I was recently asked what an ideal exercise program to be healthy would be and what a great question! I answered the question with the long term goal of staying strong, healthy and fit for as long as possible- which actually requires daily activity that addresses cardiovascular fitness, strength and mobility. I have observed that people tend to ‘like’ certain modalities of exercise more than others and neglect activities they don’t like, which eventually comes at a cost to fitness/well being. Either lack of fitness, strength, mobility or injury.
Personally, I am the biggest fan of hard cardio exercise like running or indoor cycling meeting a performance goal, such as running 5km/3miles in under 25 minutes or cycling as far as possible in 20min. I have neglected weight training at various times in my life, although I got started at age 15, which seems like a head start. I’ve worked with a trainer whenever I became ‘lazy’ on the weights and got back on track. Having experienced the pandemic and the lack of weight training due to gyms being closed, I realized the difference it makes and re committed myself. Strength training improves your metabolism by building muscle tissue, which is the most metabolically active tissue, muscle has insulin receptors. Cardio vascular training ensures efficacy in the utilization of fuel by your muscles and overall circulation. Mobility training maintains the optimal range of motion of your joints, which we need to stay limber and able to move easily with grace.
What does an ‘ideal’ exercise program look like? Daily activity that would be a mixture of:
2-3 sessions/week of strength training
3-5 sessions/week of cardio vascular exercise, some easy some hard
2-3 sessions/week of mobility/yoga/pilates
It is a lot and what is required to be in optimal condition for life, especially later in life. Many of us have limited time to exercise and it is also required to be healthy in the long term. Find 20-60minutes daily to take better care of yourself with physical activity. This will be unpopular, but we need to do the activities we don’t like in order to be in optimal condition. For example, the folks who love yoga and are super flexible, really need to be in the weight room and doing cardio exercise to balance themselves. The cardio junkies need to get stronger by hitting the weights and working on their mobility. The people who only like to lift heavy weights and are super strong, could likely use some work on their cardio fitness and mobility. You need to find the right variation of exercise and balance for you and your goals.
To simplify, cardio exercise like running, biking, swimming improves your circulation. Strength/weight training improves your muscle mass, which is much needed as we lose muscle mass with age. Yoga, pilates and mobility improves your ability to move and has benefits for the mind. We need all 3 areas of exercise to be well rounded and healthy for the long term.