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Fitness and Training Tips

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by Debra Fulghum Bruce, PhD

Think it's time to get up and get moving? There's no better time to start than today. In this Shopper's Guide to Fitness and Training, I’ll give you the skinny on the importance of exercise and motivate you to be more active each day. I'll explain some easy training terms and give suggestions on products that you might need. Whether you’re new to the idea of exercise or train at a gym each day, I’ll suggest activities you can enjoy right now as you make the commitment to get fit.

Try Fit, Not Fat

Feeling unfit and fat? Then build more muscle. Muscle mass helps to rev up your metabolism and demands more energy from your body than fat does. This means the more muscle you add to your body, the more calories you may burn throughout the day. Even muscles at rest burn some calories—all the more reason to strive for FIT (Frequency, Intensity, Time), not fat.

How Often Should You Work Out?

Exercise frequency means how many times a week you train or work out. An ideal frequency may be 30 minutes or more of conditioning exercise such as walking, biking or swimming most days of the week, along with strength training two or three times a week. It's important to find what works best for you. If you’re not used to working out, start slowly. You may want to exercise in short bursts such as 5- or 10-minute segments as you gain endurance and strength. Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program to make sure it’s safe.

Are You a Rock Star Athlete?

Exercise intensity means how hard you work out during your training or workout. If you’re an active person, you may choose moderate intensity activities like walking, low-impact aerobics, dancing, stair climbing and water aerobics. If you haven’t been physically active for a while, you may start with low-intensity exercises like bowling, yoga and golf with a cart. If you’re a rock star athlete, high intensity exercise such as kick-boxing, jogging, soccer, spinning and swimming may be right up your alley.

Listen to Your Body with Exercise

No matter what exercise intensity you select—low, medium or high—try to set a goal of how long you want to exercise or your duration of training. You may want to train 20 to 30 minutes most days. Start slowly, listen to your body, and stop exercising when it tells you that it’s time to quit. If you have pain, call your doctor. Regular exercise may promote heart health while lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Exercising may help with weight loss and maintaining a normal, healthy weight.

Walking is Convenient and Free

You can walk anywhere—at any time. You can walk around your house, in your backyard, in your neighborhood, at your workplace, at a local mall or even standing in place while watching your favorite team play on TV. You don't have to buy a treadmill or drive to a fitness center to get up, move your legs and walk daily. If you have a pain problem (hip, knee or back), try biking or water exercise instead. Exercising daily burns calories and strengthens key muscles to help you stay active.

Water Exercise Supports Your Weight

If you have access to a swimming pool, lake or beach, consider water exercise. Walking in the water is a great way to strengthen muscles and support the cardiovascular system. Water reduces gravity and supports your weight during movement, allowing for strengthening and conditioning as you exercise. Some example water exercises include stretching, swimming laps, using a kickboard and simply walking in the water

Is House Cleaning Really Exercise?

It's important to develop a daily exercise program that’s fun. For example, did you know that household chores or active play with kids or grandkids is exercise? This is great incentive to buy bikes for the family or a new playground set. Here are a few everyday activities that may help boost fitness: gardening, housecleaning, playing with children or grandchildren, stair climbing, yard work (mowing, pulling weeds, raking), vacuuming and washing the car.

Create a Fitness Garden

Active gardening involves conditioning, strengthening, and range of motion exercises—an all-in-one outdoor activity. With gardening, you work all the muscles in the body as you walk, pull, lift, bend, stoop, and carry weighted objects such as bags of fertilizer or potting soil. Unlike a daily walk or bike ride, it's usually difficult to stop gardening after 30 minutes, as the activity is so enjoyable. Some helpful tools you can use to turn your backyard into a fitness garden include and electric blower/vacuum, lawn mower, leaf rake, garden hose, and wheelbarrow.

Set Simple Goals to Start

It's important to have fitness goals in order to see results from a training regimen. Fitness goals such as losing an inch in your waistline, walking a faster mile or lifting heavier weights will give you a way to measure growth. Make sure your fitness goals are reasonable, simple and specific, and write them down. Review your goals every week or so and make changes if necessary.

