CREATING YOUR OWN EXERCISE PROGRAM – Part 1: Choosing the Right Program
Are you looking for a tool to help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight, increase your energy levels and possibly even help you live longer? Surprisingly, this magic tool does exist and it’s called exercise! We’ve all been told how important exercise is, but how important is it really? It is proven that regular exercise, partnered with a healthy diet, is a key component in helping:
- – Reduce the risk of chronic conditions (diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis etc.)
- – Maintain healthy weight and bone mass
- – Lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels
If you believe you are ready to make a change and a commitment to a workout program, you can start the process of becoming your own personal trainer! The first step is figuring out what kind of program is right for you. You should begin by, first, assessing your current health and/or fitness status and decide what you wish to achieve from your exercise program. This can be done by asking yourself…
- “Am I starting a program lose or maintain weight?”
- “Do I want to build muscle or tone up?”
- “Do I want to improve my flexibility, posture and mobility?”
- “Do I want to improve my cardio/aerobic endurance?”
These kinds of questions will help clearly establish your goals and help you decide what type of exercise program is best for you.
There are numerous types of exercise programs to choose from including, cardiovascular training, resistance training, flexibility, posture, speed and mobility. Knowing the purpose of the programs and the benefits associated with each of them can assist in the designing of your program. The two main programs that we will focus on during this series, that most people use, are cardiovascular (aerobic) training and resistance training.
CARDIOVASCULAR (AEROBIC) TRAINING
It is easy to forget that your heart is also a muscle that requires exercise to remain strong and healthy. When your heart is strong, it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body. If your heart can work less to pump, the force of pressure against your arteries decreases, leading to overall lower blood pressure. A strong cardiovascular system also allows more oxygen to be delivered to the cells in your muscles, which enables your cells to burn more fat during exercise and even during inactivity. Cardio exercise is any activity that raises your heart rate. These activities include walking, running, cycling, hiking, skiing, swimming, rowing etc. The overall health benefits of cardiovascular training are vast and include:
- – Improved body composition and weight control
- – Improved cardiovascular endurance – ability of the heart and lungs to absorb, transport and utilize oxygen over longer periods of physical activity
- – Greater flexibility
- – Reduced stress
- – Improved sleeping patterns and energy levels
The main purpose of doing resistance training is to increase strength, tone, muscle mass and/or muscular endurance. This is accomplished by performing exercises that cause the muscles to contract against an external resistance (body weight, rubber resistance bands, dumbbells, water bottles etc.). Regularly doing resistance training can result in a lowered heart rate and lowered blood pressure, especially after exercise, leading to reduced risk of heart disease. The benefits don’t stop at the heart, resistance training can also help:
- – Reduce body fat
- – Increase lean muscle mass
- – Increase bone density, strength and joint flexibility
- – Improve heart functions
- – Improve mobility for seniors
When it comes to designing your own program, you are not limited to only being able to do one specific program at a time. A well-rounded exercise program includes both aerobic exercises and resistance training exercises, but these don’t have to be done in the same workout session.
Now that you have identified what type of program will best suit your fitness goals, Part 2 of the series will cover how to properly structure your exercise program with warm up, conditioning and cool down phases.
It is important to speak with your physician before starting any new exercise program, especially if you are not used to regular exercise.