Having worked in healthcare and the fitness industry for 30 years, my favorite question to ask patients is this, “What is the desired goal of your fitness routine/program?” Remarkably, most people don’t have a response or simply respond “to get in shape.” I am often inclined to respond, “Then why are you training to get injured?”
Movement is one of the six characteristics of life and fundamental to health. It is essential to the success of your goal to select and start with exercises that are appropriate for your fitness level. It is best to begin a work out program with flexibility exercises. Only after you have obtained mobility and stability is adding speed or resistance appropriate. It is not in your best interest to go from no exercise to something advanced. The number one reason people discontinue their exercise program is pain or injury.
There are four fundamental areas of exercise: Cardiovascular, Resistance, Flexibility and Balance. A basic principle of exercise to consider when selecting is “specificity.” Specificity means doing bench press will not improve your mile time and vice versa. Most people forget to consider balance and flexibility. The fact is the majority of the human brain is allocated to movement and balance. Over half of the brain’s nerve cells are in the cerebellum. The cerebellum’s job is balance and coordination. Static resistance equipment and several forms of cardiovascular equipment do little for balance. Improved balance can reduce the risk of falling, which becomes a bigger issue with age. Improved balance will improve athleticism.
Flexibility improves range of motion and increases blood flow to the muscles and joints being stretched. Increased blood flow delivers nutrients and helps eliminate toxins such as lactate and carbon dioxide. The term “tightness weakness” was first introduced by physical therapists in the 1960’s. By definition, a shortened tight muscle can not generate as much force/strength as a muscle at normal length. Therefore, stretching improves range of motion, circulation, and strength.
Cardiovascular exercise is aerobic, meaning “an exchange of gases, (O2 & CO2).” Energy production by aerobic respiration also produces reactive oxidative species (ROS). Be sure to include plenty of antioxidants in the diet to offset the increased production of ROS. Vitamins A (b-Carotene), C, E, and selenium are excellent antioxidants. Colorful fruits and vegetables are typically high in antioxidants; be sure to eat the rainbow.
Water is the most important nutrient and helps the body eliminate waste and toxins. It is essential to ingest ample water for a successful wellness program. The current recommended amount of water intake is half of your body weight in fluid ounces. For example, a 200 lb. individual should ingest 100 oz of water each day.
Select exercises you can perform for a life time, unless you only want to “get in shape” in your 20’s. Train within your limits, set realistic goals to avoid injury, and choose exercise modes you enjoy doing. Exercise is fundamental to life and health, so you want to participate for as many years as you are on the planet.