Many of you have joined us for this month’s 30-day challenge to get some daily physical activity. Some of you walk for 30 minutes daily. Some of you lift weights. And some of you practice yoga or Qi Gong. Given the variety of exercises, I wonder if there are some general guidelines we can use to help us create the perfect exercise routine.
A common guideline is based on calories used during various activities. I find it helpful to control my appetite. If you only burn 570 calories for a solid hour of jogging, you really have to think twice about that yummy muffin you’re about to put into your mouth, don’t you?
But calorie numbers can be discouraging when it comes to exercising. So I don’t think it’s the best guide to determine how much exercise we should do. Rather, I like guidelines that cover the fundamentals, guidelines that are simple yet flexible enough to accommodate our schedules, moods and preferences.
So I’ve adopted four simple guidelines to help me create my exercise routine…
Cardio or aerobic exercise is the kind that increases your heart rate and the flow of oxygen in your body. It conditions your heart and respiratory system, strengthens your nervous and immune systems, reduces stress, fights depression, and increases your stamina.
When we think of cardio, we often think of rigorous exercises such as jogging, swimming, dancing or hiking. And we sometimes forget that cardio can include many of our daily activities, such as walking a dog, mowing a lawn, gardening, house-cleaning, or taking the stairs instead of an elevator.
This means we can incorporate cardio into our daily schedule in flexible and creative ways, especially on days when we can’t block out a time dedicated to exercising.
Ideally you want to aim to do some cardio at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. It’s a challenge to stay consistent, I know. I’m working on it myself!
Strength training is important for your overall health. It strengthens your skeletal and muscular system, boosts your body’s metabolism, and increases your muscle mass – an extra bonus that allows you to consume more calories.
Ideally you want to do 1 to 3 sets (8 to 15 reps per set) of exercises involving all of the major muscle groups: chest, back, shoulders, arms, low back, abdominals, hips/thighs and calves.
For me, I do a set of exercises with my two 5-pounds barbells focusing on my chest, back, shoulders and arms. I figure my lower body gets plenty of exercise from walking and hiking.
Flexibility training shares similar benefits as strength training. To me, they’re the yin (flexibility) and yang (strength) of exercise – one complements, balances and strengthens the other. It’s important to do some stretching before and after your exercises.
My challenge for this month is to take a 5-10 minutes break every 45 minutes or so. I use this time to lift weights, stretch, and do some cardio, such as jumping up and down. I find it a wonderful way to get a boost of energy – it’s my version of energy drink.
4. Mind-body integration
When we take care of our physical body, we cannot forget about taking care of our mind – the most powerful gift we’re given. Breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi are all effective ways to integrate, balance and harmonize our body, mind and spirit.
This is an area that I’ve cultivated a strong foundation in. Daily meditation and Qi Gong practice has helped me stay centered, focused and balanced. I’m so grateful to have them as a part of my day – and my life.
How about you? What guidelines do you use to help you create your exercise routine? Please share it with us!