Did you know that there are several elements to fitness – cardio, strength and flexibility? Each plays an important role in your fitness journey and is necessary to your overall health. Take a minute to see where you are with each of them.
Cardiovascular exercise, or aerobic fitness, is any exercise that uses large muscle groups over a long period of time. Cardio has almost too many benefits to name, including lowering your risk for heart disease, improving sleep, assisting with weight management and even decreasing depression. Activities include walking, running, biking, swimming, etc.
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults are recommended to get at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity per week. Sound like a lot? Remember, you don’t need to complete these activities all at once. They can add up quickly during your week if you add them in a little at a time.
- A 20-minute walk with co-workers
- A brisk walk around the soccer field during your child’s practice
- An after-dinner bike ride
Strength training, or resistance training, involves exercises that are used to build strength. These are typically associated with weight-lifting, resistance bands or body weight exercises. Strength training exercises help you gain and maintain lean body mass. As we age, our muscle mass decreases and strength training helps protect against this. Strength training has other benefits, too. It helps with weight control, reduces your risk of injury and makes everyday activities easier. It also takes minimal time. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least two sessions per week working all major muscle groups.
Flexibility is the range of motion you have around a joint. It’s important for balance, agility, daily activity and reducing your risk of injury. This is even more important with aging.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults engage in flexibility exercises 2-3 days per week. Adding this type of activity in can be as simple as doing some stretching exercises after a workout and holding a stretch for 10-30 seconds. Some choose other, more structured activities such as yoga or pilates.
Putting it All Together
For many, it can seem overwhelming to fit all the different types of physical activity into their plan. Like adding to or changing any plan, things take time and changes can be gradual. Usually, when changing a plan, it’s best to go slowly and increase over time instead of making major changes all at once.
Start by taking a look at your current fitness plan to see where you are. Next, decide where you want to be and determine your goals from there. For example, if you are an avid walker who wants to build strength, begin by adding 5-10 minutes of strength exercises before you walk as part of your warm-up. If you are a biker and you feel you need to improve your flexibility, try attending a weekly yoga class or check out an online stretching video. Just a few additions can have a big impact on your health!