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How to Start Being Active

All about Exercise Words

​​​​​​​There are many confusing words used when people talk about exercise. Whether you’re just starting, or have been exercising for a while, it can be still be confusing.

General Exercise Words

  • Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): This is the stiffness and pain people sometimes feel 24 to 48 hours after exercise. It’s temporary and is often better after ​1 or 2 days.
  • Exercise Prescription: This is a set of exercises that your trainer, fitness instructor, or healthcare provider recommends for you.
  • FITT Principle: A method often given for exercise prescriptions, especially with aerobic exercise.

F is for frequency, which means how often you exercise during the week.

I is for intensity, which means how hard you have to work.

T is for time, which means how long you work out for during one exercise session.

T​ is for type, which means what type of exercise you’re doing (e.g., walking, cycling).​

  • Flexibility/Range of Motion: The movement a person’s joints can do. Often affected by the muscles and tendons connected with a joint. Good flexibility means you have really good movement in the joints and muscles. Regular stretching can improve your flexibility.
  • Muscle Endurance: A muscle’s ability to work repeatedly over time (e.g., how often you can climb stairs at work during the day).
  • Muscle Strength: The most weight a muscle can move in one effort.
  • Personal Trainers/Fitness Leaders: People with knowledge about exercise. Personal trainers often work one-on-one or in small groups. Fitness leaders teach groups or classes (e.g., aerobics, step classes). ​Many trainers and fitness leaders are qualified with education and training, but some aren’t. In Canada, personal trainers and exercise specialists are certified by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP). In Alberta, fitness leaders are often certified with Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association (AFLCA). Ask your trainers and fitness leaders about their education and certifications. If you want to learn more about certification, go to the Provincial Fitness Unit of Alberta, which provides the top certifications in Alberta.
  • Plateau effect: This can happen if you’ve been working out for a while and you aren’t improving. This can be a sign:
    • of overtraining, which can happen if you work out and train a lot (e.g., every day), and your body may be too tired. If this happens, you may need to slow down so your body can rest.
    • t​hat your body has adapted to the workout you’re doing. If this happens, you need to add a new challenge (more weight or intensity) or change your workout (new types of exercise).

    If you think you’re having either of these problems, talk to a personal trainer.

  • Warm-Up and Cool-Down: These are important parts of any workout and people often forget them. If you warm up your body, it gets you ready for a workout. A cool-down slows down your body, especially your muscles, heart, and blood. A good warm-up and cool-down may help prevent DOMS.

Types of Exercise

  • Aerobic Exercise/Cardiovascular Training: Exercise that’s done at a low intensity (e.g., walking, jogging, cycling) and can be done for long periods of time (e.g., 20 minutes or more). This is the type of exercise most people do.
  • Anaerobic Exercise: The body can’t use oxygen fast enough to keep you going with this high-intensity exercise. Most people can’t do this for longer than 90 seconds before the muscles get tired (e.g., sprinting).
  • Circuit Training: A workout routine that combines resistance training and aerobic training. A circuit routine often has 10 to 15 stations close together. A person moves from station to station with a very short rest between exercises until the whole circuit is done.
  • Core Training: A muscle group exercise to strengthen the abdominal muscles and the back. These muscles make up your core.
  • Concentric Contractions: This happens when a muscle is shortened to overcome resistance (e.g., bringing a weight up to the shoulder with a bicep curl, climbing stairs). Many people call this a muscle contraction.
  • Eccentric Contractions: This happens when a muscle is lengthening. It’s when the muscle is trying to slow the movement against a resistance (e.g., returning a weight to the starting position, going down stairs).
  • Free Weights: Weights that aren’t machines or pulleys (e.g., ​dumbbells and barbells).
  • Functional Fitness: Exercise you do every day (e.g., pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying). Functional fitness is often associated with strength training and the whole body is worked in the exercise instead of one muscle at a time.
  • Plyometrics: A type of training with fast, powerful movements. It’s often done to help improve performance in sports. Plyometrics can lead to injuries without proper training and instruction.
  • Progression: An exercise routine that makes the muscles or the cardiovascular system work harder (e.g., lifting heavier weights during strength training, aerobic training for longer).
  • Resistance Training /Strength Training/Weight Training: Exercises that work certain muscles, often by themselves. The muscles move against some type of resistance (e.g., holding a dumbbell while doing a bicep curl).
  • Rep/Repetition: One complete movement of an exercise through the full range of motion. Often used when talking about resistance training (e.g., lifting a weight up and down one time). When you hear 3 sets of 10 or see 3 x 10, it means you do each movement 10 times (reps) in a row and then you rest. You do this a total of 3 times.
  • Sets: A group of reps. Often used when talking about resistance training. It’s a good idea to have a rest between sets. When you hear 3 sets of 10 or see 3 x 10, it means you do each group of 10 movements, 3 times.
  • Stretching: Movements that increase the ease and amount of movement of a joint and the connected muscles and tendons. This affects how the joint can turn, bend, or reach. Stretching can help improve flexibility.
  • Universal Weights: Often found in gyms, these are machines and pulleys that are attached to weights and used as resistance during strength training.
  • Weight-Bearing Exercise: Exercises that use your​ body weight for resistance (e.g., walking, jogging, climbing stairs). Some resistance training exercises are weight-bearing as well.

