If you are like most people, you probably feel a little confused about the information available regarding fitness and activity. Just stand in line in any supermarket and you will be inundated with titles from magazine articles jumping out at you. Each week there seems to be a new miracle exercise or new piece of equipment that we just must have. It can all be a bit overwhelming. Thankfully we are here to help you clear up any confusing messaging by answering your questions using research based information or by directing you to an FNB Certified Personal Fitness Professional in your area.
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Why Get Fit?
Health Benefits: People need to be physically active to be healthy. Our modern lifestyle, with all the conveniences we have become used to, has made us sedentary. Think about it. electric doors, escalators, power windows, power steering, remote controls, sitting around in front of the TV or computer, riding in the car for even a short trip to the store, and using elevators instead of stairs or ramps all contribute to our inactivity. There are many health risks to inactivity:
- Premature death
- Heart Disease
- Colon Cancer
- High Blood Pressure
- Adult onset Diabetes
Research has shown over and over that inactivity is bad for our health. When we are inactive, our muscles weaken. This can lead to poor posture, inability to do daily tasks, falling and loss of independence. Physical inactivity is as dangerous to our health as smoking! We all know the hazards of smoking; it is now known that physical inactivity leads to serious illness and decreased quality of life. In fact, research shows that if individuals who lead unhealthy lifestyles (who smoke, are sedentary, eat poorly) can make one positive change, then becoming active will have the most impact on reducing their risk of dying. So what can be accomplished by adding activity to our lives? A wealth of information is available that describes the numerous benefits that each of us can enjoy by adding physical activity to our lifestyle. Moving more often can result in:
- Better health
- Better posture
- Better self esteem
- Stronger muscles and bones
- Relaxation and reduced stress
- Improved fitness
- Better balance
- Weight control
- Feeling more energetic
- Continued independent living in later life
How much exercise do I need?
Accumulate at least 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity activity on most, or preferably all, days of the week. In order to achieve health benefits, scientists say to accumulate 30-60 minutes of physical activity every day to stay healthy or improve your health. WOW! 60 minutes – one hour. You may be thinking that’s impossible, how can I ever manage to find an hour in my day? Two key words in the guideline are “accumulate” and “moderate”. We can add up physical activity that we do in spurts throughout the day! It is the total energy expenditure over the entire day that is important. The total time of activity needed (30 minutes vs. 60 minutes) depends on your effort. As the intensity increases, the time needed to achieve the benefits decreases. Physical activity doesn’t have to be very hard to improve your health. You choose based on your time restrictions, ability and preferences. Improving your health can be achieved by building physical activities into your daily routine. Just add up periods of at least 10 minutes each throughout the day.
The Physical Activity Guide is a made in Canada product based on years of international research. It provides a rainbow of physical activities that can help you have more energy, move more easily, and get stronger. It tells you how much activity you should strive for and how to get started. It also lists the many benefits of physical activity and the health risks of inactivity. The guide was developed to give Canadians accurate information and to help us get moving. If you would like to see the Physical Activity Guide go to Canada’s Physical Activity Guide
Get Active Your Way Everyday For Life You may find that you have your favorite type of activity-you may love to walk, but don’t feel confident stretching OR you may feel strong from your strength activities but have difficulty doing the endurance activities. You may not have exercised for years and are a little hesitant to begin. Remember the benefits will be gained as you do a variety of activities from each area. Each of us will find different strategies that will help us become more active. Here are some ideas from people that have been successful at including activity in their daily routine:
- Choose activities that interest you
- Do activities that are easy to fit in your schedule
- Do activities that are fun
- Make a plan for action – take your first step
Is there anything you have been wanting to try? What did you enjoy to do when you were younger? Don’t overhaul your whole schedule. Integrate one activity. Try it out. Make it work for you.
- Do the activities you are doing now, more often or with more effort
- Join a friend who is already active
- Walk whenever you can – get off the bus earlier, park the car farther away, use the stairs..
- Reduce the length of inactive periods ( less watching TV or using the computer)
- Get up from the easy chair or office chair and stretch and bend for a few minutes every hour
- Start slowly, progress gradually
- Find out about walking and cycling paths or routes near you and use them
- Watch a group exercise class to see if you want to try one
- Try one class to start – no long term commitment necessary
- Check out the programs and services offered by your local recreation department
The best way to keep going once you have taken that first step is to do activities that are easy to fit in your schedule and are fun for you to do. To get the health benefits you want from physical activity, you need to do it regularly, so pick activities that you think you can realistically build into your daily life. Physical activity is an investment in your health. Make it something you want to do, not something you have to do. Think of minutes of activity as dollars in your health bank and make an investment in your healthy today!
