Fitness First: Variety is Key

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell December 15, 2011 01:15

Many people tell me how great they feel while participating in an exercise program – then, something happens and they get out of the routine.

Making exercise part of your daily routine is the easiest way to stick to the program, but you may want to change things once in awhile. For example, walking is a great program, easy to stick to and free. But if that’s all you do, you may be setting yourself up for injury or boredom.
Cross-training is a great way to get into shape with a variety of exercises. It reduces repetitive stress injuries caused by overusing the same muscles. Your exercise program should have variety to prevent overusing specific muscle groups and underusing others. Because muscles tend to adapt to movements, changing your exercise pattern can improve your fitness and overall health.

For maximum benefits, every exercise program should include these elements, according to the American College of Sports Medicine:

Aerobic activities: These use major muscle groups for a sustained period of time (20 minutes or more). Examples: walking, running, swimming, aerobics, stationary biking, rowing, or cycling. These exercises, which are the most beneficial for maintaining health and preventing disease, should be done three to five times per week.

Strength training: This involves building muscle and bone fitness with resistance training, such as using weights or bands, or doing push-ups. Maintaining muscle mass will boost your metabolism and help you avoid falls. Do these two to three times a week for 10 minutes.
Flexibility: Slow, steady stretching strengthens and tones skeletal muscle, ligaments and joints. It gently increases blood flow to the muscles and can reduce joint pain. Hold stretches for 10 to 30 seconds.

Balance: These exercises are vital to preventing falls and staying independent. Practice them in a safe environment. Holding onto a stable object, stand on one leg for 20 seconds, then change. Practice good posture with balance poses.

Maintaining an ideal weight is also critical to wellness. Ideally, women should have less than 30 percent body fat, and men less than 25 percent. Body composition can be measured with specific tools, or by measuring the waistline. At the navel, women should be less than 37 inches, and men less than 40 inches. The quickest way to measure is your favorite old blue jeans (remember when the waist fit?).

Cross-training can incorporate several of these elements into your routine. Variety makes exercise more fun, and changing muscle groups helps increase balance and agility. And anyone, at any fitness level, can benefit.

Don’t forget to include recreational activities such as bowling, golfing, fishing, dancing, hiking, skiing, chasing grandchildren and any other fun movements into your cross-training schedule. Prevent exercise burnout and injuries by changing things up!

Krista Howell is an exercise physiologist.

© 2011 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell December 15, 2011 01:15