Technical Words

  • Atrophy: This is a decrease in muscle mass and is sometimes called muscle wasting. This can happen when people aren’t active. If you don’t use muscles, they’ll decrease over time. Atrophy is often a problem for older adults or people who can’t move around easily because of health problems.
  • Hypertrophy: This is when muscle cells get bigger. Regular strength training can often lead to this. It’s easier for men to get bigger muscles because of male hormones.
  • Heart Rate: This is how fast your heart beats (contracts) and is measured in beats per minute (BPM).
  • Lactate and Lactic Acid: Many people think these words mean the same thing, but they don’t. Lactic acid breaks down into lactate. Lactate and lactic acid may cause fatigue in the muscles or DOMS. Lactic acid is the waste made when the body has a low oxygen supply like during high-intensity exercise.
  • Maximum Heart Rate (HR Max): The fastest your heart can beat. This may happen when you do very high-intensity exercise. To find out your exact HR Max, you need to have a maximal aerobic test done by a certified exercise professional.

For most people, the estimated HR Max works out to 220 minus their age. For example, if you’re 40, your HR Max is 220 – 40 = 180 beats per minute

If your HR Max is 180, to figure out your training zone:

180 x 0.6 = 108 beats per minute

180 x 0.8 = 144 beats per minute​

  • VO2 Max and Maximal Volume of Oxygen: This is a measure of how much oxygen your body can breathe in and use. It measures your aerobic power and is a good indicator of your aerobic fitness. The higher the number, the higher your aerobic power. VO2 Max is affected by your age (decreases with age), gender (women often have lower VO2 ​Max), and your aerobic fitness (the more fit you are, the higher the number).If you have questions, talk to a certified exercise professional.

Weight and Energy Words

  • Body Mass Index (BMI): A measure used to calculate if people are overweight or underweight. To calculate your BMI, you’ll need your weight in kg and your height in metres. If you have questions about your BMI, talk to your doctor.
  • Body Composition: What your body is made of. In exercise, this usually means fat mass and lean body mass.
  • Body Mass: Another word for body weight.
  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): This is a measure of how much energy your body uses to survive (metabolism).
  • Energy Expenditure: How much energy your body uses during the day. This includes your BMR and any activity you do during the day.
  • Fat Mass (% Body Fat): This means how much of your body is made up of fat or how much of your weight is fat. Everyone’s bodies need some fat to work and be healthy.
  • Lean Body Mass: This means how much of your body is not fat (e.g., muscle, bones, organs).

Current as of: October 24, 2018

Author: Chronic Disease Prevention, Alberta Health Services