Creating an endurance program

Have you enjoyed the past holiday season  with all of the family get togethers, large meals and endless desserts?  Now that it’s all over you are settling into your usual schedule and looking to get back in shape, or if you have been thinking it’s time to exercise for the past few years, keep reading to learn about a safe way to begin exercising in an easy and enjoyable way.  These exercise guidelines can also be used for health maintenance if you are cross training to alleviate repetitive strains on your body or if you are looking to lose a few pounds.

First off, what is endurance training?  Endurance training, or aerobic training, is made up of activities performed that allow the body to utilize oxygen for energy production.   Some common examples are fast walking, jogging and biking.   Activities that primarily utilize the legs are most desirable.  Anyone can perform and receive the benefits of endurance training and it takes just 4 weeks to start seeing the benefits.  Endurance training has countless positive benefits, less likely to develop heart disease or diabetes, higher self esteem, less pain and better quality of life are just a few.

Some individuals have medical conditions that cause them to be apprehensive about physical exercises.  In this case, after getting clearance from your family physician, a physical therapist is the perfect person to consult to begin your training.  Physical Therapists are trained to develop safe and enjoyable exercise plans in light of these medical conditions.

The physical therapist will take a comprehensive past medical history, learning about your previous injuries, discussing your current medical conditions, the medications you may be on and help you understand how these things affect your body.  They will make an assessment of your current health, and while collaborating with you, they will help guide and direct your exercise in the safest, most effective and enjoyable way.   Physical therapists will recommend the appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent against common overuse type injuries.  Common overuse injuries experienced by the endurance athlete are plantar fasciitis, patellar tendonitis, IT band syndrome, sciatica, knee pain and other painful overuse injuries.  Seeing a physical therapist is quick and easy, and the safest way to get back into shape while avoiding those nagging injuries that can creep up on you. For more information on physical therapy services head to

When creating an exercise program there are some things to keep in mind.  The most important thing is, the activity should be something you enjoy.  The next most important characteristic of your program is starting at a level that’s appropriate for you, and progressing the program safely.  Here again, it is recommended that you consult a doctor of physical therapy to accomplish this.  Once you have completed these first two steps, you are able to determine the intensity with which you can safely exercise, and if you know your intensity then you can also determine the duration of the activity.

The intensity of an exercise is the most critical factor to achieve the benefits of aerobic training.  Intensity is most commonly controlled by monitoring the heart rate.  This is done through determining the max heart rate, and then calculating the target heart rate.  Max heart rate is roughly calculated to be (220 – age).  For aerobic training we are looking at a target heart rate of 70-90% of the calculated heart rate max.  The greater the intensity, the more strain placed upon the body, which could be an area of potential danger to the individual.  As a general rule it is recommended to start out at the low end of intensity, 50-60% of heart rate max, for the first 2-3 weeks but again collaborating with a physical therapist will ensure that the exercise routine is safe.

The duration of the exercise is dependent upon its intensity.  A lower intensity of exercise is still effective when performed for a longer period of time.  The minimum time required to receive the benefits of training would be 30 minute sessions, not including warm up or cool down, and you should have a minimum of 3 sessions a week.  For optimal gains, exercises can be performed 5 times per week.  To prevent overuse injuries with higher amounts of exercise cross-training should be utilized.  Below I will include a few examples of exercise routines.

Jogging for 30 minutes with a 70% heart rate max on Monday and Friday with a 30 minute  70% heart rate max on a stationary bike on Wednesday.

Walking for 45 minutes at 50-60% of the heart rate max Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  The longer duration accommodates for the decreased intensity.

After just 4 weeks of endurance training the body will begin to adapt in positive ways.  Regular endurance exercising as described above increases the health of the heart and the strength of the muscles.  The list of positive benefits is endless, and now you have the formula to get started.  For more information on physical therapy services head to


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