An Exercise Plan Should Have Three Components

For a happy retirement, you need a good financial plan. For a healthy retirement, you need an exercise plan.

An exercise plan should have three components – aerobic exercise, resistance training (weight lifting) and stretching. The plan should have two aims – to prevent disease and reduce mortality. A good exercise plan should prevent cardiovascular disease and prevent weakness of muscles, bones and joints.

There is much evidence to show that a regular combination of moderate intensity aerobic and resistance exercises can help us achieve these goals. “…..simple, long walks are not the way to health, nor are six-pack abs and marathon running,” says Dr. Khursheed Jeejeebhoy, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, in an article in the Medical Post. What we need is moderately intense physical exercise.

How do you define moderately intense physical exercise?

“Moderately intense physical exercise is that which results in mild shortness of breath and involves oxygen uptake that is approximately 50 per cent of the maximal level; an example of such exercise is brisk walking,” says an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Aerobic exercise involves continuous activity. It exercises your heart. It increases endurance and helps body use oxygen more effectively. It makes the lungs, heart and muscles strong. It is good for cardiovascular fitness. Examples of aerobic exercises are – swimming, brisk walking, running, bicycling, climbing stairs, cross country skiing, using stationary bike, elliptical machines, dance-based classes and similar exercises that significantly increase your heart rate.

Aerobic exercises train your lungs and cardiovascular system to process oxygen more efficiently. There is efficient delivery of blood and oxygen to distant parts of the body. Aerobic exercises burn calories and melt fat, reduce blood pressure, increase body metabolism and increase lung capacity.

Aerobic exercises reduce the risk of heart attack, diabetes, improve our immune system and provide relaxation and reduction of stress level. Aerobic exercises should be done three to five times a week for 20 to 60 minutes.

Resistance training involves exercises to increasing muscle strength. This is done by weight lifting or any physical or sporting activity that makes you flex muscles repetitively.

Resistance exercises help burn more calories even while at rest. These exercises make our bones strong, reduces incidence of osteoporosis and injury, joints are supported and protected by strong muscles, reduces arthritic pain, improves muscle mass and delays muscles wasting, reduces body fat, increases metabolism and improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, thus reducing the risk of diabetes.

Start with a weight that allows you to do eight repetitions. Once you can completer 12 reps increase the weight by five per cent and try to do eight reps and then 12 reps. You should do weight training at least once a week for strength maintenance. You can do it two to three times a week to increase strength and power. There are countless alternate approaches, depending on your focus – is it strength, endurance and/or power. You should consult a trainer to figure out how much and how often you should do resistance exercise.

A study involving Harvard runners showed that men who trained with weights for 30 minutes or more per week cut their risk of heart disease by 23 percent. In a study of nursing home residents, researchers found 45 minutes of resistance exercise three times a week over a 10-week period resulted in 35 to 40 per cent of previously chair-bound people gaining the strength to be able to climb stairs.

Stretching and warm-up are important part of an exercise and fitness program. You should warm-up before you exercise. There is no particular method to warm-ups. Every individual has his or her plan. Professional athletes spend a lot of time on stretching and warm-ups. There is a theory that muscles contract better after they have already been contracting. The idea is to get the muscles warmed and get them ready of action. Does it improve performance? There is a dearth of good research on whether it actually does.

There are low-intensity and high intensity warm-ups. One review paper concluded that warm-up was shown to improve performance in 79 per cent of the criterions examined. But most of the studies were poorly conducted. An exception is a study found that a seven-and-a-half-minute warm-up involving cardiovascular exercise, stretching and air swings – swinging a golf club without hitting a ball – can significantly improve a golfer’s performance. There you go. Some good news for struggling golfers.

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