Consider a Strategic Mix of Exercise to Maximize Health Benefits
to Maximize Health Benefits
-by Mark Becker
For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be on both sides of the fence when it came to my muscle tone and my cardiovascular health. Many people believe these objectives are contradictory. But this is not necessarily true. If I were to describe my physique, I’d say it was more muscular than lean. I have always admired that lean “ripped” look in both men and women. I strive to look this way. But, as I age, this becomes increasingly difficult.
How does one maintain strength and cardiovascular health simultaneously that yields that often elusive “ripped” look?
Well, before I get into that, I wanted to provide a little detail on the benefits exercise provides. Studies show that people who exercise regularly have a much higher quality of life than those with sedentary lifestyles.
The traditional benefits of exercise cannot be understated. If you want to feel better, have more energy and even live longer, exercise is the very best medicine. The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are undisputable and yours for the taking, regardless of age, sex or physical ability. In fact, according to mayoclinic.com, exercise:
- Controls weight
- Helps to combat health conditions and diseases
- Improves mood
- Increases energy
- promotes better sleep
- Significantly increases libido
- Improves cognition. Studies suggest that people who start exercising in their 60s can significantly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in their 70s. The risk drops even further if they start exercising in their 40s or 50s
- Elevates confidence
- Can be fun
According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, despite all the benefits exercise offers, only 3 in 10 American adults get the recommended amount of physical activity.
There are three primary categories of exercise:
- Cardiovascular Training
- Core (flexibility and balance)
- Resistance Training
A strategic combination of the above will go a long way toward obtaining that peak fitness level you desire. That said, which activities you do, how often and with what intensity, depend on your current health, goals, and age. Let’s take a look at each category of exercise:
Cardiovascular training is an activity designed to increase endurance by improving the performance of the heart and lungs which distribute oxygen to the muscles. Cardiovascular training is also a key for weight management because it burns so many calories. This type of training uses large muscle groups and also raises the heart rate for at least 30 minutes.
As previously mentioned, cardiovascular training is a very important part of any health regimen. Ideally, it should be done at least three times a week for a minimum of 60 minutes each session.
Cardiovascular training is not limited to running and can include the following exercises, among other
- Elliptical machine
- Power Walking
- Dance (many different types)
Incorporating more than one cardiovascular exercise into your routine, also known as cross-training, can increase your level of fitness and really burn fat.
If your objective is to burn fat, your target heart rate should be 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. Beginners should start at a lower target heart rate – about 50% of your maximum heart rate. The great thing about targeting 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate is that 85% of the calories burned will come from fat. If you eat relatively healthy, you will begin to see profound results in your body image within a few short weeks.
If your goals are to maximize the performance of your cardiovascular and respiratory system and increase your endurance, maintain a heart rate of 70% to 80% of your maximum heart rate.
A strong core is a necessity for anyone who wants to enjoy stability and independence in movement. The core is key to being able to correctly train with weights or bands, which is central to growing muscle.
Our bones give us structure. When our muscles pull on those bones at various angles, forces are generated which impact movement. One of the most important and overlooked muscle groups of the body is the core. With a weak core you can only tap into a smaller percentage of your overall strength. Morever, a weak core is a recipe for injury.
The core is made up of the rectus abdominis (six pack), the obliques, the back extensors, the lower head of the latisimus dorsi, (wings of the back) small spinal muscles (multifids muscles), transverse abdominis, and the glutes. These muscles all work in concert to stabilize the human body in space and in motion. They fire and work all day, even while standing still. They also absorb shock and stabilize forces during joint movement.
Training the core can have a profound impact on your particular sport. A strong core provides added range of motion and stability. A strong core enables you to properly perform movement patterns that may have once been challenging or impossible. And an increased range of motion means a decreased chance of injury.
The reason why many injuries occur while doing resistance training is because of weakness or extreme tightness in muscles of the core. When these muscles are not firing correctly, the force of the movement is passed down to weaker muscle groups. That is when you start to experience sprains, strains and tears.
Think of your body as a chain of intricate systems. Your core is the epicenter of your muscular system. A strong core allows the upper body to act as a counterbalance for all movement beneath your feet. In other words, your core controls balance and keeps you on your feet in changing environments.
Hence, if you are a runner, a strong core will give you a more powerful stride. If you play golf or baseball, a strong core will give you a more powerful swing. The list goes on and on…
If you are interested in specific core exercises, RealSimple.com has provided “6 Easy Exercises to Strengthen Your Core” here: realsimple.com
Resistance Training is another name for weight training or exercising your muscles using an opposing force, such as weights or bands. This type of training requires the use of resistance tools to increase muscle size and strength.
During resistance training, muscle fibers are initially broken down-these are called micro-tears of muscle fibers. In ensuing days, the muscle fibers heal and grow stronger to meet the demands that have been placed on them. That said, rest days are as important as the exercise itself.
Resistance training can be used to achieve a variety of beneficial results. Most people benefit from two to three resistance workouts weekly in conjunction with regular aerobic exercise. Many people who want to lose weight don’t incorporate resistance training into their routine because they are afraid adding muscle will actually put on weight.
The truth is that muscle growth is a very slow process. It requires a well-designed program of diet and exercise to be followed for years before you see significant change in muscle tone. In fact, including resistance training in your regimen will increase the strength and endurance of your muscles, which will improve cardiovascular efficiency. This, in turn, will burn more calories and fat.
Resistance training provides a wide range of benefits including:
Increased bone density: Regular resistance training helps to maintain peak bone mass. From the age of 30, bone mass begins to decline. Women have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. In fact, from the age of 40, women will lose approximately 0.5 – 1% of their bone mass annually. And post menopause bone loss will increase to a 2% per year. Resistance training can help to maintain bone density and delay this degenerative process.
Improved Body Image: Increased muscle tone is best achieved by completing a combination of resistance and cardiovascular workouts.
Increased strength: Resistance training flat out makes you stronger which significantly improves quality of life.
Increased metabolic rate: Muscle tissue is metabolically active. The more of it you have the more calories you will burn – even at rest! This makes weight management much easier.
As is the case with many aspects of fitness, balance is essential when combining cardiovascular, core and resistance training into your routine. While these three categories of exercise are often considered incompatible, when done properly, they will work together to help you reach your fitness goals.
about the author…Mark Becker is an Account Manager for Vivion, a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, CA. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 15 years. Mark has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor’s in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For almost 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 100 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement and homeopathic regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow Mark Becker on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/marklbecker. Follow Mark on Twitter at https://twitter.com/becker_mark. For more information, access vivioninc.com or EnergyatLast.com.
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