We all want to get in shape or stay in shape so we can enjoy life more. There are a variety of goals that people strive for including weight loss, muscle building, better flexibility, and higher energy levels or simply looking and feeling better. But did you realize that a variety of exercise is needed to attain true fitness? In general, we can categorize individual exercises into one of three types: Cardiovascular training, strength or resistance training and flexibility training. An exercise regimen that includes training in each of these areas will lead to a more complete level of fitness.
Cardiovascular training is meant to increase your heart rate and is excellent at burning calories. The variety of exercises is so immense that there is something to interest everyone of any age group, gender or fitness level. It can include something as simple as taking a walk to jogging, swimming, basketball or soccer, plyometric or jump training, jumping rope, kick boxing, step aerobics, elliptical training, bicycling, tennis or dancing. The possibilities are endless! Remember to aim for at least 30 minutes of training 3 – 4 days a week. More is better, but start slowly after checking in with your doctor.
Proper foot wear is essential, so if you are doing a specific activity 3 or more times a week, wear a sports specific shoe.
Strength or resistance training is used to increase muscle strength and mass. Unfortunately, we all lose muscle mass over time unless we take active steps to avoid it. This starts in our 40’s and increases after the age of 50. Strength or resistance training helps to decrease this natural loss and can increase our resting metabolism. The more muscle we have the more metabolically active we are since muscle is more metabolically active than fat. This means that the more muscle we have the more calories we burn while we are at rest. Imagine burning more calories while doing nothing! Strength or resistance training exercise opportunities are varied as well so you can choose the option that suits you best. You can free weights, resistance bands, exercise machines or even your own body weight to train. You should aim for 2 – 3 times a week and work your upper and lower extremities as well as your back.
Flexibility training is essential for a supple body. Stiffness can affect everyone over time. Some people believe the key to remaining youthful is in the flexibility of the body. Many people eagerly do their cardio training and strength training but neglect flexibility. Some people that are very fit muscularly are particularly inflexible because the bulk of their muscles gets in the way. They sometimes forget that if you lengthen a muscle you can actually strengthen it even more. Activities like yoga, stretching, tai chi all great flexibility building exercises. Remember to stretch both your upper and lower extremities as well as your back for total flexibility. Stretching should also be incorporated into your warm up and cool down exercises when you do cardio or resistance training to help reduce risk of injury. As with all forms of exercises start slowly and build. Avoid exercises that cause pain, rather focus on those that give a good stretch.
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