To achieve the maximum health benefits from exercise, you need to create a varied fitness program that keeps you focused and targets the three basic areas of conditioning. Any good exercise program includes aerobic exercise to promote cardiovascular health and burn calories, strength training to build and tone muscles, and flexibility work to keep joints supple. Choosing your favorite workouts from these three areas can help you create the exercise program that's the best for you.
Exercise for Aerobic Conditioning and Heart Health
Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise available. It gives your heart and lungs a good workout, increasing your cardiovascular health. It's also gentle on your joints and bones because your body is supported by the water. If you have any joint problems, including arthritis, consider making swimming your primary workout choice. Opt for water aerobics if you find swimming laps a bit tedious. As an added bonus, studies show that swimming boosts your mood.
Swimming is one of several exercise options that are excellent for anyone wanting to lose weight. Aerobic exercise is helpful for those wanting to burn calories and increase metabolism. Walking, running, cycling and dancing are all good aerobic choices that increase cardiovascular health.
When starting an exercise program for cardiovascular fitness, plan on exercising 20 to 30 minutes per day at least five days a week. Figure out your target heart rate, and wear a heart monitor or check your pulse regularly during your workout to make sure you're hitting your goals.
Exercise Programs to Build Strength
Strength-building exercise programs can focus on either building muscle or toning muscles. If your primary goal is to build strength and muscle, then resistance training of some sort is required. Often strength training involves a routine using bodybuilding and weight-lifting machines at a gym, sometimes with a personal trainer involved. However, strength training can also be designed using your own body. Squats, planks, bridges, lunges and push-ups are crucial components of a strength-building program, and none of these exercises require extra equipment.
Toning exercises focus more attention on increasing the definition of muscles than on building strength. Resistance training is crucial here as well, though it make take the form of Pilates training or workouts using kettlebells or exercise balls. Often people want to tone particular parts of their bodies, such as their abs, calves or arms.
Exercise Programs to Increase Flexibility
Stretching is important to keep muscles and joints flexible. While the claim that stretching reduces muscle injuries doesn't have enough evidence to support it, stretching is good for your overall health. When you stretch, make sure to pay attention to all the major muscle groups, including your arms, leg, back and abs.
Specific exercise programs that focus on flexibility include yoga and tai chi. These disciplines are excellent for people with limited strength or mobility due to injury or age. They also help the body maintain its sense of balance.
The Must-Haves in Any Exercise Program
No matter what type of exercise program you choose, you should follow some basic rules. Always warm up before you start exercising, and make time to cool down when you're done, especially if you've been working out strenuously. Spend at least five minutes warming up, more if you're older. Cooling down after your workout keeps your muscles from cramping and prevents a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Don't let yourself become dehydrated. Drink fluids during your workout, and keep drinking afterward.
Pay attention to signs from your body during your workout. If you experience an unusual heartbeat, nausea, shortness of breath or dizziness, stop your exercise session and see a doctor. Don't push yourself when you're tired, and don't force yourself to exercise if you're ill or fighting something off. If you exercise outdoors, you want to pay attention to the weather as well, and adjust your exercise program accordingly.
The best exercise program for you is the one you can stick with. Consider the options available to you, and make sure you incorporate the key building blocks of aerobic conditioning, strength training and flexibility exercises to keep your whole body fit. Don't be afraid to change a program if something isn't working until you find just the right combination for your overall health.
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