Regular physical activity can help you live not only a longer life but a better life. When continuing or starting a fitness habit, be sure you are including a complete program of strength, cardio (endurance training), and neuromotor activities (balance and flexibility training). We need at least 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week (or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity activity). Consult with your physician before starting your fitness journey or changing your routine.
Good things come in 3s
- Strength or resistance training includes movements such as squats, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups, and planks using weights, resistance bands, or just your body weight, shoveling snow, and carrying heavy loads (such as groceries and heavy gardening). It is widely accepted that physical exercise, especially resistance training, is effective in disease, risk, reduction, and can even improve cognition.
- Cardio or endurance training includes any physical activity that moves large muscle groups in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period of time. Brisk walking, running, biking, dancing, and swimming are all examples of cardio or aerobic activities. Over time, regular aerobic activity makes the cardiorespiratory system stronger.
- Neuromotor or functional fitness training includes balance, coordination, agility, proprioception (the ability to sense movement, force, and body position; often called the sixth sense) and flexibility in activities such as tai chi or yoga. This exercise component is often forgotten, yet it can improve critical aspects of your training such as balance, agility, coordination, ability to react to a physical challenge, and promotion of fluid movement which can help prevent injury.
Build your routine
- Spread physical activity across at least three days a week and balance your routine to include the fitness trifecta (strength, cardio, and neuromotor).
- Complete strength on at least two days a week. Focus on different major muscle groups (legs, hips, chest, back, abdomen, shoulders, and arms) in each strength training session and work toward completing them all within a week. Aim for 20 minutes of neuromotor training on at least two days a week.
- Schedule for success. Pick the time of day that makes the most sense to you and your schedule.
- Do what you love. Planning fitness activities that you enjoy gives you something to look forward to which can brighten your outlook and mood.
- Practice acceptance. Focus on starting small and improving step by step so you do not get discouraged. Even 5 to 10-minute segments can be beneficial.
Consistency vs. Perfection
- Move more and sit less throughout the day such as: take the stairs vs. the elevator, park in the farthest parking spot when you go shopping, walk the dog, trek to the store, or get a walking pad for your home office.
- Find a fitness friend or two. Research shows that we will stay more consistent if we have someone relying on us. No fit friends nearby? Check out social media platforms for exercise connections which can help keep you consistent with your fitness plan and boost motivation.
- If you’re a morning exerciser, lay out your workout clothes to eliminate delays for getting started. If you exercise after work, pack your clothes or change into your workout wear as soon as you can to avoid distraction.
- Keep a fitness diary using an app, paper, or even a simple calendar. Visual cues can help drive confidence and motivation to keep you on track and take you to the next level.
A regular fitness routine requires time and planning, but it is worth the effort. Improving your fitness will impact your daily outlook by improving your energy levels, optimism, and confidence which can all positively impact your life as well as the people around you.