Keep Track with a Fitness Diary

Keeping track of your training regimen will help to keep you accountable. I like to keep an exercise diary on FITDAY, a free smartphone app that records my weight, activity and daily calories. You can use an inexpensive, three-ring binder as a Fitness Diary to record training goals and write down the days and times you exercise. When you look back on your FITDAY or your Fitness Diary, you can see your training progress. This may provide a motivational boost in self-confidence and self-esteem. You can change your goals periodically as your training progresses.

Do Functional Fitness Exercises

While daily activity and exercise are an important part of staying fit, you don't have to train to run a marathon. Rather, focus on functional fitness exercises that help to strengthen and stabilize your body so you can perform your daily activities without pain or stiffness. It's easier to maintain a normal weight when you’re able to be more active, so choose fitness!

Exercise Boosts Endorphins

Exercising for 30 minutes a day helps to increase endorphins in the body. Endorphins are the body's natural painkillers.

Get Awesome Abs Anywhere

You don't have to go to a gym to get awesome abs. In fact, you can exercise a few minutes throughout your day to firm up your tummy. Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep a large fit ball in your den next to the TV. Sit on the ball and try to balance. This helps to strengthen your core and abs.
  • Use an inexpensive hula-hoop for your waistline and core. Working these muscles helps strengthen the abs, too.
  • Wherever you are, stand tall and pull in your core and abs. Hold in your stomach muscles and tighten for 10 seconds. Do it again, and again.

Say YES to Yoga

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that may help reduce stress and relieve muscular tension by boosting range of motion and strength. Not surprisingly, yoga has been found to improve flexibility and fitness. With yoga, you can find benefits with the physical postures (asana), concentration exercises (dharana) and meditation exercises (dhyana). As with any exercise, check with your doctor, especially if you’re pregnant or have high blood pressure.

Try Home Exercise Equipment

If you have little time to go to a gym and would rather exercise at home, you're not alone. Many people enjoy exercising on a treadmill before work or riding a stationary bike while watching the evening news. Exercising at home allows you to choose the time of day and exercise at your own pace. Also, all you have to do is pop in a DVD or get on your treadmill to start your fitness regimen—no matter how bad the weather is outside. Some basic equipment you might consider includes exercise bands or tubes, fit ball for stretching the lower back and abdomen, full-length mirror to make sure your posture is correct, dumbbells or kettlebells, workout DVDs and a yoga or exercise mat.

Join a Fitness Center or Gym

If you like to use fitness equipment, consider joining the YMCA or a gym. You’ll have to pay a monthly membership fee and you’ll only be able to use the facility when it’s open. But many YMCAs have indoor tracks and Olympic-size swimming pools. They may also offer water aerobics and fitness classes.

Get Great Workout Accessories

You may want to invest in workout apparel, sport-specific shoes and accessories such as water bottles, small towels to wipe your face during exercise and a duffle bag or backpack to hold your training accessories. Dress in layers such as a base layer, a warmth layer and a windproof layer. Choose shirts of a fabric that pulls sweat from the body, and look for water-resistant, breathable outerwear.

Hire a Personal Trainer

Consider getting a personal trainer to help you keep track of your progress, give you encouragement and schedule your workouts for you. My personal trainer keeps me accountable, and I'd feel guilty if I didn't show up for our planned appointments. Call your local YMCA for referrals or check online in your area. You might want to interview several trainers to find the right person and consider paying for three months to get into the exercise habit. Make sure your personal trainer has at least a bachelor's degree in exercise science or a related health-science discipline, experience, and certification from an internationally recognized organization like the American College of Sports Medicine or the American Council on Exercise.

Your Fitness and Training Checklist:

  • Hire a personal trainer to get your started on your fitness regimen.
  • Make it your goal to move around more to stay fit.
  • Remember that physical activity, including daily chores, is considered exercise.
  • Use a Fitness Diary to keep track of your exercise and goals.

Learn more about Getting in Shape