How to Exercise Safely and Increase Fitness Levels

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IMG_20140126_134514Updated:  19 Feb 2014

There are so many exercise programs one could engage in to increase fitness levels.  How does one know which is right for them?

This question is important why?  Increased fitness levels contribute to healthy heart, lungs, metabolism, lean body, body strength, reduced body fat, weight loss, sustainment of body weight and better physical endurance and energy levels.  Not to mention, excellent  pain alleviation benefits for weight bearing arthritic joints.

So what you really want to know is what exercise activity will give you the best bang for the buck?

I highly recommended if you are getting back into an exercise fitness program or activity, you condition your way back through a 3-5 day/workout program.  This may take you 2-6 weeks or longer to get back into good physical condition before you ramp up your efforts.  Especially if you’ve just recovered from some type of physical adversity.

Five day exercise program – Consider making two of your exercise days on Saturday and Sunday to include family fun activities as substitutes for exercise activity.  Work in the other 3 exercise activity days with exercise you enjoy and can stick too.

This type of programming will provide more flexibility at first to develop healthy fitness activity around your busy schedule while reducing stress.  After the fitness habit is maintained for 2 week period, begin to incorporate more activity choice into the plan to keep it interesting.   I’ve always found it important to take two days off in the week for needed rest [Typically Mon & Fri for me].  I don’t recommend a 6-7day workout routine unless you are training is too meet some particular fitness goal as are conditioned to do so.

Recommendations, Tips, How to safely increase fitness levels and activity,

You must develop a plan that lists your daily fitness objectives to meet your fitness goal.  Is your goal to lose weight, increase fitness level, build muscle, better health, sustain weight, increase muscular endurance, higher level of competitive sport, improve task specific activity (ski, golf, walk, biking, running, etc.).  So now you know before you spend money on an exclusive fitness membership, be sure to have a plan to achieve the fitness goal you have in mind.

Second, you must be realistic about your daily schedule. If you’re a working adult with children, there are considerations that must be thought out.  Like working around busy work and family schedules.  However, it is not impossible to squeeze in exercise activity even with a busy schedule.  It’s a matter of priorities.

For example, if you want something bad enough like a new car, getting the furnace fixed, or watching a game, or taking the spouse out to a movie you manage to find the time and resources don’t you?  Yet you have a tough time making time for any type of exercise activity.  Your fitness levels and health must be as valuable to you as any other tangible thing like a home or car you insure.

Only through daily continuous daily movement activity can one “insure” an additional layer of protection from life stresses on the mind-body.  Sustained exercise activity daily is also a proven centurion attribute, or better known to others as a fountain of youth fitness principle.

If you have time before work or after the children are in bed a daily exercise program can become a habit you will become addicted too once the commitment is made.  You simple must want increased fitness health as bad as you want to create a better lifestyle for your family.

For me, working out provides great stress relief and fitness benefits.  And for many years I’d get up at 5:30am go to the gym, or jog where the adrenalin and metabolism was at full throttle just before hitting my full time job at 7:00am.  This habit served me and my professional careers well and ensured I was always at the top of my game, I didn’t need energy drinks to start my day.  Now in my mid-50’s, my age appropriate exercise activities is walking 7 days a week and 2-3 days strength conditioning in the gym.  I’m just as competitive at these exercise activities as I was when I played football during by high school years.  I attribute much of my career success, energy levels and clarity of thought to age appropriate continuous exercise habits.

Like anything else it takes dedication to be successful at anything you do.  It’s more a matter of finding an activity that you really enjoy, get excited about and can become addicted to it.  I tended to become addictive to new exercise conditioning if I could get through the first 5 days.  If I didn’t make the 5 days, I’d reduce intensity until ready for more intense training.  I didn’t quit the training; I took it down a notch until I could physically and mentally accept the fitness conditioning plan.  To push when your not ready for it is defeating and causes too many beginners to give up when they’ve not planned accordingly.

Third, your never too old to begin a daily fitness conditioning program.   All too often I hear people give up on their fitness and activity aspirations because they “self proclaim” their too old to exercise.  And then begin to look for unsafe – fountain of youth short cut gimmicks to lose weight, increase sexual performance, anabolic steroids for max muscle increases, etc.  This line of reasoning is absolute nonsense; when did 40 become the 80 plus crowd?  Exercise activity is a metabolic optimizer that increases hormone production and immune system to keep us healthy and stimulate all things that keep our bodies, mind and spirit engaged in a satisfied lifestyle.  “Without the need of dangerous manmade chemicals that temporarily mask the real reasons were not happy with our bodies energy levels, how we feel and physical performance.

Forth, if you are infrequent about your exercise, or activity routine, it is very important you learn to pace yourself each time you exercise until your body is ready for a 3-5 day exercise activity routine. Ease into your workouts, forget about competing with what others are doing.  Set your mind to see yourself as the healthiest 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 year old possible in your neck of the woods.  If you think exercise-activity appropriate per decade, you’ll stick with a healthy exercise program for your age while physically appearing and feeling 20-30 years younger.  Why don’t I talk much about 80+ years old and fitness training programs?  Actually, 80 years and above should walk-swim, push light weights, participate in flexibility exercise, eat balanced nutritious foods, socialize and travel as much as possible for quality lifestyle experiences.  At this age, I thoroughly believe, each day is a blessing and one should enjoy life to the fullest while reducing life stresses.  And these life stresses and health are adequately sustained through social activity and low-stress walking, swimming and dance exercise.

