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Getting The Most Out of Your Exercise Program

The human body is an amazing machine that can make adaptation to the demands that you are placing upon your body. Your body can improve in function by increasing muscle strength, bone density, improve blood pressure and regulate blood sugar and cholesterol. On the other hand, your body can also lose function when the demands to the body are decreased. You have probably heard about ‘Use it or Lose it’. Losing function eventually leads to disfunction and disability.

The key to restoring and maintaining function is to practice and performing exercise at the recommended frequency, intensity and duration. Performing exercise once a week and being physically inactive the remaining hours of the week is not sufficient to maintain function and result in a gradual decline in ability to perform daily tasks and ultimately resulting in disability. Getting the most out of your exercise program and/or personal training is to follow the recommendations.

When starting a personal training program your trainer most probably has performed assessments to determine your strengths and weakness. Based on the national standards set by the ACSM, he or she has provided you with recommendations to maximize your exercise potential and ultimately achieving a higher fitness level and quality of life. The difference by following the recommendations is functioning at a level that you are barely scraping (daily living tasks are costing you maximal effort, and you are hurting with aches and pains) or functioning at a fitness level where you are thriving and having a high quality of life.

According to the ACSM, neuromotor exercise can be especially beneficial for older people to improve balance and muscle strength, reducing the risk of falls and other injury. In order to meet the neuromotor recommendations of two or three days a week, the ACSM suggests participating in activities like tai chi or yoga. Multi-sensory balance training that specifically targets the balance impairment is recommended for people at increased and high fall risk. Functional resistance movements involving a significant degree of balance and multiple muscle groups might also help fulfill the recommendations for neuromotor exercise.

In addition to emphasizing a new category of activity, the ACSM standards highlight a variety of ways to meet the recommended minimum 150 minutes of weekly exercise. For people with busy schedules, the new guidelines suggest exercising longer on days when more time is available, or breaking workouts into several 10-minute increments throughout the day .

Cardiorespiratory Exercise

  • Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

  • Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).

  • One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise.

  • Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk.

  • People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.

Resistance Exercise

  • Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment.

  • Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting an exercise program.

  • Gradual progression to higher intensity and resistance to boost muscle power and strength.

  • Up to two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve and optimize strength and power.

  • For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance.

  • Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.

Flexibility Exercise

  • Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion.

  • Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort.

  • Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch.

  • Static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF stretches are all effective.

  • Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching.

Neuromotor Exercise

  • Neuromotor exercise (sometimes called “functional fitness training”) is recommended for two or three days per week.

  • Exercises should involve motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait), proprioceptive exercise training and multifaceted activities to improve physical function and prevent falls in older adults.

  • 20-30 minutes per day is appropriate for neuromotor exercise.

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