By Brian Wisely
New Year’s Eve has always been a time look back over the past and ahead to the coming year, to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make, and to resolve to follow through on them. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to stick with an exercise program. Sadly, it’s also one that’s usually broken. Why? Well, it’s been said that a person does not achieve a goal for two reasons: first, they don’t know what to do, and/or second, they really don’t understand why they need to do it.
No more excuses.
Following are the “what” and “why” to keeping your resolution to exercise regularly in 2011.
What: A good exercise program should include four key elements.
1. Aerobic exercise. The common examples of aerobic exercise include walking briskly, jogging, biking swimming, or taking part in an aerobic exercise class. A well-structured aerobic exercise program must include the following three elements: frequency – a minimum of three times a week; intensity, which is increased heart rate – invest in a heart rate monitor, it will guide you to exercising at the correct intensity and count calories for you); and time – gradually work up to at least 30 minutes each time you do aerobic exercise. When doing aerobic exercise think of the acronym FIT (Frequency, Intensity, and Time).
2. Resistance training. This form of exercise will help you to build and maintain muscle condition. The most traditional resistance training is done with dumbbells or barbells, but it can take on many other forms as well. Cable machines and pulley systems give great resistance, as do elastic bands. Using your own body weight is another way to give your muscles resistance. Today you have many options when it comes to resistance training – but they all have one thing in common, they will change your life. If you have little or no experience with resistance training, then hire a trainer to show you how. The investment will pay off in spades. You will short-cut the learning process, and be more motivated and held accountable to a regular schedule of resistance training. I suggest resistance training two or three times each week.
3. Flexibility. This is your ability to move your joints through a full range of motion with comfort. There are many ways to go about working on your flexibility. Join a yoga class or a stretch class or have a trainer teach you a flexibility program. Today, many massage therapists will combine massage with stretching. Consistency is the key to achieving an appropriate level of flexibility. Remember, you don’t have to be able to do the splits to have sufficient flexibility.
4. Accountability and motivation. The number one reason most people fail in achieving their weight loss and fitness goals is because they fail to make it a lifestyle. This is where accountability and motivation are most useful. Whether you try it yourself, or work with a professional fitness trainer, you must make exercise a regular part of your lifestyle to reap the rewards that exercise offers. This leads to the why.
Why: No matter what age you begin, or how long you may have been inactive, exercise will always improve your overall well-being by increasing your stamina and energy; strengthening your bones to fight osteoporosis; improving your muscle tone and strength; maintaining flexibility, mobility, and balance; increasing the efficiency of your heart and lungs; and decreasing your blood pressure and resting heart rate.
In conclusion, remember to check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program. Your doctor will support your decision to exercise but may offer you guidance specific to your health condition and age. Consistency is the key to success with exercise, so start slow and increase your program step, by step. If you push yourself too hard at first, you are unlikely to achieve your New Year’s resolution to exercise regularly.
Brian Wisely, a certified personal trainer since 1996, is a lifelong fitness enthusiast, athlete and owner of The Well Personal Fitness Studio.