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3 Things Every Exercise Program Should Have

01.10.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

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By Becky Johnson, Certified Personal Trainer

A complete, safe and effective fitness program includes various components, however there are three that stand out above the rest. Aerobic exercise, muscular strength and endurance conditioning, and flexibility exercise work together to make up an effective fitness program and are perhaps the most important components to consider when determining your fitness routine.

Aerobic exercise does good things for your cardiovascular system and is an important part of weight management. Muscular conditioning can improve strength and posture, reduce the risk of low-back injury and is an important component of a weight management program. Flexibility exercise is needed to maintain joint range of motion and reduce the risk of injury and muscle soreness. Let's dive deeper into each of the three components...

1. AEROBIC EXERCISE

Aerobic exercise can be as simple as walking. Walking, jogging, jump rope and dance-exercise are all good forms of weight bearing aerobic exercise, which is any activity that uses large muscle groups in a continuous, rhythmic fashion for sustained periods of time and during which the individual’s body is not supported in some fashion. There are also non-weight bearing aerobic exercises, such as bicycling, stationary cycling, swimming and rowing.

Keep the pace comfortable. A very important aspect of your exercise program is the intensity. You should exercise at a comfortable pace. You can measure your exercise heart rate to check the intensity of your exercising, or you can take the “talk test”. To measure your heart rate, take your pulse as soon as you stop exercising. Count your heartbeat for 10 seconds, then multiply by six to convert it to a one-minute heart rate. If you keep your exercise heart rate within a range of 55 to 85% of an estimated maximum heart rate (220 minus your age), you’re doing well. The “talk test” is even easier to use. Just exercise at a pace that allows you to carry on a conversation while you’re exercising. The harder you work, the harder it is to talk. Also, consider interval training. I talked about intervals in my very first post. It involves alternating short, fast bursts of intense exercise with slow, easy activity. For example: walk for 1 minute, then sprint for 30 seconds. Repeat up to 10 times. Always give yourself the recovery walk.

How often should you exercise? Three to five days of aerobic activity is fine for general health maintenance. If you’re trying to lose weight, aim for five to six days a week, being sure to take off at least one day a week.

How long should I exercise? Work up to 30 or more minutes per session (or three 10 minute sessions) per day for general health maintenance. For weight loss, gradually work up to 45 minutes or longer at low to moderate intensities in a low or non-impact activity.

2. STRENGTH CONDITIONING

Pick calisthenics, free weights or machines. Just be sure that your strength training program includes exercises for every major muscle group, including the muscles of the arms, chest, back, hips, legs and abdominals.

Start with a weight that’s comfortable to handle and perform eight to twelve repetitions. The last few reps should be challenging. For greater strength conditioning, add more weight and/or reps in sets of 8 to 12 when the exercise becomes easy.

3. STRETCHING FOR FLEXIBILITY

Proper stretching involves holding a mild stretch for 15-30 seconds while you breathe normally. Always warm up before you stretch. Like strength conditioning, flexibility exercises should include stretching for all the major muscle groups. It is highly recommended that you include an easy warm up of 5-10 minutes before moving up to your training heart rate. 5-10 minute cool down after your training may result in faster recovery and less muscle fatigue. That brings up one more element every exercise program should have: rest and recovery. This is often overlooked in effective training. Your body actually gets stronger after exercise stress, so you need to allow down time for rebuilding muscle tissue. An effective training program will have regular periods of rest and recovery.

ONE LAST THING TO REMEMBER…

Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, especially if you’re a man over 45, a woman over 55, or have cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or a family history of heart disease.

Be Fit and Healthy!
- Becky

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