I hope everyone has been enjoying their summer so far! For many people, summer is the best time to get active and get in shape. I want to highly encourage this for everyone I know. This month, in order to help, I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to exercise for all experience levels.
The first thing to note about exercise is that not all physical activity delivers the same type of health benefits. In fact, there are three main groups, all of which contribute to your overall health and fitness:
Elements of Exercise
Cardio/Aerobic: These are the types of exercises that get your blood flowing. Walking, running, swimming, elliptical training, and biking are all great examples of cardiovascular exercise. These exercises are the quickest at burning off fat and calories and are an essential part of every workout routine.
Heather Hatfiled of WebMD lists the following benefits of cardio exercise in her excellent article on the topic:
- Improved blood cholesterol
- Improved heart function
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Improved muscle mass
Read that article on cardio exercise
I recommend getting at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise 4 or 5 times per week. This could take the form of walking, playing ball with your kids, running, playing tennis, or anything else that you enjoy that keeps you moving.
Flexibility: Your flexibility plays a key role in keeping your muscles healthy and preventing injury. This is why some form of stretching is essential. Some people like to do a thorough round of stretching before and after a cardio or strength workout. I definitely recommend this, as it will go a long way to preventing exercise related injury and will keep your muscles limber.
Others prefer to get their stretching in a focused activity like Yoga or Tai Chi. These can be excellent ways to build your flexibility as well as your muscle strength. Many who participate in these activities also note that it helps reduce stress and calm the mind. However you choose to keep up your flexibility, keep in mind that it is just as important as cardio or strength training.
Click here for a guide to some basic stretches
Strength: The third fitness element that is key to your exercise routine is strength training. People usually think of weightlifting when this comes to mind, and lifting weights is a great way to build up your muscle and bone strength. However, there are many ways to get in your strength training.
This could take the form of pushups, pull-ups, chair dips, and other simple strength exercises that you can do at home. Others prefer calisthenics, resistance bands, or other methods. Some people even use everyday objects like large tires or ropes to build strength. This is especially common in the crossfit community.
Here’s a guide to strength training for beginners from Fitness Magazine
Getting A Plan Together
I have seen many patients for whom exercise routines work and for whom they fail. One of the key differences I notice that separates the successes from the failures is use of an exercise plan.
Many runners use a plan that spells out what their exercise will be for each day. It is key to have a slow increase of intensity over time. This is very helpful both for motivation and pre-planning.
I highly recommend an exercise plan that includes all three elements of fitness: cardio, flexibility and strength.
Check out a sample weekly workout plan
It can be intimidating to start a workout plan, especially if you’re older and haven’t done it before. Be sure to check out my guide to exercise at any age for anyone hesitant to start a plan.
Tips For Success
Making it Fun: For many people, the thought of exercise is enough to incur some negative feelings. Exercise is hard, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. In fact, those who enjoy their exercise are so much more likely to stay fit.
How to make exercise fun? There are a lot of ways such as joining a club or a team, making dates with your friends, going somewhere refreshing to do your workout, or giving yourself simple rewards to encourage yourself to stick to your fitness goals.
Have the right clothes or equipment: Being prepared can be the difference between workout success and failure. It’s very important to have all the things you need to be comfortable while working out. You may choose to invest in some new workout clothes, and those that wick away sweat and are smooth on sensitive skin are the best for comfort and weather protection. Laying out your workout clothes the day or night before can help you get going quickly and stay motivated.
You might also consider investing in some technology to help with your fitness plan. There is a huge movement right now taking advantage of smartphones and other technology to help people keep track of their fitness and nutritional information. There are many apps and wearable devices that help along these lines. I put together some information on best fitness apps in a past blog post, be sure to check it out!
Set aside time and stick to it: It can be very helpful to determine ahead of time when in your week would be best for workouts. Once you’ve done this you can create a routine around your exercise. This helps you commit and stick to it! After a while, it will become second nature, and you’ll start to look forward to your exercise as a way to relieve stress and make your body feel great.
Let the people in your life understand your goals and ask for support: It can be tempting to keep your fitness goals to yourself in order to save yourself the embarrassment of later telling people that you’ve stopped working out or that you haven’t been sticking to your program. Don’t let that fear stop you! Having the support of your close friends and loved ones is incredibly motivating, and they will accept you no matter what you choose to do. Use your personal support network, and you’ll be able to keep up your fitness goals more easily.
I hope this guide is helpful for those who need to get moving and get motivated. I would be happy to answer any questions about exercise or nutrition, and I am passionate about both. Good luck on your pursuit of fitness!