Outline Your Fitness Plan
Many people treat their health like a bingo game—if they hit the numbers, fine. If not, well, that’s the breaks. But you have control over your fitness, and you must outline a program in order to gain maximum benefits. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports website points to lifelong commitment as key in getting and staying fit. “Exercise must become one of those things that you do without question, like bathing and brushing your teeth,” according to the PCPFS website.
The PCPFS defines fitness this way: "The ability to perform daily tasks vigorously and alertly, with energy left over for enjoying leisure-time activities and meeting emergency demands. It is the ability to endure, to bear up, to withstand stress, to carry on in circumstances where an unfit person could not continue, and is a major basis for good health and well-being.
“Physical fitness involves the performance of the heart and lungs, and the muscles of the body. And, since what we do with our bodies also affects what we can do with our minds, fitness influences to some degree qualities such as mental alertness and emotional stability.”
You know what the benefits of creating a fitness program are, but we’ll list them anyway:
- Heart health: Regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and can reduce the risk of illnesses such as Type II diabetes or heart disease.
- Bone support: Exercise is a good way to build strong, healthy bones and can help slow the bone loss associated with getting older.
- Sense of well-being: Being in good shape can give you more energy, reduce anxiety and depression, improve self-esteem, and help you better manage stress.
- Social life: Staying active is a great way to have fun, make new friends, and spend quality time with family.
- Physical appearance: You look better when you're in shape. Staying active helps you tone muscles and maintain a healthy weight - and can even improve your posture.
How to begin? First off, if you’re over 35 and have been inactive for several years, you should check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. S/he may recommend a graded exercise test. If you have any of the following conditions you need to check with your doctor: High blood pressure; heart trouble; family history of early stroke or heart attack deaths; frequent dizzy spells; extreme breathlessness after mild exertion; arthritis or other bone problems; severe muscular, ligament or tendon problems; other known or suspected disease.
The components of physical fitness include four different areas, and each should be considered when putting together your program:
- Cardiorespiratory Endurance - the ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues, and to remove wastes, over sustained periods of time. Long runs and swims are among the methods employed in measuring this component.
- Muscular Strength - the ability of a muscle to exert force for a brief period of time. Upper-body strength, for example, can be measured by various weight-lifting exercises.
- Muscular Endurance - the ability of a muscle, or a group of muscles, to sustain repeated contractions or to continue applying force against a fixed object. Pushups are often used to test endurance of arm and shoulder muscles.
- Flexibility - the ability to move joints and use muscles through their full range of motion. The sit-and- reach test is a good measure of flexibility of the lower back and backs of the upper legs.
- Body Composition is often considered a component of fitness. It refers to the makeup of the body in terms of lean mass (muscle, bone, vital tissue and organs) and fat mass. An optimal ratio of fat to lean mass is an indication of fitness, and the right types of exercises will help you decrease body fat and increase or maintain muscle mass.
Your exercise program should include something from each of the four basic areas, and each day should begin with a warmup and end with a cooldown. Space your workouts throughout the week and try not to put in consecutive days of hard exercise.
- Warmup: Five to ten minutes of low-intensity exercise such as walking or general movement to get the muscles warmed up and elastic.
- Muscular strength: Two 20-minute sessions per week of weight training is the minimum for increasing strength.
- Muscular endurance: Three 30-minute sessions per week with such exercises as calisthenics, pushups, situps, pull-ups and weight training for all the major muscle groups.
- Cardiorespiratory endurance: At least three 20-minute sessions of continuous aerobic, rhythmic exercise each week, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, jumping rope, rowing, cross-country skiing, etc.
- Flexibility: Ten to fifteen minutes of slow, non-bouncing daily stretching exercises can be included in your warmup and/or cooldown.
- Cooldown: Five to ten minutes of low-intensity exercise to cool your muscles down slowly to avoid injury.