There are many mental, emotional, and physical health benefits associated with being physically active. Some of those benefits include weight management, improved cardiovascular health, elevated mood, improved digestion, increased energy, better sleep quality, and increased balance, coordination, and flexibility. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity a week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity involving all major muscle groups at least two days per week. To measure intensity, moderate is a 5 or 6 out of 10, while vigorous activity is a 7 or 8.
So, what type of exercise should you do? In short, whatever kind of physical activity that you find fun and enjoyable. The options are endless, and variety is best! For optimal health and healthy aging, it is recommended that you follow a workout routine that involves balance and flexibility exercises, core strengthening, aerobic/cardio, and resistance training.
Flexibility and balance
Improving your balance and flexibility can help increase range of motion, prevent injuries, and improve overall fitness. To improve flexibility, it’s important to adopt a regular stretching routine. Types of stretching include self-myofascial release involving a foam roller to reduce “knots” in your muscles, static stretching by lengthening a muscle and holding for 30 seconds, active stretching using the strength of one muscle group to stretch an opposing muscle group (yoga is a great example of active stretching), and finally dynamic stretching which is movement based stretching working muscles through a range of motion.
Balance is your “ability to maintain your center of gravity within a base of support.” Balance training helps improve performance, reduce injuries, and enhance rehabilitation. However, balance training isn’t just for athletes, it can help improve muscle strength in your legs, increase confidence in activities of daily living, and reduce falls. Standing on one foot doing any activity is a great way to improve balance.
Do you know that February is American Heart Month? Physical activity, specifically aerobic activity or “cardio” is one of the best things to do for a healthy heart. When done consistently, cardio exercise can strengthen your heart muscle, improve your heart’s ability to pump blood through your body, and lower your risk for coronary heart disease.
Cardio exercise involves movement of large muscle groups, like arms and legs, and makes your heart beat faster and you to breath harder than normal. Examples of cardio exercise include walking, running, swimming, and bicycling. You can also engage in cardio without formally “exercising.” Activities like dancing and gardening can also get your heart rate up!
Your core is more than just your abs, it is layers of deep muscles that support your stomach, back, hips, pelvis, spine, and butt. A strong core supports good posture, balance, and movement of your extremities. It’s important to exercise your core to increase strength and stabilization. When most people think about working your core, sit-ups come to mind, but there are many more exercises that you can try. For core stabilization try plank, side plank, floor cobra, and floor bridge, while core strengthening can be done through bird dogs, dead bugs, bicycle crunches, mountain climbers, and Russian twists.
You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to engage in resistance and weight training. When done properly, resistance training can improve strength and muscle tone, decrease fat, and improve bone density.
With any new exercise, it’s important to start slow. I usually recommend starting with bodyweight exercises, then progressing to resistances bands, cable suspension, and weights (weight machines and free weights). If you are trying to lose weight, resistance training is key. Not only will it help you burn more calories, but it will also reduce body fat while preserving and increasing lean muscle mass.
Finally, even if you don’t have time for a formal workout, you can still find ways to increase your physical activity through non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which is any movement throughout the day outside of formal exercise. You can increase your NEAT by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from the grocery store, doing chores around your house, playing with your children, and even chewing gum!
What form of exercise sounds best to you? I encourage you to give them all a try! I promise your heart, mind, and waistline will thank you! Now get up and move, it's time to be fit & fabulous!
Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.