Most people know regular exercise is essential for wellness. However, you cannot exercise away a bad diet. Part of overall wellness is understanding how everything about your lifestyle can affect your fitness and long-term health. Similarly, if you only focus on cardio exercise, you may have great endurance and mobility, but your body composition and strength may not be as good as they could be if you also added in a couple of days of weight training.
When it comes to fitness, there are five main pillars you should focus on for optimal results.
Strength training is the foundation of fitness and will help you improve mobility, stability, body composition, and metabolism over the long term. You can use weights, machines, or bodyweight to do resistance training to build muscle and strength. Start with two days per week dedicated to just strength training using weights that are challenging but not too heavy so that you can perform 12-15 repetitions. Work all the different muscle groups including legs, arms, back, and core with different exercises for these areas. As you become stronger over time, you can increase your weight and add a third day of strength training for maximum fitness.
Improving your mobility will help you become stronger and prevent injuries. It’s especially important as you age, so you can remain active and independent. Training for mobility will improve the range of motion in your muscles and the joints that control them. Mobility exercises include things like walking lunges and other movements using your body weight. Additionally, yoga and stretching for flexibility will also help with mobility long term. A good way to incorporate mobility exercises into your workouts is with warm-ups and during active rest periods when exercising.
Endurance activities are those that require your muscles to exert resistance over an extended period of time. Activities such as running, brisk walking, hiking, or cycling are examples of endurance exercise. Training for endurance promotes good cardiovascular health and also has benefits for your sleep, mood, and body composition. To best train for endurance, slowly and steadily increase your mileage and speed over time with cardio exercise. Consistency is key when training for endurance.
Body composition is more than just a number on the scale or even a BMI percentage. It refers to the percentage of your bodyweight that is made up of fat compared to lean muscle mass. Having excess body fat can be detrimental to your health and lead to health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Even if your weight is in a healthy range, if your body is composed of mostly fat instead of lean muscle, you are still at risk for health problems. A combination of a healthy diet and exercise will lead to a healthier body composition over time.
Living a healthy lifestyle is the key to longevity and health. This involves not only exercise but also a healthy diet and getting a proper amount of rest as well as practicing healthy habits such as not smoking. Sleep and rest are vitally important for proper recovery from exercise and training.
A diet high in fat and calories or full of heavily processed foods makes it harder to improve your body composition and lose fat. High-stress levels can also contribute to a higher body fat percentage. Focus on eating a varied, healthy diet full of whole foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein.
Equally important is getting enough sleep. Quality sleep is crucial for proper recovery from exercise; without it you become much more prone to injury. Always work on rest days during the week where you take a day off from exercise to allow your body to recover.