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What the Doctor Ordered: Exercise Prescriptions
Want to start exercising, but can't find the motivation? A visit to your doctor may help.

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What the Doctor Ordered: Exercise Prescriptions

Exercise is good for us. It can help control weight. It can help better manage stress. It can help lower the risk of heart disease, some cancers and diabetes. Yet, less than half of all Americans get the recommended amount of exercise.

Research shows that people are more likely to start and stick with an exercise program if their doctor writes an exercise prescription. This type of prescription often includes the type of exercise, how often you should exercise and how intense your workout should be.

An exercise prescription will need to be tailored to you but it might include three types of activities:

  1. Cardiovascular exercise. These are also known as aerobic activities. They use your large muscles and raise your heart rate. Examples include brisk walking, swimming, biking and walking on a treadmill.

  2. Muscle strengthening. These activities increase strength and endurance. They should also work all major muscle groups. Examples include weightlifting and resistance training.

  3. Flexibility. Activities that stretch your muscles and increase your range of motion are also important. Be sure to warm up before you do stretching activities like yoga, Pilates and tai chi.

If you are a healthy adult, aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Also try to get two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities each week.

Note: If you are physically inactive or you have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy or other symptoms, it's even more important to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program or increasing your activity level. He or she can tell you what types and amounts of activities are safe.

By Susan G. Warner, Contributing Writer
Created on 03/12/2009
Updated on 10/08/2014
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 physical activity guidelines for Americans.
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What is physical activity?
  • UpToDate. Overview of the benefits and risks of exercise.
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Learn new moves.
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