Phase 2 – Physical Activity
In this HeartStrong.com video/article, we are going to discuss the phase 2 physical activity plan. Here are the goals of this plan:
1. Introduce a higher level of physical activity than phase 1
2. Educate you on how to progress to higher levels of activity
3. Work up to at least 200 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise AND 2 days of strength training
4. Burn adequate calories and increase your metabolism (basal metabolic rate) to help you achieve your ideal weight
Just like the phase 2 healthy eating plan, all you have to do in the phase 2 physical activity plan is make a few simple tweaks. Yes, phase 2 wants you to get to 200 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, which may sound like a lot, but is still less than 30 minutes per day.
As you progress through phase 2, 3 and 4, the duration of aerobic exercise will of course increase and we must avoid overuse injuries and mental burnout
Avoiding Overuse Injuries
As you progress to longer or longer workouts, multiple different orthopedic injuries can occur and we do not want to let anything get in the way of staying heart healthy. To avoid overuse injuries you will need to:
- Very gradually increase your duration and/or intensity
- Be sure you are using proper technique
- Mix up different aerobic exercises (i.e. jogging and swimming or cycling and running)
- Know when to rest
As a general rule, your exercise intensity/duration should not be extended by any more than 10% per week. We really need to avoid injury and make this experience an enjoyable one so you can stick to it long term. It is quite amazing how the body can adapt to a higher physical workload if you give it time. Bodybuilders take years to bulk up their muscles. The same can be true for aerobic exercise. The gradual increase allows the body’s muscles and joints to recover and get stronger. You may think “I can never run since my knees hurt so much”. Guess what? Start walking and SLOWLY increase your activity and the pain frequently goes away as your body adapts (unless there is a true underlying injury).
So, if you were to push the full 10% increase per week and you ended phase 1 at 150 minutes per week, then it would only take you 3 weeks to get up to 200 minutes per week! It is probably more wise to stick to a 5% increase per week, which then puts you at 6 weeks to reach the full 200 minutes. This way is safer and simply easier to do.
Increasing gradually will make moving to the next level much easier and more enjoyable while also avoiding that dreaded injury.
Feel free to just extend each session a little longer instead of adding another day of exercise to your plan. Also, you could just decide to make 1 day your “extend exercise” day and eat up a good 60-90 minutes of aerobic exercise all in one session.
Use Proper Technique
This is a common mistake even in experienced athletes. Before pushing to the next level, be sure to research proper techniques such as proper running form and/or running stride, cycling form or whatever relates to the exercise you like.
If you notice pain or discomfort in a certain area, ask your doctor how you should change your form or technique to ease the strain on that specific region.
Mix Up Exercises
Different exercises use different muscle groups and different joints. So it makes sense to mix up the type of exercise you do if you are concerned about overuse injuries or are experiencing discomfort in a certain region. For example, runners may find their knees are bothering them (i.e. patellofemoral pain syndrome), so decreasing the running and adding a day of swimming or cycling can help quite a bit.
Know When to Rest
Sometimes you just have to take a break. Do NOT get yourself down if you have to. You should never expect to flawlessly fly through the HeartStrong.com program without any bumps in the road. Remember, we are working on getting healthy for life, not just for the next few months. So if you have to rest due to injury or cut back short-term on your duration/intensity, then so be it. It is what it is. Recover, continue eating healthy, then gradually get back into your physical activity routine.
A Note on Strength Training
During phase 1, strength training may have been new to you. Now that you are more comfortable with it there are a few key things for you to know as you strength train for the months and years ahead.
You are NOT looking to “bulk up” or build a large amount of muscle. This is NOT strongly associated with improved heart health and will increase your weight, throwing off our BMI numbers.