We all want an efficient exercise regimen but are frequently overwhelmed with how to set up a program to meet our goals. Exercise programs should always include some type of cardiovascular activity coupled with strength training. Set manageable goals and implement these five factors for a well-rounded and effective exercise program.
Mode is how you go about obtaining your goal and is any activity that produces improvement. Improved flexibility and balance, strength and agility and cardiovascular endurance and health will all depend on the mode of exercise. For example, power walking, cross-country skiing and jumping rope are all modes for increasing cardiovascular endurance and burning calories. Yoga and Pilates improve flexibility and balance while plyometric exercises, weight training and body weight exercises improve agility and strength. Be sure to change the mode of exercise every two to three weeks. This isn’t just a suggestion to keep you from getting bored — varying your fitness routine keeps your body from getting into a rut that limits the effectiveness of your exercise.
The amount of physical power used during an exercise, the increase of your heart rate and how you physically feel determines the intensity of an exercise and exercise session. Each specific goal will determine the appropriate level of intensity. Strength-training intensity refers to the amount of body weight or dumbbells, plates, etc., lifted to the point of muscle fatigue or a weight more challenging than the week before. An easy way to determine cardiovascular intensity is by these simple guidelines: vigorous levels of intensity will cause deep and rapid breathing and make it difficult to talk for any length of time. Moderate intensity will cause quick breathing but you’re not out of breath and can still hold a general conversation. Light intensity results in little to no sweating and the ability to converse with ease. To increase your fitness level and sport-related gains, vigorous intensity levels should be your goal. However, alternating between vigorous and moderate will allow your body time to recover and prevent adaptation. If you’re looking to shed a few pounds and to gain overall health benefits, alternating moderate and vigorous intensity levels will do the trick. For optimum results, alternate three days of moderate intensity with two days of vigorous activity.
Increasing the amount of weight lifted and switching up cardio is an important component that influences an exercise program. Progression and moving past your comfort zone will prevent a frustrating plateau and result in reaching your fitness goal without being sidelined. Repeating the same exercises day after day for an extended period of time causes the muscles to adapt. Because of this, it’s important to progress your exercise program every four to six weeks. Progress your strength training by increasing the weight enough so that you are lifting to fatigue to gain strength and muscle. If your goal is to be strong without the bulk, progress from 10-15 reps to 20-25, increasing weight as needed. Cardiovascular activity should increase 10 percent in time or mileage every few weeks, in order to improve endurance and heart health.
Duration is the length of time an activity is performed. The American College of Sports Medicine states that, “…even relatively moderate amounts of physical activity will have positive benefits on health.” A minimum of 30 minutes a day is a good starting point for most people. Depending on your goal, cardiovascular activity might increase in duration. Start with 30 minutes each session and increase as needed.
Frequency of exercise, or, how many days a week you work out, has the most influence over an exercise program. Exercising once a week or twice a month simply will not give you the health benefits needed for a quality life. It’s important to schedule exercise into your calendar as you would any other meeting or appointment. Start by exercising three times a week and work up to five days as your schedule allows. The easiest form of cardio is to go for a walk. It’s free and you can do it anywhere. You don’t have to trek to the gym or need fancy equipment to get in your weight training either. Dumbbells, rubber tubing and other exercise modalities are inexpensive and can be purchased at most super centers. Purchase a variety of these items along with an exercise DVD or two for your home. Having these items on hand makes it easy to exercise and will keep you motivated to get moving.