Fitness, muscle strength and flexibility are the building blocks to a healthy, active you. We walk you through each component, providing useful tips for fitness and fun.
Whether you’re interested in training for a sport, losing weight, or just trying to get in shape, the following fitness formula covers the bases, promoting cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility. Integrate each component into your program for a balanced workout.
Of all the things you can do in your quest for fitness, aerobic activities are the most important. Aerobic activities like brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, or skating are all examples of activities that get you breathing harder while keeping you constantly on the move.
Developing the heart and lungs to efficiently transport oxygen through the bloodstream will make for a more endurable you. But there’s a difference between filling your lungs with oxygen-rich blood and buffing and puffing your way to exhaustion. To get it right, we’ll address the most often asked questions about aerobic activity: How often? How hard? How long?
To improve your aerobic fitness level, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends exercising three to five days a week. If you are just beginning, give yourself a day or two in-between workouts to let your body recover. This is especially true if you choose high impact activities that include lots of running and jumping, or if you are overweight.
We all want to know how fast we should run; how hard we should pedal; how high we should climb. The answer is simple. Listen to your body If you feel comfortable doing what you’re doing, at an effort that’s between fairly light and somewhat hard, you’re on target. You can also use the “talk test:” If you can carry on a conversation during your activity, you’re in the appropriate effort zone.
If you prefer a more scientific approach, find your “target heart rate zone,” and stay within it. To find the zone, determine your maximum heart rate (MHR) by subtracting your age from 220. Next, multiply your MHR by .65 to determine your minimum aerobic training rate. Then, multiply your MHR by .80 for your maximum training rate. Following this formula, the target heart rate of a 40-year-old is between 117 and 144 beats per minute. Sports physiologists have determined that exercising at 65 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate is enough for basic fitness.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, aerobic activity should last between 20 to 60 minutes per session in order to gain the cardiorespiratory benefits. Beginners should stick to a shorter duration, and build up gradually. Moderate activities such as walking or dancing, done in five-to-ten-minute increments for a total of 30 minutes a day are effective as well.
All workout regimens must include some form of strength training. Whether your goal is better sports performance, weight loss, or toning, strength training will deliver the results.
Whether your goal is better sports performance, weight loss, or toning, strength training will deliver the results.
Aim for exercises that target all the major muscle groups, including: arms; shoulders; chest; back; abdomen; and upper and lower legs. If strength training is new to you, consult with a professional who can get you started safely.
Begin with a weight you can lift comfortably for 8 to 12 repetitions. Once 12 reps become easy, you can increase the weight slightly or increase the number of repetitions. Beginners should aim for one set of each exercise. As you become stronger, you can increase the number of sets to two or three. Be sure to give yourself one to three minutes of rest between sets. Try to include at least two strength workouts a week, and allow at least one day between strength training sessions.
Always include a few minutes of light to moderate aerobic activity and easy stretching before and after your strength workout.
Stretch it Out
Flexibility is probably the most overlooked component of the fitness formula. It’s easy to leave out, especially when time is short. But its inclusion offers many benefits for those who take the time. Five to IO minutes a day of easy stretching will reduce potential injuries and increase range of motion. Additionally, stretching will reduce muscle soreness after a hard game or workout, improve posture, decrease stress, increase performance, and generally make you feel good all over.
“I found energy and confidence…fitness is the best thing that I could have ever given myself…and my child.” -Jean Waid Rolfson
- Never stretch a cold muscle. Do a few minutes of light aerobic activity like walking or stationary biking as part of your warm-up before you stretch.
• Avoid bouncing when you stretch. It won’t help you stretch farther and it might even cause injury.
• Stretch the major muscle groups and the muscles used most in the activity. For example, if you’re playing racquetball, be sure to focus on your forearm and shoulder muscles.
• During your cool-down, slow your pace for a few minutes before you stop. This will relax your body and mind, ensuring a safer, gentler stretching session.
• Stretching should always be part of your warm-up and cool-down.
• Stretch slowly, to the point where you feel a little bit of tension. Hold that position for 10 to 20 seconds, keeping your breathing relaxed.