23 February 2005

The 4 components of a good exercise programme

In order to exercise correctly and effectively, you should know the following basics.

Components of an effective exercise programme
An effective exercise programme should include the following elements:
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Resistance training (weight training)
  • Flexibility (stretching)
  • Proper nutrition

1. Aerobic/cardiovascular exercise
You heart will beat faster and your pulse rate will increase during exercise. You will be short of breath. You will sweat.

Your stamina will gradually increase a few weeks into the programme, and your resting pulse rate will start decreasing as you will slowly become fitter.

Aerobic exercise is good for heart health. And an excellent antidepressant, de-stressor and more.

Aerobic activities include: walking, running, hiking, cycling, swimming, aerobic dances, rope skipping, rowing, stair climbing, and endurance exercises.

Always stretch before and after your programme. Start off with a warm-up session and end with a cool-down session.

2. Resistance training/weight training
Resistance training is important to enhance muscle strength, to increase muscular endurance, to maintain fat-free mass and to maintain bone-mineral density.

Resistance training can be done at home or in a gym.

Weight training is necessary to tone muscles, and get better muscle definition.

So what’s the difference between toning and bulking up? Between a leaner and meaner look with sleek, well-toned muscles not padded with fat, and muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger's? How can you do weight training for toning (that’s what women want) and how can you do weight training for bulking up (that’s what men want)?

Resistance/weight training is a prerequisite for toning and for bulking up. The main difference for men and women on how their bodies will respond to weight training lies in their testerone levels. Men have a lot of this male hormone and will bulk up on muscle if they train real hard and correctly. Heavy weights, at high intensity but in slow movements will build more muscle.

As for women, it is virtually impossible to bulk up on muscle to look like a female Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even if you lift heavy weights every day, you will not look like a body builder because your natural testosterone levels are too low. Unless you take supplements containing testosterone - banned by the International Olympic Committee – your muscle tone and definition will improve with no chance that you’ll end up looking like Miss Body Builder.

So, women: fear not. Dumbbells and barbells are your friends. And you don’t need to choose the heaviest weights – no huffing and puffing to get your body in shape.

3. Flexibility exercises/stretching
This may be the part of your exercise routine that you tend to skip when you are in a hurry, and even when you are not in a hurry.

When you exercise, your muscles contract and relax, contract and relax. The repeated contraction can lead to shortening of the muscles. Stretching will prevent the shortening of the muscles. Many injuries are caused by poor flexibility.

Stretching will:

  • increase flexibility
  • maintain the range of motion for muscles and joints
  • prepare tendons and muscles for the upcoming exercise
  • help prevent injuries due to inflexibility
  • help prevent the delayed onset of muscle
  • prevent fatigue in the days following your workout
  • mentally prepare you for your session.

Stretching should be a gentle movement, and should not be painful. You can stretch to a point of feeling discomfort, but never to a point of pain.

A stretch must be maintained for at least 30 seconds. Keep the specific muscle group stretched while keeping your body motionless, with no jerky movements at all.

Stretching should be done before and after exercises. When you stretch before exercising, you need to warm-up the muscles first, followed by stretching, and then your exercise routine.

4. Good nutrition
In order to understand nutrition and exercise, you need to know a few truths:

  • You are what you eat. Your body burns fats in a different way than carbohydrates and proteins. You will achieve your fitness goals easier with a balanced diet and the correct eating pattern.
  • The greater you muscle mass, the easier you will lose weight.
  • Your weight is dictated by the balance between your intake of calories (what you eat) and the calories you burn. If your calorie expenditure exceeds your calorie intake you will lose weight. If you consume more than you burn, you will gain weight.
  • The more you exercise, the more calories you burn.

If you want to lose weight and stay in shape, you need to combine a balanced diet with exercise.




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