A 3-Phase Approach to Exercise
Starting to feel the effects of February? If you are like many people this time of year, you are beginning to dream of sunny skies and warm temperatures. While it may be tempting to give in to the February funk, now is the time to stay strong and keep working toward your health goals. As we celebrate healthy heart month, let’s talk about exercise and how to plan your workouts.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to work toward weight loss and increased energy. It not only strengthens your heart and cardiovascular system, but it also improves circulation and allows your body to better use oxygen. Exercise improves your overall strength, flexibility, balance, and muscle tone. It decreases blood pressure, anxiety, and depression, and has been proven to help you get the restorative sleep your body needs.
The three types of exercises are flexibility, cardio (also called aerobic conditioning) and strength training. Combining all three into a workout routine is the most effective approach. To best support heart health and maximize your workouts, break each exercise session into three segments.
- Start with a 5-minute warm-up phase. This allows your body to gradually move from a resting state to exertion and limits stress on your heart. Do some slow, steady stretches of your arms, legs, and joints. In addition to giving your heart time to adjust, stretching loosens you up, which helps prevent injury.
- The second phase is the conditioning phase, where you will work to increase your heart rate and burn calories. Cardio, or aerobic, exercise uses all of the major muscle groups. Good examples of cardio are walking, jogging, biking, cross-country skiing, and swimming. Water aerobics is a fun, low impact exercise for people with recent injuries or those just beginning an exercise program. Combine cardio with strength training exercises, which help build muscle and endurance. Examples include weight lifting and using resistance bands. To mix up your routine, try interval training. Recent studies have found that this may double the cardiac benefits of exercise. Interval training combines intense activity with low intensity activity. For example, try walking for three minutes, jogging or running for one minute, then repeat the process as many times as you like.
- The final phase of your workout should be a cool down phase, where you slowly bring down your blood pressure and heart rate. Don’t be tempted to just stop exercising without this last step! It can cause dizziness and heart palpitations. Giving yourself 5-10 minutes to slow down allows your body the time it needs to recover from exertion and return to normal rates.
Have fun with exercise! If you are just beginning an exercise program or are trying to get back on track, go easy on yourself. Don’t over-exert yourself right out of the gate, as this can lead to injury and feelings of failure. Start slow, and build up over time. You may want to keep an exercise journal to track your progress. Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to spend a fortune for a good exercise program. Regular indoor or outdoor activities are just as good as that expensive fitness club. Keep up the awesome work, and remember that any exercise will help keep your heart healthy and help you realize the gains in your overall health that you deserve.
Next time we will talk about the benefits of meditation and breathing exercises as part of your health routine.