Being fit means more than the ability to run a marathon or lift heavy weights. Fitness looks different on every person, and according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), it can be broken into three different categories:

  1. Cardiorespiratory Endurance/Fitness
  2. Muscular Strength and Endurance 
  3. Flexibility 

Finding a balance among these components will allow you to develop a healthy and well-rounded fitness routine. According to the ACSM, adults should participate in moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise training 30 minutes or more on 5 or more days a week for a total of 150 minutes per week, or vigorous intensity cardiorespiratory exercise for 20 minutes or more on 3 or more days per week, totaling to 75 minutes per week; you can also aim for a combination of moderate-and vigorous-intensity exercise 75 minutes per week. To achieve even more extensive health benefits, adults should increase moderate-intensity aerobic activity levels to 300 minutes or 5 hours a week, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous physical activity, or 150 minutes of both moderate-and vigorous-intensity activity. Two to three days a week, adults should incorporate strength exercises for each major muscle group, as well as stretching, balance, agility, and coordination activities 2-3 days per week. It is essential to listen to your body and do what is comfortable and fun.

  1. Cardiorespiratory (aerobic) Endurance/Fitness: Cardiorespiratory fitness is the ability of your heart, lungs, and muscles to supply fuel when faced with the demands of physical activity. With increased amounts of cardio exercise, individuals may experience improvements in high blood pressure, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. To improve your fitness levels, activities that may help, include running or jogging, walking at a brisk pace, swimming, and cycling. Moderate-intensity activity can be broken into smaller sessions of at least 10-minutes or more, which may be just as effective.
  2. Muscular strength and endurance: Strength training should complement cardiovascular training, as numerous studies have demonstrated its benefits. It preserves bone mass while improving strength and balance in men, women, and the elderly, may improve the quality of life for those with cardiovascular disease and heart failure, and may increase metabolism. Strength training can also affect body composition; randomized studies over a 12- week period or longer have shown that strength training may greatly improve muscle mass and quality in both men and women. If you’re just starting a weight- training program, it’s advisable to start at least one or two personal training sessions to avoid injury and/or burnout. 
  3. Flexibility: Flexibility training is important for all major muscle groups, including: chest, neck, upper and lower back, hips, legs, and arms. Stretching is most beneficial when the muscles are slightly warmed, so choose an active warm-up before your workout and stretch afterwards. Also, you may choose to utilize stretching as a standalone program. 

In some cases, regular exercise may help lessen the severity of age-related diseases, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. Increasing the amount of physical activity on a daily basis and incorporating a well-rounded routine helps to enhance feelings of well-being, quality of life, and cognitive function. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting a new physical activity regimen. Ease into your routine, listen to your body, and love what you do.

Written By:
Amy Kurtz, BA, BS, CI-CPT, Certified Health Coach

This article is for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease.