In my last article, I focused on getting health benefits from exercise for those that are limited by the time they spend or want to spend exercising. This month I’m going to focus on the avid exerciser and to hopefully ensure that you are doing the most effective workout for what you want out of physical activity. One point to stress is all exercise is good for you. In general, there are five categories that most of us look for when we exercise. They are to gain or maintain muscle, to lose or maintain weight, to relieve stress and tension, for endurance, and for flexibility. The problem for even the avid exerciser is finding time to incorporate a workout that is beneficial in all five categories. This takes knowledge and planning and usually requires us to limit a specific type of exercise we enjoy doing the most. Far too often I see runners that spend countless hours on their running but have little time for other components such as strength training or flexibility. The same could be said for avid weightlifters. They generally have good muscle tone but may lack flexibility and endurance. The best way to get the most effective workout is to take the amount of time you have to work out in a week, and make an effective plan to incorporate all areas of fitness. Strength training or resistance training should be done 2 to 3 times a week. This can be done in as little as 15 minutes if you concentrate on large muscle groups working together. Yoga or Pilates classes are great but generally last an hour. If time is a factor, a well-orchestrated stretching program can be highly beneficial if done 2 to 3 times a week for 15 minutes. Endurance, weight loss, and stress reduction can all be targeted with some form of cardio workout. This can vary from a brisk walk to running, cycling, swimming, or even some of our chores, like raking leaves. This is where I sometimes come into disagreement with the “addictive” runner. It’s not that I believe running 10-15 miles a week is not beneficial for weight loss, endurance and stress, but I do believe that, for the large majority of distance runners, the stress put on your body can lead to debilitating health risks as you age. Once again 3 days of some form of cardio can be highly effective in producing the desired results in weight management, endurance, and taking away unwanted stress in our lives. No matter the cardio of choice, to get the best results for cardiac-related issues, always try to implement some high-intensity intervals in short bursts where the heart rate is elevated to the point where carrying on a conversation is difficult.
It’s a new year and always a good time to start exercising or reevaluate your current program. Remember muscle tone, flexibility, cardio, weight management, and reducing stress are all of equal importance in our overall health, so let’s get started and make 2018 your best year ever!