Exercise – Creating a Great Fitness Plan

The Four Elements of Physical Fitness:

    1. Cardiorespiratory endurance (How well your heart and lungs work as you exercise.)
    2. Muscle strength (How much force your muscles can exert.)
    3. Muscle endurance (How long you can use your muscle strength.)
    4. Flexibility (How well you can use the full range of motion of your joints and muscles.) 

To achieve these four elements of fitness your exercise program should include aerobic activity, strength training, and stretching.

Aerobic Activity 

Warm-up (5–10 minutes) 

Warming up is an essential start to any exercise program.  It ensures your body is prepared for a more rigorous routine.  A good warm up should be a light version of the activity you plan to do.  For example, if you are about to go on a run, you should start with walking and slow jogging.  Add some stretching of your arms, knees, and back.  Always stretch before starting any exercise activity.

Aerobic Activity (at least 25 minutes) 

Aerobic activity enhances cardiorespiratory endurance.  Routine aerobic exercise improves your heart, lungs and muscles and enhances their use of oxygen.  A good aerobic workout will consist of at least five 30-minute moderate-intensity sessions or three 25-minute high-intensity sessions per week.  You can also alternate between moderate and high intensity aerobic activity.

Moderate-intensity exercise means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. You should still be able to carry on a conversation.

High-intensity exercise is more rigorous and will result in a fast heart rate and rapid breathing.

Cool Down (5–10 minutes) 

Cooling down reduces the likelihood of muscle soreness and is essential to ensure you do not become light headed, dizzy or exhibit irregular heartbeat.  Any low-intensity activity will serve as an adequate cool-down.  Just don’t suddenly stop a mid or high intensity activity.

Strength Training 

A good physical fitness plan includes strength training.  Strength training often utilizes weight bearing exercises.  Ideally, these exercises should last 20-30 minutes two or three times each week.  Experts recommend that you engage in 8-10 exercises that engage each of the major muscle groups (upper back, lower back, abdomen, biceps, triceps, chest, quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles).   You should plan to do 8-12 repetitions of each exercise.  Repetitions should be controlled and slow with proper breathing throughout.  Do not increase weights until you no longer feel any difficulty with the number of repetitions in your training program.  Schedule cardio exercise one day and strength training the next.  Plan rest days.

It is very important to breathe regularly while you exercise. If you forget to breathe, you might cause your blood pressure to spike. Remember to exhale as you exert and inhale as you release the movement.

Flexibility Training 

To avoid injury, stretching should be performed after 5–10 minutes of warm-up or after a complete aerobic or strength training workout.  Stretching involves slow and careful lengthening of the muscles.  You should hold a stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat three times.  You should stretch every time you exercise.  Proper stretching should not cause pain.

Mind-body Training

Mind–body exercise improves posture, balance and coordination.  It also develops muscular strength and decreases muscular tension.  A particularly good benefit of some mind-body practices such as yoga is to strengthen core muscles including the abdomen.  Consider incorporating some of these exercise practices into your physical fitness plan.