It’s easy to get caught up in the latest fitness fads and exercise extremes. Every other ad is for a new piece of equipment that sheds fat faster, or a scientifically advanced workout program to get ripped quickly. The results are attractive, but the reality is that fads don’t last and extremes aren’t sustainable. What’s more, physical fitness shouldn’t be determined by a physique, but rather the ability to meet individual goals and live a desired lifestyle.
Whether it’s climbing a mountain or a set of stairs, focusing on the basics is important to reaching any fitness goal. Bayhealth Exercise Specialist, Michelle Smith, breaks down the three basic elements of exercise – cardio, strength and stretching – and why each is essential to overall physical fitness.
Cardio exercise is any movement that elevates a person’s heartrate above resting. A strong, healthy heart and cardiovascular system is essential for everyday endurance. Actions like walking and climbing stairs will be easier when intentional cardio exercise is performed on a regular basis.
Jumping jacks, marching in place and swimming are some examples of simple cardio exercise.
Strength training is exercising using resistance to challenge muscles beyond normal exertion. Resistance can be added with weights, resistance bands or even a can of beans. Simply utilizing bodyweight can also be sufficient depending on the goal. Things like sitting down and standing up, picking up a child, or carrying the groceries inside are easier with a strong body.
Squats, pushups and planks are examples of simple strength moves that can be performed with bodyweight or added resistance. Sometimes, cardio and strength can be combined when a strength routine is challenging enough to increase heart rate.
Stretching is simply the loosening and lengthening of muscles. It should be done both before and after exercise to increase flexibility, help prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness. Stretching is also a great way to relieve tension and relax, even on the off-days. Loose, flexible muscles are important in all types of movement and can be especially helpful in everyday activities like getting dressed, bathing and cleaning.
There are different ways to stretch and it looks different for everyone. Stretch all muscles, even the ones that don’t feel tight, to maintain overall mobility.
Incorporating the basic elements of exercise in every workout is the most effective way to meet personal fitness goals. The combinations and time spent will vary depending on the goal, but when in doubt, always bring it back to the basics. Tune out the noise of the “fitness industry” and remember that any intentional movement that increases heart rate, challenges muscles, and stretches the body is beneficial to overall physical fitness and well-being.
Be sure to consult a medical professional if there are concerns about beginning or altering an exercise routine.
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