Whatever your age or activity level, it is never too late to start a fitness routine. A complete fitness routine should include activities that focus on endurance, strength, flexibility and balance. These four elements, known as fitness building blocks, provide both physical and emotional benefits. They can help you maintain independence and mobility even as you age.
Endurance: These exercises increase your breathing and heart rate. They strengthen your heart and build stamina.
Strength: These exercises build your muscles and give you strength to do things on your own.
Flexibility: These exercises keep your body limber and involve stretching, and increase your range of motion.
Balance: These exercises help you maintain posture and prevent falls.
Activities for the Four Building Blocks of Endurance
- Stair Climbing
- Brisk Walking
- Martial Arts – which can improve muscular endurance when moves are practiced repeatedly
- Sports such as volleyball, basketball, and tennis
Goal: Aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity at least five days a week. Aerobic means that the body is using oxygen to make energy, like when you run.
- Calisthenics (repeated exercise to develop strength, power) or weight machines that work both the upper and lower body
- Martial Arts – striking and kicking moves can help develop muscular strength
- Rowing – builds upper body strength
- Cycling and Hiking – build lower body strength
Combining upper- and lower-body activities in your daily routine will provide an overall strengthening workout.
Goal: Build strength through resistance exercises (weights, resistance bands). Try one set of 8-12 repetitions for each muscle group, two to three times a week.
A rule of thumb: If you can't repeat eight weight exercises in a row, the weight is too heavy, try a lighter one. If you can lift a weight more than 15 times in a row, the weight is too light – get one slightly heavier. Don't increase the weight you lift by more than 10 percent at any time. Remember to warm up with slow movement, such as marching in place, and cool down (stretch) your muscles each time you work out. Make sure you keep at least one day in between strength training. Your muscles need time to repair and rest allows them to become stronger.
- Static stretches (no bouncing, holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds)
- Martial Arts
It is important to stretch before and after you exercise. To avoid injury, make sure your muscles are warmed up before stretching. Try a low impact activity, such as walking for a couple of minutes before you begin.
Goal: Perform a static stretch routine each day, working each muscle group two or three times for at least 20 to 30 seconds each time.
- Martial arts, especially Tai Chi
- Posture exercises: walk with a book on your head or heel to toe along a straight line, or try standing on one leg when on the phone or waiting in line.
Goal: Work your balance exercises into your regular strength-training, stretching, and endurance routines. Posture exercises can be done anytime and anywhere.
Putting Together a Plan
You've decided to do something fantastic for your health and your body – you're going to get moving! Congratulations – you've already taken the first step. Before you begin, be sure to talk with your doctor about any health conditions you might have.
You can design a plan with a personal trainer, fitness instructor, or work on your own. Find out which areas of fitness you need to work on most, and then design a plan to meet these needs. For example, you might have great endurance but need to build strength. It is important to let your muscles rest. Injuries can be prevented by starting off slow and gradually increasing activity as your body adjusts.
Measuring Your Success
Chart your fitness plan progress. Don't get discouraged when you don't see instant results. Getting fit takes time. Set realistic goals and try to stick with it, soon you'll start seeing improvements in your balance, endurance, strength, and flexibility.