First, let's talk about the 3 basic elements to a fitness program: cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility.
WHAT: activities that get your heart rate up for a sustained period of time: walking, swimming, roller blading, etc.
HOW OFTEN: 30-90 minutes/day pretty much every day. (Oh, don't "ugh" me! Sixty minutes is only 4% of your 24 hour day. How much time do you spend at the computer, talking on the phone, watching TV or sitting in your car? All excellent times to be active instead.)
WHAT: Exercises that put stress on your muscles and bones, weight training with free weights, body weight or gym machines.
HOW OFTEN: 2-3x per week with a day off between
HOW MUCH: this depends on what your goals are and your current health. For most healthy individuals, aim for a weight that challenges you to fatigue after about 12 reps. (This applies to weight machines/free weights, body weight exercises are a whole other thing.)
the science, medical, and fitness worlds will agree to disagree on the topic of stretching...but here's my approach/opinion.
- Don't stretch first thing when you're body is cold and has been inactive for a long period. Warm up a bit first, then stretch, or stretch after you've exercised.
- Don't bounce a stretch. Find a comfortable tension and hold that for a bit.
- Better yet, to increase the ranges of motion (ROM) of your joints blend methods such as pilates, ballet, yoga, tai chi. You're not bouncing a stretch, but also not in a static position.
- once again the science will go back and forth on this, but personally I think stretching after most workouts is a good idea. Most people aren't very flexible and they hold static poses all day long--sitting, slumped over, etc--so bending in different directions is a good idea.
- Don't over stretch! If you love your hot yoga class, and you're just so flexible, so you must be good at it, make sure you don't over do it.
Other elements I think are crucial to your routine and overall body/health maintenance:
- CORE TRAINING. This term is over used and misunderstood. Your core is not just your abs. It's the muscles under the superficial muscles (the ones you can see and touch) that help stabilize you, reduce risk for injury, and improve posture and balance. (the photos on mayo clinic's website shows some core exercises, but I'd want to tweak the guy's form a bit! ;-)
- AGILITY: this helps your coordination and reaction time.
- BALANCE: as we get older we definitely don't want to fall down, right?! So start working on that balance.
- ALIGNMENT: none of us are symmetrical. We have one leg shorter, torques in our spines, heads that shift to one side. As we age these misalignments start to take a toll. The more you can be aware of how to center yourself the better we feel, today and tomorrow.
- TRAIN YOUR BRAIN: Doing physical activities that challenge your brain will do your mind and body some good! There's no challenge to walking for most of us. We've been doing it for years. But try skiing, dancing, an aerobics class and your body and brain will have to work a bit harder to learn something new. Plus cardio exercise can help with depression, anxiety, improved learning ability and more.