fitnessthe ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor,
without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time
pursuitshas three basic elements. To be truly fit, you should
develop each of these components.
Cardiorespiratory endurance is reflected in the sustained
ability of the heart and blood vessels to carry oxygen to your
body's cells. Excellent "aerobic" activities for building endurance
include brisk walking, running, in-line skating, swimming, cycling,
rowing, and aerobic dance.
To gain health benefits, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity
over the course of most days is enough. For greater cardiovascular
benefits, you need to perform moderate- to high-intensity aerobic
exercise (at 60 to 90% of your maximum heart rate) three to five
times a week, with each session lasting 20 to 60 minutes, in addition
to warm-up and cool-down activities.
Muscular fitness consists of strengththe force a
muscle produces in one effortand endurancethe ability
to perform repeated muscle contractions in quick succession.
Perform moderate-intensity resistance workouts twice a week lasting
at least 15 minutes per session, not counting your warm-up and
Flexibility refers to the ability of the joints to move
without discomfort through their full range of motion. This varies
from person to person and from joint to joint. Good flexibility
is thought to protect the muscles against pulls and tears, since
short, tight muscles may be more likely to be overstretched.
Try to perform flexibility exercises three to four times a week.
Before you begin an exercise program
If you over 40 and sedentary, the American College of Sports Medicine
recommends that you consult your physician before beginning an
exercise program and have a pre-exercise medical and physical
examination. Your physician may recommend that you take a special
exercise stress test.
If you are younger, consult with a physician first if you have
any risk factors for heart disease (such as recurrent chest pain,
high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, smoking, or obesity).
Also, contact your physician if you have cardiovascular or lung
disease (or symptoms that might suggest this).
can be so involving that it's easy to be carried away by the joy
of the moment and to forget certain measures that can reduce risk
of injury. The following exercise guidelines will protect you
from injury and help make exercise more enjoyable.
Set realistic exercise goals. Set goals that you not only
know you can achieve., but that are specific, not vague ("I'll
cycle twenty miles this week," not "I really should get more exercise
Whatever activity you pursue, don't overdo it. The most common
cause of injury is exercising too aggressivelythe "too much,
too soon" syndrome. Start any new exercise at a relatively low
intensity and gradually increase your level of exertion over a
number of weeks. Use the "10%" rule: In general, don't increase
your training loadthe length or frequency of workouts, the
intensity, or the distanceby more than 10% a week.
"No pain, no gain" is a myth. Exercise should require some
effort, but pain is a warning sign you are foolish to ignore.
If you have continuing pain during an exercise, stop and don't
continue unless you can do so painlessly. (If the pain occurs
in the chest or neck area, you should contact your physician immediately.)
General muscle soreness that comes after exercise is another matter:
It usually indicates that you are not warming up sufficiently
or that you are exercising too long or strenuously.
Control your movementsif you can't, slow down. Rapid,
jerky movement can set the stage for injury. As you move your
limbs, keep the muscles contracted and move them as if you are
pushing against some resistance.
Watch your form and posture. In most activities, stress can
result from poor form. Keep your back aligned (abdominal muscles
contracted, buttocks tucked in, knees aligned over feet). This
is particularly important when jumping or reaching overhead.
Don't bounce while stretching. This "ballistic" stretching
can increase the chance of muscle tears and soreness. Instead,
perform "static" stretches, which call for gradually stretching
through a muscle's full range of movement until you feel resistance.
This gradually loosens muscles without straining them.
Use good footwear. Wearing improper or worn-out shoes places
added stress on your hips, knees, ankles, and feetthe sites
of up to 90% of all sports injuries. Choose shoes suited to your
activity and replace them before they wear out.
Avoid high-impact aerobics. Most aerobics instructors and
many students suffer injuries to their shins, calves, lower back,
ankles, and knees because of the repetitive, jarring movements
of some aerobics routines. Substitute the marching or gliding
movements of low-impact aerobics for the jolting, up-and-down
motion of typical aerobics.
Warm up and cool down. Slowly jog for five minutes before
your workout to gradually increase your heart rate and core temperature.
Cool down after exercising with five minutes of slower-paced movement.
This prevents an abrupt drop in blood pressure and helps alleviate
potential muscle stiffness.
Replace fluids lost through sweating. This is particularly
important in hot weather, when you can easily lose more than a
quart of water in an hour. Neglecting to compensate for fluid
loss can cause lethargy and nausea, interfering with your performance.
Even if you don't feel thirsty, it's important to drink at regular
intervals when exercising. (Thirst is satisfied long before you
have replenished lost fluids.)
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