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Fitness Goals and How to Meet Them

How Different Exercise Can Achieve Any Fitness Goal

Everyone needs a little exercise in their life. In fact, adults need approximately 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio activity or 75 minutes of high intensity cardio activity each week, plus two days of strength training. And if you’re not there yet – never fear. Whether it’s the first of the year or the middle of the week, there’s no bad time to work on your fitness goals. Getting enough exercise can be a stress-relieving, enjoyable part of your day.

Exercise is a necessary part of daily health, and, if you do it correctly, you can leverage that time for your specific health goals. Here’s how.

Exercise for Overall Wellness

If your objective is to simply live a happy, healthy lifestyle, exercise can definitely help get you there. Try to hit the goal of 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, plus strength training. And if you don’t have 30 minutes to spare, break it down into 10-minute increments. Take a brisk 10-minute walk during a break at work, park your car at the end of the grocery store lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator or challenge yourself to doing 25 pushups before showering each morning.

And never underestimate the power of sleep. It’s recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, which is absolutely necessary for muscle repair and growth. Sleep allows your brain to rest, and we all know that having a fresh, focused brain is key when tough questions arise like, “Do I hit the couch or the gym after work?”

Exercise for Longevity

Exercise might just add years to your life AND life to your years. According to the American Heart Association, people who are physically active and at a healthy weight live about seven years longer than those who are inactive and obese.

And as a result, chances are, those years will be good. Establishing a lifestyle of regular physical activity early on can help counter conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and poor cholesterol levels that could mean stroke and heart attack in your later years. A lifelong exercise routine can also help prevent chronic diseases associated with aging. This means a better quality of life and more independence for seniors.

So what can you do to specifically help increase your lifespan? The trusty standard still needs to be followed (150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio or 75 minutes of high intensity cardio per week), and pay special attention to the two recommended strength training sessions each week. To avoid osteoporosis, a bone disease that can lead to debilitating falls and health issues, weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises are very important, and help build and maintain bone density and keep your bones strong.

Examples of weight-bearing exercises include dancing, hiking, jogging, jumping rope, playing tennis, walking, or using elliptical and stair machines. Muscle-strengthening exercises include lifting weights, using resistance bands and bodyweight exercises like planks. All of these exercises can be done at any intensity to accommodate all levels of physical activity. The most important thing is to start moving, and stay moving.

Exercise for Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is very important to overall health, and can help prevent and control serious issues including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, breathing issues and injury.

Whether you’re looking to maintain weight or lose weight, it’s important to remember that there’s no magic routine that will guarantee success. But, working out is definitely a huge part of the equation. Yes, cardio is a necessity, and if you really want to intensify your workout, add intervals. Intervals include any type of exercise where your heart rate spikes and then comes down, over and over again. This keeps your heart rate elevated and your metabolism soaring, which means more calories burned.

Intervals can be done anywhere - outside, on a treadmill, bike, rowing machine, elliptical, etc. - and the program possibilities are endless. Be sure to start slowly, and always go at your own pace. Soon enough you’ll be increasing your speed and decreasing your rest time.

Resistance training is also a must. Focus on compound movements like squats, lunges, deadlifts and rows that utilize multiple muscle groups at the same time, and burn more calories than isolated movements. And the best part? Compound exercises are very efficient, allowing you to get more done in less time.

Adding a yoga class or two to your weekly routine can also work wonders if you’re feeling stressed. Stress is definitely the enemy when it comes to weight loss. It causes a release of hormones and cortisol, which can cause excessive hunger and food cravings. A stressed body wants to hold on to fat, which is exactly what you don’t want.

Last but not least, diet and fitness go hand in hand when it comes to weight management. You can spend hours sweating in the gym, but if you’re constantly eating highly processed, calorie-dense foods, you probably won’t get the results you’re after. Eating a balanced diet with the addition of foods like black beans (one cup packs 15 grams of protein and no saturated fat), oats (includes a healthy carb that boosts metabolism and burns fat), avocados (packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats that combat hunger) and blueberries (high in antioxidants and fiber) can help rev up your metabolism and keep you feeling fuller longer.

Exercise for Strength

While the exact science behind weight training for strength building is slightly different from the science behind weight training to gain muscle (you know, bulk up), the main idea behind them is the same. Weight lifting, no matter what your goal, is beneficial for many reasons. It increases HDL (good cholesterol) and reduces LDL (bad cholesterol), reduces risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer and increases your flexibility and ability to perform everyday tasks.

If your goal is to build strength, instead of doing five sets of five reps (a common program for building size AND strength) do just two or three sets and focus on moving the weight quickly. This type of training will help you improve strength and power rather than bulk up your muscles.

No matter what your fitness ambitions are, be sure to talk with a physician before starting any fitness program, especially if you’re working fiercely toward a specific goal. The amount you eat, your body weight, your fitness goals and the intensity of your training can matter, too. To get the best results, a lifestyle medicine specialist can help you devise a program that incorporates the right exercises, the right food, and the right timing. It’s important to start slowly, move at your own pace, and enjoy the physical, mental and emotional transformation that comes with a healthy lifestyle.