Balanced Exercise

While many of us are familiar with the food pyramid and the essential food groups, fewer of us are aware of how much exercise we need to stay healthy and maintain our ideal weights. Although we know we need to fit some exercise into our lives, the exact amounts we need can be unclear. In fact, our fitness levels and exercise requirements are as different as our bodies. One key component to incorporating a balanced exercise program into your life is to understand your fitness needs.

Exercise Tips

A balanced exercise program is composed of three parts:

  • Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and lungs to improve your cardiovascular fitness. Overtime, regular aerobic exercise increases your metabolism, tones your muscles and helps you burn fat and lose weight. Some popular types of aerobic exercise include biking, jogging, speed walking and swimming. Twenty minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week will help you maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
  • Strength training requires repetitive contractions to increase the muscle in your body. Weight lifting is the most common way people tone their muscles. However, there are alternatives. Workouts such as pilates, yoga and calisthenics can be other ways to strength train without weights.
  • Stretching is perhaps the most overlooked element of fitness. Before and after every difficult workout, stretch to prepare your muscles for exercise. Stretching improves your flexibility, which will help your range of motion. Each stretch should be performed slowly and should be held for about 10 seconds.

As you develop an effective fitness routine for you, consider whether you want to alternate days between strength training and aerobic exercise or do both on the same day. Regardless of what you choose, keep in mind that stretching should be part of every workout.

Health Benefits of Exercise

Exercising regularly has a number of associated health benefits. From weight loss to more energy, most health experts agree everyone should exercise to improve his or her health. Specifically, consistent exercise:

  • combats chronic diseases: Exercise can prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer. It can also help your cholesterol levels by raising your good cholesterol (HDL) and lowering your bad cholesterol (LDL).
  • helps manage weight: Exercise burns calories. The longer, harder and more intense your workout is, the more calories you burn. Also, adding muscle to your body will increase your metabolism. Regular exercise combined with a sensible diet is the trick to staying healthy and controlling your weight.
  • improves your mood: Exercise releases endorphins, the natural chemicals responsible for making you feel peaceful and happy. Exercise also helps relieve stress and builds confidence, both of which can boost your mental wellbeing.
  • promotes better sleep:Exercise helps you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. Better sleep improves your concentration, mood and productivity. Remember to avoid exercise immediately before going to sleep. Instead, aim to exercise five to six hours before your bedtime.
  • strengthens your heart and lungs:Exercise improves your cardiovascular system, which supplies blood to your heart and blood vessels. Your body will deliver nutrients and oxygen more efficiently with regular exercise, giving you more energy.

How to Create a Balanced Exercise Program

A big reason that people can’t maintain their exercise routines is they do not enjoy the activity. It is important to understand your own personality and to choose programs that will work well with your exercise personality.

Before creating a program, decide if you like to work out alone or in groups, understand how much time you can commit to the program and acknowledge what physical limitations you have. Also, check with your physician before starting any exercise program.

From there, set a physical goal you would like to accomplish. Whether it is cutting a minute from your mile time or being able to touch your toes, find something that will motivate you. Lastly, and most importantly, stick to it. Everyone has slipups or days where they do not want to break a sweat. Make a commitment to yourself and your health, and you’ll soon see the benefits.