Fifth, if you over consume too many calories per day, especially after 7:30 pm, or binge over the weekends it will be harder to lose weight.  Body metabolism slows down tremendously during evening hours and excess calories will be stored as fat for every hour you take in calories after 8pm.

Weekends will be your worst enemy with regard to calorie consumption if you don’t have an activities plan to offset food intake with caloric expenditure.  This is why in the next paragraph I recommend plan fun movement activities on the weekends.   This will help increase metabolism and will help burn off extra calories that may be put back on over the weekend.  Then over the weekdays if your mindful to balance calorie intake and expenditure relative to days of the week, you can actually continue to lose weight.

Sixth, find a workout routine you can stick with and enjoy. Various examples:  Try biking, stationary treadmill, stationary rowing, dance, ball room dancing with spouse, tennis, walking, golf, jogging aerobics sessions, swimming, etc., 3 days a week (mix it up with gym activity).  Make sure you get in 2 days a week exercise activity and 3 days aerobics (walking, biking, treadmill, elliptical walker, swim, hike etc.) minimally.   On the weekends substitute an aerobics week day activity with a planned family outdoor activity, backpack, dance, walk and shop for your meals, camping, beach walking, fishing, etc.

I recommend 5 days a week exercise activities to sustain fitness levels and good health.  I use combinations of all these activities listed above to sustain my age appropriate fitness levels and overall health.

Changing up fitness activities will help with motivation and will power to stick with exercise activities daily.  Mixing up activities also becomes very addicting when you  break the initial 2 week conditioning barrier.  It takes about this long for brain chemical stimulation and muscle toning to optimally provide the motivation and will power to sustain this lifestyle change.  Brain chemical release (adrenalin, epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin) through exercise activities is as addicting as nicotine is to a smoker; and is chocolate  to a chocoholic.

Now that I’ve provided you “How to Exercise and Increase Fitness Levels,” get out there and get it done!  Try various combinations of exercise activity.  At a minimum, if you can walk you can improve your fitness levels and experience greater lifestyle experiences.

The cost to to walk is nothing, other than your time, effort and commitment to sustain it.  Through daily walking fitness levels will increase.  This will also positively impact mood as well as how your body feels.  Sustained walking activity is good for you heart, lungs, metabolism and overall fitness goals.

Take one step at a time, one block at a time, and one mile at a time.  Do what you can daily if your exercise activity is walking.  Put no time lines, intensity of pace, or distance limitations on yourself.  The mind-body will tell you each day what it’s capable of doing.  If you have the ability to walk you’re much further ahead in becoming more fit and healthy.  The key is to move more daily, work to reach 10-15min/day exercise activity at a minimum before increasing distances and intensity of pace.  Be consistent at daily walking activity to sustain greatest fitness and health benefits.

Other tips:  Consider “not taking” your car to the store for daily staples once you can walk half a mile total distances.   Make a goal to walk and shop for your evening meals, or drive to and walk the mall.  Get a small backpack “once able to walk small distances;” carry healthy produce, products to the car, home etc.

Never carry more in weight than you can do so comfortably.  For example, I personally never carry more than 5lbs in bags, one for each arm, greater than 1 mile.  That’s .5 mile one way.   In other words when starting a shop & walk activity program, you don’t haul extra weight until you lose weight, or alleviate weight bearing joint pain [if this is a problem for you].  To do so when the mind-body is not ready may risk secondary weight bearing injuries to body compromising overall increased fitness success.

The information presented within this article and on our website, is in no way intended as a substitute for medical consulting or treatment.  Always consult a physician before starting any course of fitness programming, particularly if you are pregnant or currently under medical care.

Also Read:  Relative Fitness Programming Sustains Active Lifestyles

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Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2014 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.

About Marc Woodard

As a fit healthy lifestyle author and consultant, retired corporate employee and retired Army officer, I've spent many years taking care of my career goals and financial security.  It is now my time to give something back to my community. Without a healthy mind, body and spirit it is really difficult to move forward to achieve great things in life. To share information is something everyone of us are capable of doing. And to share fitness and health related information with your children is the best thing you could do for them and your community. Saving the health of our nation one person at a time is our goal. Learn more about Marc Woodard @ LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/marc-woodard-94003930/ Good health to you and your family.
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One Response to How to Exercise Safely and Increase Fitness Levels

  1. Marc Woodard says:
    My current fitness routine: Walking daily. I’m now able to walk 8-10 miles on any given day and 14 miles once a week. Within this time I go to the gym and may substitute a walk for aerobics conditioning on recumbant bike, walker, etc. This may/may not include Pilates stretches. Once to twice a week I try to work upper body mixed in with the walks. Upper body usually includes the following: Chest, biceps, tricepts, rotor cuff (shoulders) and ab crunches. All weight bearing exercises are high reps (12-15) and 2-3 sets each. I modify every weight bearing exercise to remove direct pressure on my back. So all exercise with weights braces the back to a stationary position. My biggest challenge with all my exercises: Ensuring I minimize aggravation to my entire back including my neck. For me, exercise is pain managed. This means I experience pain with all activity and exercise. However, to not exercise creates more pain. I choose less pain, so I’ve learned to pain manage around my pain trigger points. To do any less is not an option for me.

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