What Your Fitness Program Needs

What Your Fitness Program Needs

Ideally, a physical activity program includes four components:

Cardiorespiratory or Aerobic Activity

Aerobic activity helps protect against heart disease. It also improves your physical energy and produces endorphins that improve your mood.

What you do and how often and hard you exercise are determined by your goals, present fitness level and health, interest, and convenience. It is important to choose an activity you enjoy and that fits your lifestyle and tailor it to your fitness level. This will help you make exercise a habit! It’s also a good idea to choose more than one type of exercise to give your body a more complete workout and to avoid boredom.

Make your cardio workouts hard enough to break a sweat and get your heart pumping faster. Brisk walking is a good cardio workout. Others include jogging, bicycling, and swimming.

One excellent cardiorespiratory exercise that almost everyone can do is walking. Walking 10,000 steps a day can improve health and fitness. (It takes a little over 2000 steps to walk one mile.) Many people discover when they begin wearing a pedometer that they only average between 900 and 3000 steps a day!

Strength Training

Strength training can build muscles and increase strength and endurance. Research has shown that strength training also:

  • Helps control weight by boosting the metabolism
  • Halts bone loss and even restores bone
  • Improves balance
  • Helps prevent bone fractures from osteoporosis
  • Energizes
  • Improves flexibility.

In addition, in women over 40, strength-training helps prevent loss of muscle mass (Nelson, 1997).

A strength training program may include free weights or weight-training machines. But you don’t need extensive equipment to do strength-training. You can do Pilates mat work, using simply a stability ball, or do exercises that use your own body weight for resistance, such as push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, squats, and dips.

Another option is functional training, which consists of exercises and activities that are meant to simulate everyday activities so as to increase your ability to carry out normal daily activities more efficiently.

The Center for Disease Control recommends doing strength-developing exercises at least twice per week.

Stretching for Flexibility

Flexibility exercises increase joint pliability, which improves overall ease of movement, decreases stress on the joints, and helps reduce risk of injury. Because flexibility exercises help improve blood flow to the muscles, stretching an injured muscle will speed up your recovery.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you should incorporate flexibility exercises into your overall fitness program that stretch all the major muscle groups. You should do these a minimum of 2-3 days per week.

Most fitness centers have posters with stretches for all muscle groups that you can do after an aerobic exercise, when your muscles are warmed up. Yoga and Tai Chi are also excellent for developing flexibility and Pilates can improve flexibility as well as core stability.

Exercises to Improve Balance

Good balance can help prevent falls. In addition, balance is essential for various sports and fitness activities.

To improve balance, you must improve your core strength so you can have a good base of support and control movement. Core strength can be improved through Tai Chi, Pilates, and core specific floor exercises. Yoga is also excellent for developing core strength and balance.

Other simple exercises to improve balance include:

  • Standing on the balls of your feet with your arms straight out to the sides, then slowly lower your arms to your sides
  • Standing on one foot with your eyes closed
  • Walking very slowly, focusing on lifting and placing each foot
  • See bibliography for reference