Types of Activities
There are three types of activities you need to do to keep your body healthy:
- Endurance Activities
- Flexibility Activities
- Strength Activities
Endurance Activities (4-7 days/week)
These activities help your heart, lungs, and circulatory system stay healthy and give you more energy. Endurance activities can help protect against diabetes and reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and colon cancer. Endurance activities range from walking and household chores to organized exercise programs and recreational sports. Some activities you can choose from include:
- Golfing (without the electric cart)
- Yard and garden work
- Propelling a wheelchair
- In-line skating
- Ice skating
- Cross-country skiing
- Continuous swimming
- Badminton etc.
Begin with light activities and progress to moderate and vigorous activities later as appropriate. This will prevent or minimize muscle soreness and will decrease the risk of injury. With moderate and vigorous activities your heart rate and breathing rate will increase. Try to work at a level that still allows you to talk (without gasping). Think comfort – comfortable footwear and clothing. Wear CSA-approved safety gear whenever your activity of choice warrants it..like a bicycle helmet for cycling, elbow, wrist, and knee protectors along with a helmet for in-line skating.
Flexibility Activities (4-7 days/week)
Flexibility activities help you to move easily, keeping your muscles relaxed and your joints mobile. Regular flexibility activities can help you to live better so that your quality of life and independence are maintained as you get older. Proper posture depends on muscles being strong and flexible. Many common aches and pains (stiff neck, sore upper back, pain in the lower back, sore shoulders) can be due to a lack of flexibility. Flexibility activities include:
- Gentle reaching
- Stretching all of your muscle groups.
Some activities that may help you improve your flexibility include:
- Gardening and yard work
- Stretching exercises
- Tai Chi
Different areas of your body may be more flexible than others. Each joint may have a different ability for range of motion. It is important to know that stretching one area will not improve flexibility in another. A complete program should include all major body joints and muscles. Stretching safely means that you:
- Stretch slowly and smoothly without bouncing or jerking
- Use gentle continuous motion or stretch and hold (10-30 seconds)
- Begin with five minutes of light activity (like walking) before you stretch your muscles or do your stretching after your muscles have warmed up from endurance or strength activities
- Breathe naturally -don’t hold your breath
- Avoid pain – aim for a relaxed, stretched feeling
- Stretch the major muscle groups -hamstrings, hip flexors, gastrocnemius, pectoralis
Strength Activities (2-4 days/week)
Strength activities help your muscles and bones stay strong, improve your posture, and help prevent diseases like osteoporosis. Strength activities are those that make you work your muscles against a resistance, like when you push or pull hard to open a heavy door or move a piece of heavy furniture. Exercising the muscles in your arms, trunk, and legs will ensure good overall strength. Aim for a good balance – upper body and lower body, right and left sides, and front and back of the body. Some ideas to help you increase your strength include:
- Heavy yard work (cutting and piling wood)
- Raking and carrying leaves
- Lifting and carrying groceries, infants or toddlers
- Climbing stairs
- Weight/strength training routines
- Exercises like abdominal curl ups and push ups.
Safe strength training:
- Begin with a warm-up and stretching
- Learn proper technique – consult an FNB Certified Personal Fitness Trainer
- Use light weights – progress as your strength improves
- Begin with high repetitions – 1 set of 10-15 reps then progress to 2-4 sets
- Breathe regularly – don’t hold your breath
- Rest for a least one day before strength training the same muscles
Remember to ask for help from a qualified fitness professional! It is important to do a variety of activities from each group to get the most health benefits. Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living at www.paguide.com offers you a rainbow of activities to choose from.
In order to stay or become healthy, you need to choose activities from each of the three activity groups. Each area provides different benefits.
Tips For Active Moms
- Put on some music and dance
- Switch the TV to an exercise program and follow along
- Dance along with the children’s shows
- Walk to a park, push the children on the swings
- Play chase, tag, hopscotch or skipping
- Play some lively music during house chores – vacuuming or washing the floors can become quite pleasant
- Cycle or in-line skate with your children after supper
- Meet friends for an exercise class while the children go to a play group
- Stretch and bend while the children are climbing on the play structure
- Get outside – take the children for a walk (an explore, a “worm walk”, a game of “eye spy”)
- Get off the bus stop two stops before your destination and walk the rest of the way
- Take the stairs as much as possible
- Exercise your muscles while sitting – tighten your abdominals and push the small of your back into the seat back -hold for 30 seconds, repeat throughout the day
- Stretch your muscles during coffee breaks at work – roll your shoulders, stretch your neck muscles
Tips For Older Adults You are never to old to increase your physical activity! The more you move the better you feel ACTIVE older adults have the function and fitness of those much younger. Physical Activity is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your physical and mental health and quality of life as you get older. Walking, stretching and keeping your muscles in good condition will help you maintain your independence.
