New, eager people often flock to the gym on January 1st to begin their New Year’s fitness resolutions. While it’s no secret that physical activity is a key component in life-long health and wellbeing, there is so much information circulating online and on social media that it is often difficult to separate fact from fiction in regards to personal fitness. Additionally, research has shown that only about 20% of people who make a New Year’s resolution are able to follow through with it and integrate it into their daily routines. We are here to give you the information you need to be properly informed on exercise and fitness so that you can make your New Year’s wellness goals a reality.
Benefits of Regular Exercise
Obesity in the United States is one of the most pressing national health issues. Roughly one-third of adults today fall into the obese category, and medical costs for these individuals are 42% higher annually those of normal-weight. However, establishing a regular exercise routine helps in maintaining a healthy body weight.
The CDC recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise for adults. In addition to controlling weight, this regimen has been proven to reduce your risk of:
- Heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the US.
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Colon and breast cancer
- Endometrial and lung cancer, according to some preliminary research
- More active individuals also tend to see lower rates of arthritis and depression.
- Types of exercise
The aerobic exercise described above is often broken down into two levels of intensity: moderate and vigorous. As a general rule of thumb, moderate aerobic activity allows you to carry on a conversation, but you won’t quite have the stamina to sing while you are doing that exercise. With vigorous aerobic activity, you find yourself breathing after every couple of words. In order to reap the benefit of aerobic exercise, you should engage in it at a moderate level and for periods of at least 10 minutes. Brisk walking is often recommended for people who are starting out, as it meets this minimum requirement, but is less strenuous than other forms of activity.
Quick Tip: Even 60 minutes of moderate aerobic activity can produce positive health benefits in people with more sedentary lifestyles.
In addition to aerobic exercise, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition recommends engaging in muscle-strengthening and bone strengthening activities.
Muscle strengthening activities involve a moderate to high level of intensity working one or more of the following muscle groups: legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms. This includes activities such as lifting weights and strength training, and should be done twice a week.
Quick Tip: You only need 8-12 reps of strength training per workout and house-hold items such as larger cans can be used if you do not have access to weights or gym equipment.
Bone strengthening exercises that put force on your bones and help to promote bone growth and strength, are the second type of exercise. Activities such as running, tennis and basketball produce a high degree of impact between your legs and the ground and qualify as bone strengthening.
How to Succeed with Your New Year’s Fitness Plan
Understanding your current fitness level and establishing realistic fitness goals will greatly improve your chances of making your fitness routine a life-long habit.
Begin at a comfortable level – If you don’t exercise frequently it’s best to start with less strenuous aerobic activities and light weight muscle strengthening.
Pace yourself – You should increase the amount and difficulty of your exercise regimen over several weeks or months. While heart attacks tend to be rare during physical exercise, your risk does go up when you suddenly become more active than you were before.
Choose activities you like – A wide variety of activities count towards hitting the weekly minimum of physical exercise recommended. Yoga, gardening, and even playing with your dog in the park can give you the workout you need.
Add in variety – Rotating in new activities helps you stay engaged with what you are doing, so working out feels less like a chore. Also, remember to include muscle and bone strengthening activities to get the full range of health benefits from your workout plan.
Achieving the Next Level of Success
Current science has yet to find an upper limit for the benefits of physical activity. People who are highly active and exercise at 2-3 times the recommended rates will see cumulative health benefits for their efforts. Health.gov recommends that people who have been exercising regularly should try to target at least 300 minutes of exercise per week.
Once you have established a healthy workout routine, you should begin to add upon your success.
Add in more vigorous activities – Vigorous aerobic exercise helps you achieve health and weight loss goals more quickly. In general, you only need to spend half the amount of time doing vigorous activities as you need to do doing moderate ones.
Increase your strength-training regimen – Muscle strength and endurance increases over time. You can build stronger muscles by increasing the weight and frequency of workouts. Ideally, strength training should be a done at a level where it is difficult to do the next rep without assistance.