Many of us want to improve our level of fitness, but don’t know what to do or how to begin. Others have begun a fitness program, but don’t know what types of activities to include to make their program more comprehensive and healthful. Yet others have been exercising for a while, but don’t know how to keep going or how to make their exercise activities appropriately challenging. Most of us have encountered such questions and the lack of sufficient answers may represent roadblocks to our effective participation in regular vigorous exercise. The good news is practical answers are available and adaptable to all persons, regardless of their age of current level of physical fitness.
Of course, the most important thing about exercise is actually doing some. And, although any exercise is better than none at all, achieving and sustaining optimal good health requires doing at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. What is needed is the will to commit to and ongoingly engage in such activity. For most people, the hard part is getting started. But once you choose to take action on your own behalf, the many benefits and sheer physical joy in doing something that is so good for you pretty much take over. You find yourself looking forward with glad anticipation to the next round of exercise and it becomes easier and easier to get up in the morning and go out for your walk or run or go to the pool or the gym. Not too long after you begin your exercise program, you find these activities have become an integral, important, necessary component of your life and your daily routine.
A complete program of regular vigorous exercise consists of both cardiorespiratory exercise and strength training. Cardiorespiratory exercise1,2 is directed at causing your heart and lungs to become stronger, with the result that your heart pumps more blood on each beat and your lungs take in more air on each breath. Thus, cardiorespiratory exercise makes your heart and lungs more efficient. Tasks that previously left you huffing and puffing now are easy to accomplish. Regular cardiorespiratory exercise puts a new spring in your step. Your heart and lungs are now doing what they were designed to do, without unneeded effort or strain.
Similarly, a comprehensive strength training program, one that trains your chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs, increases the overall strength of your musculoskeletal system.3 Typically, combined with a healthy diet, strength training causes people to lose fat and add lean muscle mass. The increased sense of muscular power you derive from strength training also leads to an increased sense of confidence and well-being.
We can choose that every day is a training day. We’re training for life, that is, for a lifetime of health and well-being. The types and forms of exercise you should do are those that work for you. These activities are the ones you enjoy and feel good about doing. As always, the key is to get started and keep going.
1Hellsten Y, Nyberg M: Cardiovascular Adaptations to Exercise Training. Compr Physiol 6(1):1-32, 2015
2Burich R, et al: Aerobic training alone or combined with strength training affects fitness in elderly: Randomized trial. Eur J Sport Sci 15(8):773-783, 2015
3Orlando G, et al: Neuromuscular dysfunction in type 2 diabetes: underlying mechanisms and effect of resistance training. Diabetes Metab Res Rev 32(1):40-50, 2016