What Type of Exercise and How Often for Good Fitness?

By Chrissy MacDonald

You can lose weight, flatten your belly and have a healthy body with a simple exercise program. Exercise has so many benefits. Exercise can help stiff joints, headaches, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, insomnia, arthritis, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. Exercise regularly and you will have more energy. You’ll feel and look more youthful. Your body will be strong, fit and lean.

There are no magic formulas or quick fixes but stick with it and you will get results. A big key to success is to find activities you enjoy. If you aren’t a “gym person” then don’t join a gym. It’s amazing how many people sign up for gym memberships, go for a while and then give up. Come to think of it, I paid for a three month pool membership and put it on hold after getting an injury. That was months ago. I love to swim but I hate being cold and wet. For now, I’ll stick with walking and Yoga.

If you want to be a body builder or run a marathon, your fitness program will need to be more focused. But for the rest of us, let’s keep it simple. Be sure to visit your doctor before starting any new exercise program especially if you have health concerns. Also learn the proper technique for exercises before starting. Use the following as a guideline.

Here’s what you should include in a successful exercise program:

Cardiovascular activity

This is exercise that uses air, also called aerobic exercise. Cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart and lungs, increases energy and burns body fat. Walking, skipping, biking, dancing, swimming and running are aerobic.

A $3 skipping rope is the best investment you can make for cardiovascular exercise. Skip for a minute and then walk on the spot. Repeat. Use the same technique for running. I trained for and ran a marathon once by running for ten minutes and walking for one minute throughout the whole run.

Here’s a simple way to tell if you’re exercising aerobically: you can talk but are breathing hard. If you’re having trouble talking then you’re heart is likely working too hard.

Start out by doing 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three to five times per week. If you want to exercise hard more often, alternate activities so your knees and muscles will get a break. For example, skip/walk one day and bike the next day. If you’re a real couch potato, just get up off the couch, go outside and walk around the house, then down the street and back. Just 15 minutes. You’ll feel wonderful. And don’t worry – you can walk every day as it’s fairly easy on the joints.

Resistance Exercise

This is exercise that puts resistance against muscles and bones. You can use free weights, resistance tubing or Yoga. Using your own body weight as in push ups, pull ups and dips from a bench is an excellent way to get in shape. Resistance exercise strengthens bones and muscles and helps reduce osteoporosis and arthritis.

With a regular program of resistance training, you’ll increase muscle on your body. Muscle burns more calories than fat so you will burn more calories even when the body is at rest. Don’t worry about “bulking up” and looking like a body builder. To get that type of physique takes a particular type of program.

If you need to lose weight, firming up is a must. Imagine losing 50 pounds without tightening up all that skin. And you can be thin as a rake but still have a pot belly.

Stability balls are great since everything you do on the ball (even sitting) works the abdominal and back muscles. Keeping this area strong and fit will help you bend and twist without putting your back out. Pushups are excellent for the arms, abs and back. Squats will work the legs.

Just 20 to 30 minutes twice per week is all you need for resistance training. Leave a day of rest between workouts to allow muscles to rest and rebuild. Include exercises for all the major muscle groups.

Flexibility exercises – stretching

Being able to bend over or reach up easily for something on a high shelf without putting your back out is a benefit of flexibility training. It’s important to bend and stretch the body after exercise to keep your body from getting tight. For example, running tightens the hamstring muscles (back of the legs) and can lead to lower back pain. Stretching this area can help. Just a few minutes of stretching can go a long way to keep your body limber and youthful. A note about stretching: don’t bounce. Go gently and hold for a few seconds, repeat.

Yoga is great for both strength and flexibility. It’s also great for stress reduction and well-being. For more about Yoga, visit my Simply Yoga site.

Keep your exercise program simple. Don’t try to do everything at once and change your whole life. The main thing is to get started. Just go for a walk. See how great it feels to move your body. Get into the habit of doing regular physical activity. You’ll feel so wonderful that you’ll want to do more.

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