Frequently Asked Questions about Exercise

Q. Should I just jump right in and start exercising?


No. First check with your doctor before starting any physical activity, especially if you:
  • are over 35
  • have been inactive for a long period of time
  • smoke
  • have any kind of a medical condition.
Also, follow these five phases of exercise to help minimize injuries and improve flexibility:
  1. Warm-up (walk around or start the activity at a slow pace for about five minutes to get your heart rate up)
  2. Stretch
  3. Exercise
  4. Cool-down (a reverse warm-up; you want to bring your heart rate down)
  5. Stretch again


Q. What are some warning signs I should look out for while exercising?


You should immediately stop exercising if you feel:
  • Unusual pain, such as pain in your left or mid-chest area, left neck, shoulder or arm during or just after exercising.
  • Sudden lightheartedness, cold sweat, pallor or fainting.
(source: FCIC)

These might not be the only signs your body will give you. Other signs can include headache, dizziness, nausea and muscular or joint pain. Ask your doctor for a complete list. Remember, listen to your body.


Q. Can you exercise too much?


Definitely. More is not necessarily better.

Beginners should take a rest day at least every other day, while those who are more active should consider taking a rest day after a very vigorous workout or alternate exercise programs so that you're working different muscle groups.

You must give your body a chance to recover from the stress of exercising.

Some signs of too much exercise could include:
  • chronic fatigue
  • decrease in performance
  • increase in recovery requirements
  • altered resting heart rate
  • muscle soreness and damage
(Source: ACSM)

Not everyone will have these symptoms. Listen to your body. If you're not feeling well, consult a doctor and mention the intensity and frequency of your workouts.


Q. How often should I exercise?


According to the ACSM, "Appropriate Intervention Strategies for Weight Loss and Prevention of Weight Regain for Adults," a minimum amount of 2.5 hours per week of physical activity at a moderate intensity can have "significant health benefits."

Overweight and obese people should gradually work their way up to this level.

In the same article, the ACSM believes there "may be advantages to progressively increasing exercise to 200 - 300 min (3.3 - 5 h) of exercise per week."


Q. What types of food should I eat before exercising? How long before exercising should I eat?


According to a joint statement, "Nutrition and Athletic Performance", from the ACSM, the American Dietetic Association and Dietitions of Canada,
"...carbohydrates are important to maintain blood-glucose levels during exercise..." and "...protein levels are slightly increased in highly active people."
The joint statement also recommends that a meal or snack before exercising "should provide sufficient fluid to maintain hydration" and be low in fat and fiber.

The same statement recommends that "...the size and timing of the preexercise meal are interrelated." Smaller meals should be eaten if the time is closer to an exercise event.


Q. What are some things that I can measure to see if I'm making any improvements?


You could keep track of your:
  • Resting heart rate (RHR): a stronger, more efficient heart will have a lower RHR.
  • Body measurements: measure your hips, waist, thighs and calves (and anything else you may want to keep track of). If you need to lose body fat, these measurements will decrease gradually as you lose fat. Bear in mind that at the same time, hopefully, you are gaining muscle.
  • Rate of Perceived Exertion: as you become more fit, your RPE for a specific exercise may change. For example, if you've been sedentary and start a program of walking for a month, your RPE will most likely be lower for the walk on your first day of the program compared to the walk on your last day for the same distance and pace.
  • Clothes, jewelry: if you are trying to lose body fat, you may notice looseness in your clothing or in jewelry such as rings or watches.
  • Weight: Anecdotally, this seems to be the last thing to rely on. You may only notice a decrease in weight after seeing other improvements in your body.


Q. I'm a woman and I want to start weight training. Will I get big, bulging muscles from doing this?


No, if you start weight training you will not get big, bulging muscles. When you start weight training you will get stronger and build some muscle. If your percentage of body fat is high, you will not see any difference right away but you will feel it.

Some benefits of weight training:
  • It will increase your muscle and muscle burns more calories than fat.
  • Resistance exercise, such as "free weights, weight training machines or exercise bands" can effect bone mass, which can help prevent osteoporosis (source: The Osteoporosis Society of Canada)
  • More energy and strength to get you through everyday life.