The Three Major Elements of Exercise

A well balanced exercise program needs to include three major areas of fitness: Resistance or strength training, aerobic or cardio training and stretching or flexibility training.

Resistance (strength) training 20 minutes of resistance training with dumbells, barbells, body weight, resistance bands or using weight machines twice a week. All the major muscle groups of the legs, abdomen, arms, chest, back and shoulders should be worked.
Aerobic (cardio) training 30 minutes of exercise at about 60% to 85% of your maximum heart should be done at least 3 times per week, more often is best. The 60% to 85% is known as your the aerobic range, which is calculated by subtracting your age from 220, then multiplying that number by .60 and .85 to obtain your heart rate range. 
Stretching (flexibility) training 15 minutes of stretching, after you’re fully warmed up, to include all the major muscle groups at least 3 times per week.

The Many Benefits of Being Active

Physical activity, including formal and informal exercise are key to a healthy lifestyle.  Not only is physical activity critical for improving your health and extending your life, but it will make you look better and feel better too.  Being active significantly lowers your chances of developing potentially fatal illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  In addition, remaining active throughout your life can help you stay healthy and disability free as you age. The following is a list of proven benefits to an active lifestyle:

Reduced risk of early death
reduced risk of heart disease
Reduced risk of high blood pressure
Easier to keep weight under control
Elevated energy level
Reduced risk of depression and anxiety
Heightened sense of well being
Increased bone density/strength
Reduced risk of colon cancer
Reduced risk of diabetes
Improved balance
Reduction in cholesterol
Some examples of informal exercise:  taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walk the dog more than once a day, walk to your co-workers desk instead of calling them, walk during your lunch break, walk around the office every chance you get, take the long way to the restroom, park the car as far away from the front door as possible (home, office & store), pace while you’re on the phone at work and at home, do squats and lunges while you’re standing at the stove or the microwave, do calf raises while you’re standing in line.  You can think of more I’m sure. Formal exercise, or exercise for a specific purpose is what I’m here for.  Learn how to burn 300 calories in a workout session or learn how to work all the major muscle groups in your body for toning and strengthening.

Burn Those Calories

I recently read a study which determined that just tapping your foot while sitting will burn more calories than just sitting.  In fact, a completely sedentary person burns between 800 and 1,500 calories per day, creating the energy for the daily functions of all the cells in the body. This is called our basal metabolic rate, or BMR.  Researchers also found that exercise burns calories not just while you are doing the workout, but also in the hours following the exercise.  You use energy and burn calories to bring your body back to its normal resting state.  

So that’s the good news, you burn calories when you’re not exercising and you burn calories after your exercise session is over, but, you burn the most calories while you are actually exercising. 

Researchers found that the two most important contributors to burning calories during exercise are the contracting muscles and the increased work of the heart and lungs. The frequency and power of muscle contractions are by far the major factors in determining the number of calories burned during exercise.  Faster heart rate and breathing also burn calories, but not nearly as much as movement of legs, arms, abdominal and back muscles.  In fact, moving the biggest muscles in your body – your back, legs and abs – burn the most calories.

Over time, your metabolism changes as you convert your flabby muscles into firmer and leaner muscle mass.   The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate, the higher your BMR the more calories you burn even when you’re NOT working out.

It takes resistance or strength training to get this calorie burning benefit from exercise.  However, cardio exercise will not only burn calories it will strengthen your heart muscle, the best way to avoid a heart attack.  A good exercise regimen includes both resistance training and cardio training.
You can determine how many calories you should take in on a daily basis with the following formula:

 Activity Level                           Calories per Pound 
Very light (sedentary)                14

Light (if you walk)                     15 – 17

Moderate (if you jog)                17 – 19

Heavy (if you’re a gym rat)       20 – 23
Use your “ideal” body weight, the weight you want to be, not the weight you are.

120lb X 18 (Moderate) = 2160 calories per day are needed to maintain 120 pounds of body weight daily
But choose those 2000+ calories wisely – keep this in mind:

Carbohydrates = 4 calories per gram

Protein = 4 calories per gram

Fat = 9 calories per gram

Flexibility Training – Stretch those muscles

Flexibility training is one of the three major elements of exercise that I recommend everyone do.  Stretching your muscles keeps them healthy and healthy muscles are less likely to become injured with a strain.  When your muscles, tendons and ligaments are properly stretched, and remain flexible, you’re less like to injure a joint, such as a sprained knee or shoulder.  Stretching creates and maintains the full range of motion throughout the joint.

The process of stretching brings blood flow to the muscles, tendons and ligaments, so they will heal faster if you do injure them.  This is also why you are less likely to feel severe muscle soreness after exercising, plus that soreness will cease much sooner in elongated, supple muscles.  Stretching will also reduce tension you feel, especially in your neck, shoulders and back.  

As we age, we naturally become less flexible.  Muscles, tendons and ligaments shrink and become dry and brittle and injure easily.  While stretching on a regular basis will not completely prevent this from occurring in our later years, it will delay it into much later years than if you’ve never stretched at all.

Stretching correctly is extremely important.  If you’re especially inflexible, you’re likely to injure a muscle by trying to stretch it beyond its limits.  You may even feel like you’ve done an aggressive workout by overstretching the first time you try.  But over time, with continuous flexibility training, your muscles will remain in their elongated state.   This does take time, and that amount of time differs for everyone.   

It is important to note that you should only stretch when your muscles are fully warmed up.  The best way to do this is on one of the cardio machines, such as an elliptical trainer.  You can also warm up in a hot bath, whirlpool tub or shower.  Once you’re warm, you can stretch all the muscles in your body.  Drinking plenty of water helps the muscles stay hydrated, also important to get a good stretch and to maintain that elongated muscle.  

I have my clients stretch fully both before and after the workout.  If a particular muscle feels tight or burns during the workout, I have them stop and stretch it.  This will almost always immediately stop the burn, giving them the ability to go on with a good workout.  

There are many different types of stretches, but the one I use most often is called an Active Static Stretch, where my client will provide their own force to stretch the various muscles.  This is safe because they can feel if the stretch is too far beyond their particular range of motion.  I sometimes need to coach them to push their limits far enough, though, in order to make a difference.  Static means that they hold the muscles in the elongated position for 10 to 30 seconds, depending on individual needs.  There are times to utilize the other stretching techniques such as Passive, Ballistic, Dynamic and PNF stretching, but these should only be needed in extenuating circumstances where a particular muscle is having trouble releasing.

Stretching is relaxing and does not take up a lot of time.  It can be done just about anywhere, with modifications of course.   It can be used as a stress reducer, and to enhance a feeling of well being.