- Contributed by Tom Stickley, Exercise Physiologist at The EIRMC Wellness Center

We live in a world filled with technology and conveniences abounding, so it's not surprising that many fall short of meeting the minimum standards for physical activity. You may be thinking, “What standard?” For “modest” health benefits, the amount most people should shoot for is 30 minutes of elevated-heart-rate activity. This can be something as simple as housework, walking your dog, or riding a bike with your kids to school. Just a little something extra to get you moving more.

However, when it comes to a truly structured exercise program most people's first thought is, “Where do I begin?!” As an Exercise Physiologist, it is my job to inform you. In this post, I want to talk about 3 important facets of a balanced exercise program; flexibility, cardio training, and resistance training.

Flexibility — a degree of movement that is possible within a given joint and associated muscles

  • To increase range of motion at a joint, stretches should be held for around 30 seconds.
  • Static stretching, where the muscles are stretched and held beyond resting length, is best for increasing range of motion. For example: bending down to touch your toes and holding the position.
  • Stretches should be to the point of mild discomfort, but not painful.
  • Stretching can be done daily, but at a minimum of 3 days per week.

Cardio — exercise done for a prolonged period of time (aerobic), in which heart rate remains elevated

  • A cardio session should be preceded by a warm-up; i.e. walking on a treadmill, elliptical or biking. Warm-ups should be done at more mild intensity in order to prepare the body for exercise.
  • For modest health benefits, aim to accumulate 30 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.
  • For increasing your fitness level aim for 3-5 days per week, at a vigorous intensity, for 20-60 minutes.
  • At a vigorous intensity, a person should be able to carry on a conversation, but in broken sentences due to breathing harder.

Strength — (resistance training) using either machines or free weights to increase muscular strength

  • A session of resistance training should be preceded by a warm-up, similar to a cardio warm-up
  • If your goal is to build strength, then the weight should be enough that 6 or less reps are a challenge.
  • If your goal is to increase endurance, then lower the weight and shoot for 15 reps.
  • Most individuals are best served to stay about 8-12 reps, to get a mix of both.
  • It is important to include all major muscle groups; chest, back arms, legs, and core.
  • Multi-joint (compound) exercises should be done before single-joint (isolation). For example: a seated row will target most of the back muscles with the biceps assisting. This is a compound exercise and should be done before moving on to an isolation biceps curl etc.

The most important factor in all of this is enjoyment! Choose activities you can see yourself doing long-term. If you're new to exercising, undertaking an exercise program can seem overwhelming. It takes consistency, dedication, and sacrifice - but the results and increased quality of life are well worth it!

For more information, or help developing a personalized fitness plan, call the EIRMC Wellness Center at 535-4200 to schedule an appointment today!