Part six of this seven-part series: Why Are American Women Getting Fat? What can you do about it.

The broad health benefits of regular exercise include reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, and obesity. Exercise can help improve your skin and allow your internal organs to function better. Exercise contributes to mental well-being (including relief from depression, stress and anxiety) and ensures better sleep. Exercise increases metabolism, energy, and endurance, while reducing some of the effects of aging; It is truly the “fountain of youth”!

A well-designed and executed exercise program can improve or protect posture, help keep bones and muscles stronger, and keep joints, tendons, and ligaments injury-free. Exercise also helps keep your joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible.

Exercise is an important factor when trying to lose weight because it facilitates fat loss by burning calories when you exercise and boosting your metabolism for many hours afterward. Exercise increases your lean body mass, which equates to a higher sustained metabolic rate and leads to a leaner, firmer, more sculpted physique. Exercise makes you healthier, it makes you feel better, look younger and more alive, it’s sexy!

If you are serious about getting fit, losing fat and gaining health, there is only one main rule of exercise; the exercise is required. So find something you love to do and make it a part of your life. Before starting an exercise program, check with your doctor.

Exercise is crucial for fat loss and good health. It is also essential for maintaining a low level of body fat and good physical condition. However, the frequency, duration, and intensity of your exercise will vary based on your goals, age, fitness level, medical condition, and other circumstances.

Here is a quick guide to exercise:

  • The best thing to do when your doctor clears it and you’re ready to start an exercise program is to hire a certified fitness professional. That way, you won’t waste time, money, or risk injury.
  • An exercise program should consist of the six components shown in the chart below. Each workout should be tailored to your age, current fitness level, and any medical or physical limitations you may have. Your goals, lifestyle, exercise interests, and level of commitment should also be considered when designing your exercise program.

Six Components for an Effective Exercise Program

Purpose-Types of Activity-Frequency-Duration-Intensity

#1 Cardio Conditioning

  • Purpose: supports the heart and lungs, has many other health benefits; has a great impact on fat loss
  • Types of activities:
  1. Bicycling, running, fast walking, climbing stairs, rowing, etc. (outside or inside)
  2. Consider: a spin class or group aerobics class
  • Frequency: 3 to 5 times a week
  • Duration: Approximately 30 to 45 minutes
  • Intensity: 75 to 85% of your maximum heart rate

#2 Strength and resistance training

  • Purpose: Helps build muscle, strength and endurance, and bone density; it has many other health benefits; increases lean body mass, which promotes fat loss and makes you look firmer.
  • Types of activities:
  1. Weight training with free weights, some machines and other modules
  2. circuit training
  3. Consider: Pilates, which covers some strength, core, and flexibility training.
  • Frequency: 3 to 5 times a week
  • Duration: Approximately 30 to 45 minutes
  • Intensity: Depends on number of sets and reps, weight load, and rest period between sets

#3 Flexibility training

  • Purpose: Improves your joints’ ability to move through a full range of motion. Keeping your muscles flexible will help improve physical performance and posture and reduce the risk of injury, lower back pain, and muscle soreness; increase the flow of blood and nutrients to the tissues; and help improve muscle coordination. Not only will it make you feel better, it will perform better.
  • Types of activities:
  1. Stretching exercises (either alone or within a class setting)
  2. Consider: a yoga class
  • Frequency: 3 to 5 times a week (perhaps after an exercise program)
  • Duration: Approximately 10-20 minutes (or longer if you have time)
  • Intensity: To the point of tightness, not pain.

#4 Basic and balance training

  • Purpose: Supports the balanced development of the deep superficial muscles that stabilize, align and move the trunk of the body, especially the abdominal and back muscles.
  • Types of activities:
  1. Core conditioning can be done with weights, exercise bands, medicine balls, or a Swiss ball (a large rubber ball used for exercise and physical therapy)
  • Frequency, Duration and Intensity – Core training can be incorporated into your exercise program (either with your weight training or in a class setting)

#5 Corrective exercises

  • Purpose: To help improve posture and target ideal posture, defined as “that state of muscular and skeletal balance which protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity.” It is during the ideal posture that the muscles work most efficiently.
  • Types of activities:
  1. Exercises that help offset any muscle imbalances you may have developed from work injuries, sports, a poorly designed exercise program, or simple neglect. Corrective exercises help get your body back into its proper postural alignment so you not only function better, but look and feel better. You can use bodybuilding and flexibility techniques, as well as Swiss ball, foam rollers and other modalities.
  • Frequency, Duration, and Intensity: You can incorporate corrective exercises into your regular exercise routine, as long as they are tailored to your particular postural concerns.

#6 Functional training

  • Purpose: improves the functional movements that the body is designed to perform in everyday life (walking, running, climbing, lifting, bending, etc.) through a complex series of movements of various body systems, including the nervous system, the muscular system, and the skeletal system.
  • These movements are important because they give us the ability to perform a variety of tasks, at work, at home, for recreation, now and in the future.
  • Types of activities:
  1. Functional training should be part of your exercise program so your body can do everything it’s supposed to do, even in your 80s!
  • Frequency, duration and intensity: you can adapt your functional training to your weight training sessions.

* Exercise Resources

  • Paul Chek of the CHEK Institute
  • ACE (American Council on Exercise)
  • NESTA (National Sports and Exercise Trainers Association)

Stay tuned for the final part of this seven-part series: Why Are American Women Getting Fat? What You Can Do About It, PART SEVEN: The Winning Formula for Fat Loss, Vibrant Health, and Longevity!

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