Develop Flexibility, Strength, and Cardiovascular Ability for Overall Health

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The word “exercise” conjures up different images for different people. Some envision themselves on the gym floor lifting heavy weights while others prefer long, solitary runs. Finally, there are those people who prefer a tranquil yoga setting as a means to achieve their fitness goals.

According to Webster’s dictionary, the definition of exercise is “bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness.” There are fitness experts in every corner that insist their training methods are superior to others as well as those who focus exclusively on one particular type of exercise activity to develop their fitness abilities.

According to Dr. Chris Barnett, assistant clinical professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at University of California, San Francisco, “There is no one method of exercise that has been shown to be more beneficial than another. Approaching exercise with the goal of developing your flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular ability is one of the best things you can do to achieve overall health and prevent disease and illness.”

The following outlines the benefits of cardiovascular (cardio), strength, and flexibility training.

CARDIO WORKOUTS

According to the American Sports Medicine Institute, cardiovascular fitness “is a special form of muscular endurance. It is the efficiency of the heart, lungs and vascular system in delivering oxygen to the working muscle tissues so that prolonged physical work can be maintained.” Most activities that require movement and increase heart rate can be considered a cardio workout. These include, but are not limited to, running, walking, bicycling, dancing, climbing stairs and swimming.

“Cardio exercise builds stamina, improves heart health, burns calories and increases overall fitness,” says Debbie Voiles, author, running coach and founder of Run Tampa, based in Florida. “One of the most popular reasons people perform cardio workouts is to burn calories. The more intense the exercise, the more calories burned in a given time; however, low intensity cardio, such as jogging, walking or easy biking can be performed for a longer duration, and as a result, has the potential to work off more calories in a given time. The heart, being a muscle, becomes stronger with cardio,” shares Voiles. In this sense, cardio workouts are almost like strength training for the heart and lungs.

RESISTANCE TRAINING

“Strength training is the use of resistance to muscular contraction to build the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles,” says James Carsey, Pennsylvania-based certified strength and conditioning coach and director of team training with Institute of Athletic Development. “The stronger the muscle, the longer and more force production, less energy/muscle activation for the same amount of work you did before. This leads to being able to push harder, allowing for increased performance.”

Strength and resistance training can include a wide variety of activities such as lifting weights, using bands and even using your own body weight to do activities such as pushups and squats. Basically, anything you are lifting for the purpose of helping the muscles contract can be considered strength (or resistance) training. Regular strength training helps reduce your body fat, increase lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently. Additionally, strengthening muscles prevents injury. The Mayo Clinic states strength training is particularly important as people age because they tend to lose muscle faster. A well-designed strength training routine takes into consideration an individual’s current ability level and includes weights and resistance appropriate for that level.

FLEXIBILITY

Flexibility, often referred to as the ability of your joints and limbs to execute a full range of motion, is commonly overlooked as a part of overall health and fitness. However, flexibility is required in every facet of life. It is what allows your body to remain mobile, particularly as you age. The benefits of flexibility include less muscle soreness and improved posture. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that regular stretching actually enhances overall athletic performance. Stretching and improved flexibility can make muscles more responsive to strength training and help prevent injury.

“Yoga is an effective way to increase flexibility and compliment your fitness routine,” says Dr. Gracie Lyons, a certified yoga instructor who resides and teaches in Scottsdale, Arizona. “All basic yoga poses work toward increasing flexibility shares Lyons. In addition to yoga, stretching and Pilates are also ways to develop flexibility. Doing these things will improve the quality of your muscles and joints.

More: Yoga Workout for Competitive Strength Athletes

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the world’s largest sports medicine and exercise science organization, offers up-to-date guidelines on both quality and quantity of exercises. Their science-based findings noted in The Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise illustrate the importance of the inclusion of cardiorespiratory, resistance/strength and flexibility exercises. Each of these activities has unique benefits, and when done in conjunction with each other on a regular basis, they can assist with weight loss, prevent illness, increase fitness ability and promote overall health.

WEEKLY WORKOUT GUIDE

The weekly exercise plan described below outlines a program that meets these guidelines and ensures a balanced fitness routine. The following exercise plan should be tailored to one’s specific fitness level and adjusted as necessary to reflect a person’s current strength, cardiovascular ability and flexibility level.

Monday: Strength/Resistance Training (Do 3 sets each of 8-12 repetitions)

  • Leg Press
  • Lunges
  • Shoulder Press
  • Seated Row
  • Lateral Shoulder Raises
  • Pullups (or assisted pullups)
  • Crunches

Tuesday: Cardiorespiratory Exercise and Flexibility Training

  • 10 Minutes Dynamic Stretching
  • 3 to 5 Mile Run or Power Walk (depending on skill level)
  • 10 Minutes Static Stretching
  • Wednesday: Flexibility Training
  • Yoga Class

Thursday: Strength/Resistance Training (Do 3 sets each of 8-12 repetitions)

  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Flys
  • Pushups
  • Dumbbell Bicep Curl
  • Rope Triceps Pull Down
  • Barbell Reverse Curl
  • Dips (or assisted dips)

Friday: Cardiorespiratory Exercise and Flexibility Training

  • 10 Minutes Dynamic Stretching
  • 15 to 25 40-yard Sprints
  • 10 Minutes Static Stretching
  • Saturday: Strength/Resistance Training and Cardiorespiratory Exercise
  • Circuit Training Using Body Weight

(Do 15 repetitions of each movement, one minute break; repeat for four cycles)

  • Squats
  • Plank Hold (hold for 30 seconds)
  • Pushups
  • Lunges
  • Crunches
  • Running bleachers (10-20 sets)

Sunday: Rest

 

By Kim Miller & Dave Dreas