Free exercise program

A balanced weekly schedule that includes all types of exercise.

The free exercise program below is set to match your fitness level whether you are a beginner, experienced (but out of shape), or a regular exerciser. Starting as a beginner, in 8 weeks, you can progress to the regular exerciser’s routine, which is enough weekly exercise for much greater health benefits than those of a sedentary person.

Stage 1: Beginners

This workout schedule is a match for people who are new to exercise, age 55+, or just returning to exercise after being inactive for 4 weeks or more. The goals of this stage are to get your muscles, joints, and cardio system used to being physically active, to become a good judge of your exercise effort ( see the free exercise tips ), and to learn good technique during strengthening exercise.

Start with 15 minutes of exercise per day and progress 3-5 minutes per week as appropriate. Cardio exercise good for this level includes activities similar to brisk walking, partner dancing, yard work or vigorous household cleaning. Refer to the Metabolic Equivalent article and pick activities between 3-5 MET. Maintain a moderate (5/10) exercise effort level.

For your twice per week strengthening routines, pick from the free home exercise programs. You’ll find several 15 minute workouts for different parts of the body that would work well, provided you start with the easier version of the exercises.

Another option for strengthening would be to include physical activities that require some type of muscular exertion, such as weeding, waxing your car, or planting shrubs. If you take this approach, watch your posture to protect your back and knees, and consider including at least 1 core / back strengthening workout per week into your program.

For flexibility training, the article on home stretching exercises has a good routine for the major muscle groups. Follow this routine 3 times per week or more. This will help you prevent muscular discomfort, strain and injury and it will also make everyday activities like bending and reaching much easier.

If you have any joint or muscular problems, this is a great time to develop basic strength and mobility. Free home exercise programs include physical therapy for problematic muscles and joints.

Once you can handle 25 minutes of moderate exercise per day without strain or undue fatigue, you can “graduate” to the next free exercise program below.

Stage 2: Getting back in shape

If you have been off and on with your routine, but have maintained some level of conditioning, start here. To start this program need to be able to exercise at a moderate or greater effort level for at least 25 minutes. Goals for this stage of the free exercise program are to increase calorie burn and strength development while maintaining good exercise technique and judging exercise effort correctly.

Cardio exercises appropriate for this level are activities like brisk uphill walking or hiking, playing with kids vigorously, or singles tennis. Increase your exercise effort level to vigorous (6/10) for several of the workouts. Refer to the metabolic equivalent page and pick activities between 4-6 MET.

A helpful workout to try at this stage is high intensity interval training. For a given activity (walking), pick up the pace to a vigorous-hard effort level (6-7/10) for 3 times, one minute each, during a 20 minute workout. As you get used to the workout, you can progress the “pick-ups” to 90 seconds or 2 minutes each.

For strength training, continue at 2 times per week and begin using the more challenging moves from the free home exercise programs. Increase your effort level during strengthening to hard (7/10). Also, combine routines or repeat a routine twice so that you get a greater challenge from the workout.

Add 2-3 minutes of exercise time each week until you reach 35 minutes for your workouts. Then you can progress to the next free exercise program and fine-tune your fitness.

Note: If you are 60+ years old you do not need to “graduate” further. This is a sufficient level of fitness to maintain good health for your age group.

Stage 3: Fine-tuning your fitness

If you are have been exercising moderately to vigorously for 30 minutes or more per day, this is the free exercise program for you unless you are over 60 years old. Goals for this stage are to maximize fat loss and muscle gain as needed, and to maintain an active lifestyle with proven health benefits. Gradually progress to an average of 45 minutes of exercise 6 days per week, particularly if you need to lose weight.

For a fitness boost, try the intermediate workouts from the article on high intensity interval training up to 2 times per week, and try a hard+ exertion (7-8/10) during the interval as you are able. Sports such as basketball or tennis would qualify as HIIT due to the bursts of effort needed during the games.

Use physical activities like jogging, vigorous biking, swimming, boot camp or calisthenic exercise to continue to build your fitness. Pick activities with an MET rating of 5 or more, according to your ability level. When you use a light-moderate effort physical activity for your workout, double the time to 70-90 minutes for greater calorie burn and health benefits.

For strengthening, progress to the most difficult version shown in the easy home exercise videos. Also, for core and back training, try switching over to the sample pilates exercises if you haven’t already.

Parallel to the free workout plans, this free exercise program is a gateway to proven physical fitness, and substantially lower risks of serious chronic disease and premature death. Because of the many health benefits, this program is worth your consistent effort.

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Free workout plans
Get in shape using your favorite exercises and activities.

High intensity interval training
Boost your fitness with bursts of more intense exercise.

Metabolic Equivalent
Compare the calories burned for any type of physical activity.

Back strengthening exercises
Strengthen your back and core. Videos and illustrations.

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