Are your work outs enough to keep you healthy?

Can’t find the time for it, think your active lifestyle is enough, or believe you are fit as a fiddle? Read on.

Finding time for even a brief work out, let alone a complete one, is near impossible for most. It’s understandable, but it’s also important for your overall health to get in a fully balanced work out routine throughout the week. For everyone.

For most, we are preoccupied with cardio work to keep us healthy and fit like the reports and studies have shown us! And yes, while this will promote cardiac and overall health, it does not necessarily cover all bases to keep us physically healthy and injury-free.

Health in physical activity can be viewed in three and a half different areas of cardio, strength, flexibility, and our half category of balance. If your cardio work out addresses all three and a half, that’s amazing and keep it up. If not, you could be setting yourself up for a potential injury in the future, whether it’s overuse or acute.

We all know about cardio and the current recommendation by the Department of Health and Human Services is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Let’s call it about 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise for most. Moderate exercise can be swimming, walking for fitness, mowing the lawn, shoveling, etc. Vigorous exercises are running, Zumba or other aerobic classes, cross country skiing, etc.

We tend to neglect our strengthening which is essential to support our endurance aerobic activities. If you don’t have strength in the muscles, you won’t be able to support the body for 30 minutes of activity and can potentially be encouraging muscle imbalance and injuries to begin to develop.

Strength training should occur about twice a week for each muscle group if we break it up into upper body, lower body, and core. As long as you are addressing all of the major muscle groups, you don’t have to spend too much time focusing on weight lifting. You can also potentially get all three groups in one work out. If you are unsure what the key muscles are to focus on, make sure you find a health or fitness professional to work with.

Weight lifting and strengthening is also shown to help increase bone health and strength as well. In fact, the stress loads that the tendons produce on the bones during weight lifting mimic the loads of weight bearing! This is a good prevention or treatment for osteopenia or osteoporosis related conditions. If you have been formally diagnosed with a condition mentioned, please be sure to find guidance with a physical therapist or a personal trainer well versed in the condition.

Flexibility is even more commonly neglected than strength and is just as essential. Tight muscles can quickly lead to muscle imbalances, and we see a good deal of low back and shoulder issues that stem from this. The amount of stretching needed may vary per person and can be snuck into some work outs (like yoga).

Many believe they are genetically built tight and that’s the way they are, which may be true to a certain degree. However, this only means that those genetically a bit tighter need to make flexibility a large part of their work out routine to counteract their genetic predispositions. If this sounds like you, and you are nodding your head in recognition, understand that a close relative to flexibility is mobility.  Think of mobility as another form of flexibility, just down at the skeletal and fascial levels in the body. Once again, a health or fitness professional can help guide you towards what specific drills and stretches you might need.

Our last (half) category is balance; it is just as important, especially as we start to get a bit older. As we accumulate issues in life such as vision problems, possible inner ear disorders, neuropathy, arthritis, medication interactions, etc., our risk of balance impairments and falls increases.

Safe practice with balance activities prescribed by a professional for the level you need, can help slow down the progression and reduce risk of falls and injury. If you feel you have more severe balance issues (unable to balance one foot in front of the other or on one foot at a time), please be sure to visit your physical therapist to work out a safe routine made specifically for you.

This all may sound like a lot to do and fit in throughout the week, but consistency it the real important factor. Work outs don’t have to be hours long, but enough to challenge your system and address everything you need to.

Here’s a sample week with better balance:

  • Monday: Brisk walk x 30 min, Leg and core strengthening x 15-20 min, stretch x 10 minutes.
  • Tuesday: Cycling x 30 min, arm strengthening x 10 minutes, balance work x 10 min, stretch x 10 minutes.
  • Wednesday: Yoga x 30-60 minutes (this gets balance as well).
  • Thursday: Brisk Walk x 30 minutes, Leg and core strengthening x 20 min, stretch x 10 minutes.
  • Friday: Off
  • Saturday: Swim x 30 minutes, arm strengthening x 10 minutes, balance work x 10 min, stretch x 10 minutes.
  • Sunday: Off.

Plans can vary hugely between individuals and, if you are unsure of what you should be doing, speaking to a health professional is a great start.

We all need a little more balance and self-care time in our lives. Make a plan and stick to it this coming year! You’ll be all the healthier for it.