Why regular exercise is beneficial for you, and why you don’t necessarily require a personal trainer to build you the perfect program! We all have different exercise preferences, abilities, and bodies, so it’s easy to appreciate why some people may feel a personalised exercise program is right for them. But rushing out to consult the experts isn’t required for everyone. Exercise Physiologist, Wellness Coach, and Lifestyle Medicine Practitioner, Bell Silverthorne discusses why we all experience benefits from regular physical activity – regardless of age, shape, or fitness. Bell also shares some tips on how to build your own tailored exercise program!
Building cardiac fitness.
Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) measures how well your body takes in oxygen and delivers it to your muscles and organs during exercise.
Cardiovascular exercise is any activity that increases your heart rate, respiration and circulates oxygen and blood flow throughout the body. This could be exercise like walking, cycling, jogging, rowing, boxing; or playing organised sports like football, netball, basketball, hockey, etc. Don’t forget that more ‘casual’ activities like dancing or jumping on a trampoline can also get your heart rate up!
There are numerous physical and mental benefits of CRF including, lowering your blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and improving your mood and feelings of wellbeing. Generally speaking, cardio exercise improves your overall fitness level and boosts your stamina.
Aim for an intensity where you are just out of breath to get some health benefits. If you are huffing and puffing you can get even greater health benefits.
Building and maintaining our muscular strength and endurance.
Muscular strength relates to your muscle’s ability to exert force. As the name suggests, muscle endurance is how long you can sustain an activity. Examples of exercises that build muscle strength and/or endurance include resistance training like Pilates, weightlifting, and bodyweight exercises such as push-ups or resistance band exercises.
Having good muscular strength and endurance enhances general health. A strong body allows you to perform everyday activities such as lifting a full washing basket or opening a jar lid with more ease.
Building and maintaining your muscle strength also helps bone mass, which helps protect you against osteoporosis, increases your lean muscle mass and therefore your metabolism, and can lower your risk of injury, including low-back pain.
To get the best results, aim for 2 sets of 8-12 reps of each muscle group. You are at a good intensity where you find the first 8-9 fairly comfortable and the last few reps are challenging. Minimising rest between sets can increase your CRF too!
Keeping limber – the importance of flexibility
Flexibility is the ability to move a joint throughout its complete range of motion. Tight muscles around a joint can limit your flexibility. Flexibility is joint specific, so there is no single test for flexibility. For your joints to work optimally, you need to have good range of motion maintained in all joints.
Most of us will show some level of flexibility loss by our 20s. It all boils down to you use your body. Are you often sitting and therefore your hamstrings are in a shortened position? Are you guilty of “tech neck” where you are looking at your phone/device a lot? When you bend your head forward the amount of force on your neck increases dramatically.
Flexibility gains are unfortunately short lived, so stretching every day is ideal. For best results, stretch each muscle group 15-30 seconds, 2-4 times. It’s all about slow and gradual when it comes to stretching.
Don’t be afraid to wobble!
One aspect of fitness which can be overlooked is balance. Balance training involves exercises that challenge your ability to keep still and stable. Challenging your muscles and tendons to keep you stable can reduce your risk of injuries and falls, which is especially important as we get older.
Activities that challenge your stability could include tai chi, yoga, bouncing on a trampoline, walking on uneven ground or hopping on one leg if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. Balance activities can be tailored to suit you. They can range from being very low impact on your body (think standing on one leg but holding onto a chair) up to high impact, like running drills sideways, backwards or zigzagging through cones.
You may not realise it, but balance training can use just about every muscle in your body. You don’t need expensive equipment to perform many of these movements and the exercises can be done anywhere and at any time.
Many of us know elderly and/or frail family and friends where a fall has really compromised their quality of life. So why not practice your balance and start brushing your teeth standing on one leg!
Now to have fun…. And feel good!
Above all, choosing activities you enjoy well make you more likely to do them again. Also tune in and listen to your body. If an activity doesn’t seem to work for your body, modify it or skip it and find something that works better.
So when do I consult an expert?
There is, of course, a place and time for seeking some expert help. Seeing a qualified exercise physiologist or personal trainer can be great if:
you have a complex medical history
you’re not sure where to begin
you would benefit from some extra accountability or motivation
you require help with technique.
Like many things in life, our physical abilities remain a case of use it or lose it. Put differently, you need to keep doing it to reap the rewards. Go forth and be active!