Plan your exercise routine

When you are looking at different exercise routines, and trying to decide which one is right for you, it helps to understand the different elements that go into good exercise routines.

Any time you work the body you will have certain effects on it - will your workouts improve your cardiovascular endurance, make you stronger, or improve your balance? While some workouts are designed to work all areas of fitness, others are much more specific.

  • Endurance:

    Endurance is what people usually mean when they talk about "getting fitter", and many exercise routines can improve your endurance. Not surprisingly, endurance is improved by doing activities for an extended period of time. The usual formula is to do endurance exercises such as walking, running, swimming or cycling for at least 20 minutes, but that really should be regarded as a minimum. Longer workouts - 40 minutes, an hour - will obviously have a much more profound effect on your endurance.
  • Strength:

    Strength is a vital component of fitness, and a huge help in everyday life. Being strong isn't about having big muscles, it is about mobility and independence, being able to simple things easily. For anyone over 30 this becomes a major issue - as we age, muscle mass decreases rapidly, leading to loss of strength. As this occurs, little things like climbing stairs, even getting out of a chair, become more difficult. Any fitness plan must therefore include some basic strengthening elements.
  • Flexibility:

    Like strength, flexibility decreases rapidly with age. This process starts much earlier though, with many teens already showing dramatically reduced flexibility. Lack of flexibility makes simple tasks, such as cutting your toenails or reaching up to a high shelf, increasingly difficult. Regularly stretching at the end of a workout can help to maintain good levels of flexibility.
  • Balance:

    People are becoming more and more aware of the need to maintain good balance, but it is still left out of many fitness programs. However, for anyone over 55, working to maintain balance it is vital. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that among Americans over 65, falls account for 87% of all fractures and are the second leading cause of spinal cord and brain injury.

The good news is that whatever age you are, or however unfit you have become, it's not too late to take steps to improve your fitness. Research at nursing homes has shown that patients as old as 98 can make dramatic improvements in their strength, endurance, flexibility and balance if they adopt a program of regular exercise!

Putting it all together into a workout program isn't hard. You need to perform moderate-intensity aerobic exercise five days per week for at least 30 minutes, or vigorous aerobic exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes three times per week.

Strength can be maintained or even improved by doing resistance exercises twice per week, activities such as stretching, that maintain or increase flexibility, should be done for at least ten minutes, twice per week.

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