Regular exercise is a great way to stay fit and healthy and is important if you want to lose weight. But what should be included in a successful exercise program?
The physical and mental benefits of regular exercise have been well documented:
- Improved heart and lung function
- Increased muscular strength and endurance
- Increased aerobic enduranceImproved co-ordination
- Decreased risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease/stroke
- Better sleep
- Improved general psychological well being
But where should we start when putting together our own successful and sustainable exercise program?
Here are our exercising tips to maximise your results, avoid injury and stay motivated this New Year.
Assess your fitness level and set a fitness goal
Let’s face it not all of us are ironmen. Whether you want to complete a marathon or lose weight, it is important to know what your current level of fitness is so that you can design a program and set goals that will be challenging enough without being too difficult to achieve or harmful to your health.
Assessing you current fitness level will also help you to monitor your progress and see results. This could include:
- Timing how long it takes to walk/run a certain distance.
- How may push-ups or sit-ups you can do in a minute.
- Waist circumference.
- BMI – weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in metres (kg/m2) – BMI calculator.
Goal setting is crucial and should be time based, examples include:
- Losing 5kg in 5 weeks.
- Being able to run 5k non-stop in 6 weeks etc.
Research indicates that people who set goals are more likely to succeed with an exercise program than those who do not.
Design an exercise program
Having a plan or schedule on paper increases your chances of reaching your fitness goals. A few things to consider before you design your exercise program:
- What exercise do you like/dislike?
- What equipment/ facilities do you have access to?
- When are you able to exercise, so that it will fit into your daily routine?
- How much time each week are you really able to dedicate to your new exercise routine?
- Do you have any injuries that could be made worse with exercise? If so you may need to contact one of our physiotherapists before you begin your program.
Start slowly and include variety
If you are new to exercise or starting again after a break it is important to start slowly and progress. If you make your exercise program too difficult to begin with you are likely to lose motivation because it will be too hard, or you may be setting yourself up for injury.
It has been well documented that progressively increased training load is associated with a significantly reduced risk of injury. So remember it is not how much training load you apply, it is how fast you get there.
Make sure to include both cardiovascular exercises like running/swimming/cycling and strength exercises like push-ups/sit-ups/squats.
Variety is key – it will keep your new routine from getting boring and will help to reduce overuse injuries.
Allow time for recovery and don’t ignore ‘niggles’
Pace yourself – Most people who start a new exercise program do so at a frenzied pace, working out too long or at a very high intensity and give up when their muscles and joints get sore.
Allow time for rest and recovery – Your muscles and joints need time in between sessions to repair.
Don’t ignore little niggles or pain – This might be the first signs of an injury or an indication that you are doing too much and need more time for recovery between sessions. If you have pain that persists more than a few days, or is severe make sure you see one of our physiotherapists.
Monitor your progress
Reassess you fitness levels every 6-8 weeks – Hopefully you will see improvement from the first time you tested yourself, and this will allow you to make your program more difficult to ensure you keep progressing and reach your goals.
- Cardio – The time and intensity spent running/walking, cycling or swimming will depend on your starting level of fitness. Aim for between 40-60 minutes at a moderate intensity.
- Circuit – A strength circuit may include 6-8 exercises repeated 4-5 times so that the overall duration is 40-60 minutes. For example; Push-ups, star jumps, squats, sit-ups, dips, burpees, lunges and running on the spot. All repeated 5 times with 1 minute rest between each time.
- Rest – Consider some light stretching or using your foam roller to loosen your body up from previous workouts.