How to Keep Your Body Fit and Strong
Oftentimes the hardest part of keeping your body fit and strong is sticking to an exercise plan. To keep your body fit and strong, choose activities that fit your personality. Do you like to play on a team or go solo? Do you prefer going to the gym or walking in the park? Whatever you like to do, there’s an activity you can choose to help keep your body in good shape.
Evaluating Your Fitness and Your Goals
Know your current fitness level: Consider getting a physical exam before beginning any exercise program. This is especially true if you have medical problems, especially related to the heart, lungs, kidneys, or joints.
- The older you are, the more important it is to see a physician before you begin moderate or strenuous exercise.
- If you have quit smoking in the past six months, you should also consider a visit to the doctor before getting started.
- Remember that you should not be ashamed of where you currently stand. It is all about where you are heading!
Choose your target fitness level: Figure out the level of fitness you are trying to achieve. Knowing your goals will help keep you motivated to exercise.
- Health-related fitness requires that you maintain a minimum level of fitness for your age to reduce your risk of illnesses that can be caused by lack of exercise or poor nutrition.
- Performance-related fitness concerns the activities you want to do. Some occupations, such as firefighter, require higher levels of fitness, as do some recreational activities, such as hiking.
Set your goals for your aerobic health: Aerobic exercise makes that body’s cardiovascular system the heart and lungs more efficient at using and distributing oxygen through the blood. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises Americans ages 18-64 to do at least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
- Moderate intensity is defined as any activity that burns around five calories per minute.
- Engage in the activity for at least ten minutes at a time: shorter intervals will not have the same benefits.
Set your strength and endurance goals: Strength training is designed to increase your endurance and to make your muscles bigger and stronger. Research has shown that strength training can increase bone strength, improve joint function, and reduce one’s potential for injury.
- Strength training is also known as anaerobic exercise, because during this type of exercise, the body uses energy that does not require oxygen.
Set realistic goals: Setting unobtainable goals will only result in frustration and may cause you to give up when you’re actually making great progress. Talk to a trainer or your doctor about what you want to achieve and they can help you set realistic goals and a reasonable time-frame.
Strengthening Your Heart and Lungs
Just start walking! Many forms of aerobic exercise do not require any special equipment, which means you can do them for free, anywhere, anytime. Such activities include stair climbing, jumping jacks, walking, and jogging.
- Aerobic activities that require some equipment or a particular location include jumping rope, swimming, and riding a bicycle.
- A good rule of thumb is that a body in motion is easier to keep in motion. You should move as much as possible throughout the day!
Clean the house: Many household activities are also forms of aerobic exercise. Don’t forget to include time spent gardening, vacuuming, shoveling snow, or actively playing with children.
Strengthening Your Muscles and Increasing Endurance
Train with weights: Weight training has been shown to improve bone density and to prevent weight gain.
- Lifting heavy weights less often will improve your strength, while lifting lighter weights more frequently will improve your endurance.
- Choose between free weights or weight machines, or consider a mix of both!
Consider bodyweight training: Although there are many gyms that emphasize weight training, strength exercise can be done without any equipment, such as push-ups, squats, and lunges.
- Because you don’t need equipment, bodyweight training is great for those who travel, who don’t have time to go to the gym, or who don’t have room for a free weights or a machine.
Focus on your core: The muscles in your abdomen, back, and pelvis are involved in all physical activities, from sitting to tennis. Strengthening your core can also help prevent back pain, one of the most common reasons Americans visit the doctor.
- Do Pilates. A popular form of exercise created by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s, Pilates focuses on strengthening core muscles such as abdominals, lower back, hips and thighs.
- Explore isometric exercise. This type of exercise focusing on holding certain poses for few seconds or minutes. Poses like plank, bird dog, and bridge are particularly useful for strengthening core muscles.
Practice yoga: Yoga has been practiced for both physical and mental well-being since originating in India thousands of years ago. In addition to generating strength, yoga provides other physical benefits such as flexibility and balance.
- Like many other activities, yoga can be done at home or in a studio. However, it is important to make sure you are doing the poses correctly to avoid injury, and a yoga instructor can provide feedback.
- Because it focuses on the mind as well as the body, yoga is designed to be more than a physical exercise. It is a philosophy as much as it is an exercise program.
Make exercise a habi: You are more likely to stick to an exercise program if you make it an automated behavior, like brushing your teeth, which you do no matter what.
- Neuroscience research has shown that it takes time to create a new habit up to 66 days. But that means that if you stick with exercise for just two months, you will form a new habit that can last a lifetime.
Exercise with others: Research shows that people who exercise with others enjoy exercise more than those who exercise alone.
- A “workout buddy” can also make it more likely that you will take that six a.m. run!
- A personal trainer can provide a personalized exercise program and motivation.