Getting up everyday and doing some form of exercise, even if minimal, is better than nothing in improving your overall health. However, when the objective is to create permanent change, improve your health for the long term and achieve some fitness objective, your daily exercise should consist of important ingredients. What are these ingredients? To get the most from your exercise, a balanced exercise program should include strength training, cardiovascular training, and flexibility training. We’ll briefly discuss these three crucial aspects to exercise below.
Strength training improves joint function and bone density; strengthens muscles, tendons and ligaments; and increases the ability to enhance physical activity performance. As important as this sounds, most people who start a fitness program avoid strength and instead spend more than enough time partaking in cardiovascular training.
A common misconception about strength training is that it’s a single fundamental fitness factor involving just lifting as much weight as you can (Siff, 2003). Such a fallacy makes many assume that strength training is not only unnecessary for them, but it seems to provide a bit of fear in others. While the various types of strength could be broken down in a variety of ways, a simplified understanding can be summed up with three types: absolute strength, power strength, and strength endurance.
Absolute strength was highlighted briefly above: the maximum force that can be exerted for a particular action. It’s probably not the best form of strength to carry over to everyday life. However, for those who have a goal of improving their strength to the highest level or participate in an activity/sport requiring maximum efforts, this type of strength training is a must. Power strength involves or creates the ability to move your strength very quickly. This is a more sport-specific form of strength training, but can be beneficial to various aspects of daily life. For instance, bounding up the stairs quickly, catching an object that’s about to fall off of the table, or even running for a bus you just missed can all be enhanced through power strength. Finally, there’s strength endurance. Your muscles are working throughout the day, and increasing strength endurance allows you to maintain and increase the ability to do daily tasks for longer periods. It should be obvious this type of strength has a profound affect on sport participation, but what about those in non-sport activities? You could expect to improve you ability to do gardening work, wash your car, help a friend move in/out of their apartment, and walk up long flights of stairs, just to name a few.
As you can see, strength training has many health and fitness benefits. What’s even more fabulous is that there are various forms of strength training exercises you can choose. Whether you prefer to work with your own body weight, dumbbells, barbells, elastic bands, cables, machines and several others, strength training allows you work from home, outdoors, or in a gym setting. Are you ready to build your balanced exercise program? Perhaps a Health & Fitness Coach can help you get to where you want to be!
Cardiovascular (cardio) exercise provides mental clarity, elevated mood or contentment, and immune system support; improved function of the heart, lungs and circulatory system; and boosts overall health, fitness and performance.
It is important to recognize that consistent improvement in fitness requires a variety of principles be considered when doing cardio training. In the fitness community, we call these considerations the FITTR principle. The “F” stands for Frequency, or days per week you train. The “I” stands for Intensity, or percentage of maximum capacity of your training session. The “T” stands for Time, or duration of your cardiovascular workout. The other “T” stands for Type, or the mode of exercise you choose. Lastly, the “R” stands for rate of progression. What makes the FITTR principle important is that if these various principles are not changed periodically throughout your training week, month or year, cardio improvements will be short-term and you run the risk of injury.
There are many ways to get your cardio training in. A few of the most basic forms are walking, jogging, running, cycling, hiking, elliptical trainer, stair climber, rowing, and swimming. There are also group exercises, which can be found in most gym settings. These include step class, dance, spin, boxing, boot camp, Pilates, water, core, yoga, and several others. For those who enjoy more sport-specific activities, your cardio training can be satisfied through unlimited forms. Some of these include hockey, football, rugby, basketball, boxing, golf, handball, soccer, frisbee, volleyball, tennis, badminton, squash, wallyball, cross country skiing, martial arts, snow boarding, and rock climbing.
The benefits and variety of cardio training are limitless. But how do you fit this into your balanced exercise program? Based on the types of exercises you enjoy, the time you have available daily and weekly, and your health and fitness goals, a Health & Fitness Coach will design a balanced exercise program and ensure you are on your way to living a happy, healthy, and longer life.
When adding flexibility training to a balanced exercise program one can expect increased joint range of motion, which can enhance physical activity performance, decrease risk of injury, and speed up recovery after exercise. There are different types stretching. Depending on the source, while some of the names of these flexibility exercises may vary slightly, they are still talking about the same particular types. For this post, we’ll be illustrating the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association’s (NESTA) list of stretching.
NESTA lists five primary types of stretching. The first and most common is static stretching, This requires a gradual lengthening of the muscle by holding a position at the first point of resistance for 20-30 seconds to allow the muscle to relax in order to reach a greater range of motion. There’s also dynamic stretching. This form of stretching involves constant, controlled motion through a full range of motion to stimulate blood flow and warm-up the desired muscle group. Another type is ballistic stretching. This is a quick, explosive movement that usually involves bobbing, bouncing, and jerking to prepare muscles for an explosive maximal lift or sport related movement.
A very effective form of stretching that improves flexibility is Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF). PNF involves the use of a partner-assisted stretch using both passive and active muscle actions. For example, in a lying hamstring stretch, the partner would be used as a wall (not applying force) while the person being stretched contracts their hamstrings against the partner for 6-10 seconds to enable the muscle to relax then gains an increased range of motion by contracting the quadricep to raise the leg higher as the hamstrings relaxes. This should only be performed by experienced and trained fitness professionals.
A final form of stretching, one that has been increasingly utilized, is self-myofascial release (SMFR). SMFR utilizes a styrofoam roller to apply pressure to the muscle. The individual maintains their position and continues rolling along the length (perpendicular to the roller) of the muscle in the same fashion.
All this variety can be a bit confusing, leading to several questions. Which stretches are best for me? How often should I stretch? Should I choose one type of stretching over another? These questions and many more can be answered by a Online Personal Trainer. Are you ready to lead a happy, healthy, and longer life through a balanced exercise program?