If you want a health-focused exercise plan it can be difficult to know what exactly is really going to help you. But you just need to remember a few key elements to ensure your exercise is healthy and effective.
The last thing you want is to start a new programme, only to get hurt or ill as a result, so a balanced programme will be tailored to you and your specific health and fitness needs. This means you need clear goals and good advice all along the way.
1. Put safety first for a health-focused exercise plan
You can improve your health through exercise, but you need to be sensible and cautious to manage the risks.
If you haven’t been active for a while, you should get a check-up from your doctor before you begin a new exercise regime. Their advice is important, especially if you have any underlying health issues or have been through surgery or other treatment.
2. Balance the four key elements
To develop an effective, healthy exercise plan try to find a balance between four key elements: strength (including your core), aerobic fitness, balance and flexibility. You can focus a little more on one or more of these, but a weakness in any of them can lead to problems.
For example, if you try to do free weights as a strength exercise but have poor balance then you are more likely to get injured. Similarly, poor aerobic fitness will limit how hard you can work on other areas, holding back your progress and even leading to injury when you get tired.
So, you need a good base in all four exercise elements to progress in any of them.
3. Beware of exercises that look great but don’t work
You may be wasting your time or risking injury with some of the most well-known exercises, even if you are doing them properly. This is because they are ineffective, dangerous or require a specific technique to be effective.
A good personal trainer will steer you away from the useless or dangerous exercises, or ensure your technique is good enough to take advantage of the tricky ones.
A good example of an ineffective exercise is the wrist curl with a barbell. It looks great for improving your grip strength but is not as good as a finger-tip push-up.
An example of a dangerous exercise is the lat pull-down behind the head, as this can damage your shoulders or neck.
An exercise that is easy to do badly is the deadlift, which requires strength, co-ordination and a precise technique to be effective and safe.
If in doubt, ask a reputable personal trainer.
Before you start planning your exercise or meet your personal trainer, think about your goals and how they fit with your overall health. Whether you’re overweight, underweight, a new mum, an old dad, high-performance athlete or whatever, you can benefit from exercise if you have realistic goals and a good plan.
If you want to lose weight be honest about what you weigh and how much you want to lose within a certain time period. Being realistic makes it more likely that you will be successful, which keeps you motivated but also prevents you pushing yourself too hard and getting injured.
Whatever your exercise goals, diet is going to be vital. Losing weight will mean controlling what you eat so your body can burn off the fat deposits, while strength training is likely to need extra lean protein.
But more importantly, your diet affects your health in general. For example, a recent study showed that the effect of a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet on your gut bacteria can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The healthier you are generally, the more you will be able to benefit from exercise.
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