help you to understand your body and create body movement awareness.
Endurance: Endurance is synonymous with aerobics or any type of endurance movement. Any activity (from bicycling to dancing) that benefits your cardiovascular system within a twenty-thirty minute framework can be considered an aerobic activity. The magic number in aerobic activity is twenty minutes, because that is when the body begins to utilize stored energy (fat).
Twenty minutes may seem like a long time, but with consistency you will build your endurance in no time! Begin your endurance training slowly, set realistic goals for yourself, and keep a record of your progress. By keeping a record of your progress, you will physically see your accomplishments and will it help you stay motivated!
The Purpose of Aerobic Exercise
Now comes the big question, what is the purpose of participating in some form of aerobic or endurance exercise? The answer is simple; you want to maintain an energy level that will allow you to enjoy everyday lifestyle activities. If you've noticed that climbing a few flights of stairs is becoming an issue, it may be because you need to strengthen your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs). The word "aerobic" means oxygen, and according to the American Heart Association "the better your body uses oxygen, the more active you can be without tiring." Aerobic activity utilizes large muscles in a rhythmic motion that will increase your basal metabolic rate (the energy you consume to remain alive). When you utilize more energy than the body needs to sustain life, your basal metabolic rate will increase and you will use stored energy (fat).
Finding Your Target Training Zone
In order to burn calories effectively, you must exercise within a certain target (number range) or training zone. This zone is a designed to help you exercise safely and effectively while allowing the body to begin burning your stored energy. Miram Nelson, Ph.D. (1998) informs us that your target heart rate should be 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. This means you are utilizing your cardiovascular system more effectively. In other words, once you begin to get in shape, your cardiovascular system will not work as hard to do the same amount of work. The formula to determine your target heart rate is as follows:
- The heart can beat a maximum of 220 beats per minute (bpm).
- To determine your age range maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220 (bpm).
- Multiply your maximum age range heart rate by the minimum per cent (.60) of aerobic training and maximum percent of aerobic training (.80). These numbers will provide you with key areas to remain within, during a safe aerobic training session. Now, I'm going to boldly go where no "sista" wants to go I'm going to use myself as an example.
|Heart beats per minute||220|
|My age||- 45
|My age range maximum heart rate||175|
|Minimum heart rate||x .60
|Minimum Target Heart Rate||105
|Heart beats per minute||220|
|My age||- 45
|My age range maximum heart rate||175|
|Maximum heart rate||x .80
|My maximum Target Heart Rate||140|
While you are working-out, check your heart rate within ten minutes of your aerobic activity and every ten minutes thereafter. Slowly decrease your activity level so you can now take your target heart rate. You will begin by locating your radial (wrist) pulse. Extend your hand, so that your right palm is facing you. Slide your left index and middle finger from your palm and firmly press at the hollowed area on your wrist, which is the radial area. Count the number of beats you feel within 15 seconds and multiply by that number by four. The number you obtain should be between your minimum and maximum target heart rate.
American Council On Exercise. (1996). Personal Trainer Manual. USA. (p. 13).
American Heart Association. (1997). Fitting in Fitness: Brought to you choose to move. New York: Random House. (pp. xiii, 12)
Dixon, B.M., L.D.N., R.D. (1994). Good health for African Americans. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. (p. 75).
Nelson, M.E., Ph.D. (1998). Strong women stay slim. New York: Bantam Books. (pp. 156-158).
Villarosa, L. (Ed.). (1994). Body & Soul: The Black women's guide to physical health and emotional well-being. New York: Harper Collins. (pp. 5-6).
Peace, Health, and Fitness,