- Choose something that you like to do or want to try
- Start slowly and gradually build up time until you are able to do 30-60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week
- Start with activities you can easily build into your daily routine
- Get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way
- Move around frequently
- Stand up and sit down several times in a row to strengthen your legs
- Do some stretching everyday to increase your flexibility
- Wheel yourself to the park
- Do more of what you are already doing
- Join a mall walking or hall walking program
- Check out an exercise program specifically geared to older adults
Healthy aging and independent living depend upon physical activity.
Get Active at Home
- Create a new morning routine
- Start your day with 10 minutes of movement. Some stretching and a short walk can be a better boost than caffeine
- Go for a bike ride
- Trade in your power mover for a push mower
- Dance to your favourite “up-beat” music for 10 minutes each day
- Parents – play catch for fly a kite with your kids
- Do an exercise routine with leaders on TV
- Park the car 10 minutes away form the store or leave the car at home and walk, wheel or cycle
Get Active at Work
- Take stretch breaks during meetings
- Pretend the elevator is out of service – take the stairs
- Replace your coffee break with a walking/wheeling break
- Take a brisk walk before your lunch (about 10 minutes)
- Contract your stomach and back muscles while sitting in your chair or on the bus
- Have a “walking meeting” – grab your colleague and discuss business while taking a walk
Get Active at School
- Support quality daily physical education (QDPE) at your child’s school
- Encourage teachers to talk about physical activity and active living
- Encourage the school to open up early so you can “walk the halls” with your kids
- Create a walking school bus with other parents
- Students – choose physical education as one of your courses
Get involved in intramural programs
Consider the following when choosing a Fitness Facility:
- Is the facility service oriented, not sales oriented?
- Do the employees care about you as a person, not just as a source of revenue?
- Does the facility hire Certified Fitness Professionals?
- Will a trained employee be available to help you set an exercise program and/or show you how to use the equipment?
- Do the fitness leaders treat each member individually and offer exercise alternatives for people depending on their fitness level, goals and abilities?
- Does the facility have adequate room for the number of members who want to work out?
- Does the aerobics room have a floor that provides shock absorption?
- Does the facility have the type of cardiovascular and resistance training equipment you want to use?
- Is the equipment properly cleaned and maintained?
- Will you be allowed to try out the facility before you commit to purchasing a membership?
- Does the facility offer a variety of programs that suit your needs and interests?
- Is the facility close to your home and work?
- Before starting an exercise program does someone at the facility provide you with a health screening form to fill out?
How to Assess a Fitness Leader – Consider the following when assessing a Fitness Leader:
- Is the instructor a Certified Group Fitness Leader?
- Does the leader inquire about your current level of fitness?
- Does the leader provide modifications of exercises or alternatives to accommodate a variety of fitness levels and abilities?
- Does the leader explain the benefits of each exercise and demonstrate the correct way to perform them?
- Does the leader explain how to monitor the intensity of the cardiovascular portion of the class?
- Does the leader move around the room to give individual instruction?
- Does the leader encourage a noncompetitive atmosphere that allows participants to exercise at their own level?
- Does the leader interact with the participants most of the time or does he/she look in the mirror more often?
- Does the leader create a fun atmosphere?
- Is the leader organized and prepared?
- Is the leader friendly and interested in you as a person?
A personal trainer can make the difference in the success of your fitness program. A personal trainer can work with you on a regular basis, or on a consulting basis to help you design a program and update it periodically. Personal trainers work with people of all ages and fitness abilities. They can motivate you to exercise and help you meet your goals. Consider the following when choosing a personal trainer:
- Is the individual a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer?
- Does the personal trainer possess current CPR and First Aid?
- Does the personal trainer require a health screening or release from your doctor?
- Will the personal trainer keep a record of your workouts to track your progress?
- Does the personal trainer inquire about your lifestyle and show interest in seeing you maintain a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle in addition to exercise?
- Does the personal trainer network with allied professionals such as registered dieticians, physiotherapists, physicians and other fitness leaders?
- Does the personal trainer have good communication skills?
- Is the trainer within your budget?
- Is the trainer available when you are?
- Does the personal trainer provide you with references from other clients or other professionals familiar with the personal trainer’s abilities and knowledge?