To eat healthy, we try to combine different food groups and make sure we get enough whole grains, vegetables, protein, etc. It can be helpful to think about exercise the same way: combining different types of exercise into your overall fitness routine may be more effective than any single method alone. The Mayo Clinic identifies the four bases of total body fitness as Aerobic Fitness, Muscular Fitness, Stretching, and Core Stability. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your well-rounded exercise program.
1. Aerobic Fitness: any physical activity that uses large muscle groups and increases your heart rate, such as walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, biking, or vigorous gardening or housework. Adults should aim for 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise per day, even if you have to break it up. If time is tight, try fitting in three ten-minute mini-walks during work breaks.
2. Muscular Fitness: any type of strength or resistance training focused on individual muscles. A gym may offer free weights or resistance machines (such as Nautilus), but these are not the only options. At home you can use elastic resistance bands, an inexpensive and portable option, and large canned goods may be heavy enough to double as hand-weights. And don’t forget—your own body is a weight itself! Pushups, squats, arm lifts, even with just your own body weight, are an effective method of basic training. Regular strength training can help increase your lean muscle mass and help your body burn calories more efficiently.
3. Stretching: aerobic exercise and strength training can cause your muscles to become tight and stiff. Regular stretching after your workouts can increase flexibility and range of motion, promote better posture and circulation, and help prevent injury. If your muscles are stiff before you begin a workout, or you have a minor injury, make sure to warm up slowly and take time to stretch before you begin your full workout. You should always stretch while your muscles are warm.
4. Core Stability: your core muscles are in your lower back, abdominals, and pelvis. A strong core increases balance and stability while exercising, improves posture, and can improve performance in all exercises while reducing your chances of certain injuries. Crunches are the simplest form of abdominal exercise but a well-rounded core program may involve many different types of exercises.
Remember, always check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. Start slow and have fun!
- Jeff Koelemay