Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Level Two: Workout Ideas and Recommendations
Think about bowling, softball, or any other type of entry-level team activity. Many people who aren't natural-born athletes love team sports because of the combination of exercise and social interaction. (Mall-walking groups offer the same benefit if you're looking for something less strenuous.)
If group activities aren't for you, start a walking routine, two or three times a week, for 15 to 20 minutes. If you feel like it, jog for a few minutes during each walk. Do a few jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups -- along with stretches -- in the morning before work. Jump rope with your kids or buy yourself a Hula Hoop. Take an in-line skating class, or start going out dancing occasionally with friends.
Dance, tai chi, and yoga classes are enjoyable, low-stress fitness activities. Also, consider buying several exercise tapes and try out fun activities including biking, swimming, horseback riding, or even a regular game of Frisbee with your dog.
Focus, above all, on giving yourself permission to enjoy your physicality. If you can, start getting regular massages. If you belong to a gym, don't feel you must do a strenuous workout every time you're there. Try going occasionally just for the enjoyment of stretching for several minutes and then taking a Jacuzzi, steam, or sauna bath. You'll learn to reconnect with your physicality and rediscover your body as a source of pleasure.
Monday, December 05, 2011
Level One: Workout Ideas and Recommendations
Begin by expanding your definition of exercise: You don't need to run, sweat, or grunt -- any opportunity to partake in activity counts as exercise!
If you feel uncomfortable going to a gym, a 10-minute walk, twice weekly, is an excellent first step toward better fitness. If you enjoy and can afford it, get a regular massage as well. Consider buying a good beginner's exercise tape, too. (A tip: rent exercise videos from your local library and try them out to see which you enjoy.) Another great activity is gardening, an underrated form of stress reduction and exercise.
Get in touch with your physicality by using a Jacuzzi or sauna after a cool shower, or just by taking a bubble bath. Afterward, try some gentle stretching, perhaps followed by another cool-down shower and Jacuzzi. A facial is another good way to reconnect your physical and mental being.
If you feel daring, consider karate, a dance class, or bowling. Enjoy the activities you pick, but don't make yourself continue with them any longer than you want to; for instance, don't force yourself to bowl three games if you feel like bowling only one. Remember that your goal is to make yourself healthier and fitter by nurturing yourself and reducing stress.
Friday, December 02, 2011
Home Exercise Equipment
Exercise doesn't have to be done at the gym. You can work out in the comfort of your own home. And with calesthenic-type exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups, and sit-ups, you can use the resistance of your own weight to condition your body. To boost your strength and aerobic capacity, you may also want to invest in some home exercise equipment.
Experts offer their thoughts on some popular home exercise items:
• Treadmill. This best-selling piece of equipment is great for cardiovascular exercise. Start out walking at a low intensity for 30 minutes and applying the talk test. Depending on how you do, adjust the intensity, incline, and/or time accordingly.
• Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells make up this category of strength-training equipment. Dumbbells are recommended for beginners.
• Other strength training equipment. This includes weight stacks (plates with cables and pulleys), flexible bands, and flexible rods. Flexible bands are good for beginners, especially since they come with instructions.
• Exercise ball. Although instructions and/or a companion video can accompany this gadget, beginners may use exercise balls improperly. Some people fall off or can't keep the ball still, but if you enjoy working out with an exercise ball, it can provide a good workout.
• Exercise videos and DVDs. Before working out with a home exercise video or DVD, watch through it at least once to observe the structure and proper form of the workout. To further improve form, working out in front of a mirror or having someone else watch you do the exercise.
Thursday, December 01, 2011
Sample Workouts for Beginners
Before beginning any fitness routine, it's important to warm up, then do some light stretching. Save the bulk of the stretching for after the workout.
Once you're warmed up, experts recommend three different types of exercise for overall physical fitness: cardiovascular activity, strength conditioning, and flexibility training. These don't all have to be done at once, but doing each on a regular basis will result in balanced fitness.
• Cardiovascular activity. Start by doing an aerobic activity, like walking or running, for a sustained 20-30 minutes, four to five times a week, says Bryant. To ensure you're working at an optimum level, try the "talk test": Make sure you can carry on a basic level of conversation without being too winded. But if you can easily sing a song, you're not working hard enough.
• Strength conditioning. Start by doing one set of exercises targeting each of the major muscle groups. Bryant suggests using a weight at which you can comfortably perform the exercise eight to 12 times in a set. When you think you can handle more, gradually increase either the weight, the number of repetitions, or number of sets. To maximize the benefits, do strength training at least twice a week. Never work the same body part two days in a row.
• Flexibility training. The American College on Exercise recommends doing slow, sustained static stretches three to seven days per week. Each stretch should last 10-30 seconds.
To learn how to perform certain exercises, consider hiring a personal trainer for a session or two, or take advantage of free sessions offered when you join a gym.
Thursday, December 01, 2011
Even long-term exercisers may have misconceptions about exactly what some fitness terms mean. Here are some definition of words and phrases you're likely to encounter:
• Aerobic/cardiovascular activity. These are exercises that are strenuous enough to temporarily speed up your breathing and heart rate. Running, cycling, walking, swimming, and dancing fall in this category.
• Maximum Heart Rate is based on the person's age. An estimate of a person's maximum age-related heart rate can be obtained by subtracting the person's age from 220.
• Flexibility training or stretching. This type of workout enhances the range of motion of joints. Age and inactivity tend to cause muscles, tendons, and ligaments to shorten over time. Contrary to popular belief, however, stretching and warming up are not synonymous. In fact, stretching cold muscles and joints can make them prone to injury.
• Strength, weight, or resistance training. This type of exercise is aimed at improving the strength and function of muscles. Specific exercises are done to strengthen each muscle group. Weight lifting and exercising with stretchy resistance bands are examples of resistance training activities, as are exercises like pushups in which you work against the weight of your own body.
• Set. Usually used in discussing strength training exercises, this term refers to repeating the same exercise a certain number of times. For instance, a weight lifter may do 10 biceps curls, rest for a few moments, then perform another "set" of 10 more biceps curls.
• Repetition or "rep." This refers to the number of times you perform an exercise during a set. For example, the weight lifter mentioned above performed 10 reps of the bicep curl exercise in each set.
• Warm up. This is the act of preparing your body for the stress of exercise. The body can be warmed up with light intensity aerobic movements like walking slowly. These movements increase blood flow, which in turn heats up muscles and joints. "Think of it as a lube job for the body," Bryant explains. At the end of your warm-up, it's a good idea to do a little light stretching.
• Cool down. This is the less-strenuous exercise you do to cool your body down after the more intense part of your workout. For example, after a walk on a treadmill, you might walk at a reduced speed and incline for several minutes until your breathing and heart rate slow down. Stretching is often part of a cool down.
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