Selecting an Exercise Program
It’s the new year, and you are stuck trying to figure out how to keep all of your New Year’s resolutions to get in shape. But where do you start? Strength training? Aerobic conditioning? Cross training? What’s best for you?
An ideal exercise program should be comprised of three components: aerobic, strengthening, and stretching. To be most successful, you should have several exercises in each area. However, any exercise is beneficial when done properly.
Aerobic Conditioning involves a sustained level of exercise for an extended period of time, usually longer than four minutes. It increases the efficiency of the heart and cardiorespiratory function by increasing cardiac output. Try biking, walking or jogging, a stairmaster, swimming, or a Nordic Track.
- Try to get aerobic exercise three to five days per week.
- Try to sustain aerobic exercise for 15 to 60 minutes each workout.
- Exercise at 55 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate
(maximum heart rate = 220 minus your age.)
Strengthening Programs use weight from machines, dumbbells or your own body as resistance while doing exercises. Once thought of as a way for athletes to “bulk-up,” strength programs have now been shown to help maintain posture, improve circulation to muscles and joints, provide support for joints, prevent injury, and maintain muscle tone.
- A good strengthening program should focus on all major muscle areas, including calf muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, abdominals, mid and lower back, biceps and triceps.
- Try to get strengthening exercise two to three times per week.
- If you are strength training for health benefits, not for “bulking up,” use less weight but do more repetitions of each exercise. You should be able to perform 15 to 30 repetitions of each exercise without strain.
Caution: adolescents under the age of 18 should avoid heavy lifting until they’re finished growing.
Warm Up and Stretching are vital parts of any exercise program to avoid injury, improve performance, and minimize muscle soreness. During warm up you raise the body and muscle temperature and heart rate to prepare for exercise. Stretching loosens warmed muscles before and after exercise.
- Warm up by jogging in place, riding a stationary bike, etc.
- Follow your warm up with stretching.
- Avoid bouncing stretches; instead, hold gentle stretches for 30 – 40 seconds.
- Do not stretch to the point of pain.
- Relax while stretching.
- Do not hold your breath while stretching.
- Each muscle group should be stretched 3 to 5 times for maximum benefit.
- Finish your workout with another stretching program to avoid muscle soreness.
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