Exercising has become an integral life activity, especially for people living in cosmopolitan areas where both being and looking fit are much sought after.
However, we now know that a 30-minute generic workout three days a week and reducing fat and carbohydrate intake, which was the standard recommended for decades, may not be enough to achieve the results desired.
Certainly these general approaches can improve your health. But you will not get the most out of your endeavors by simply following these basic methods.
An individualized exercise program is a big part of attaining good health and a great appearance, whether you are an occasional exerciser, a gym rat who works out every day to develop six-pack abs, or a sports enthusiast who aims for an Olympic gold medal. A tailored program can greatly help you achieve your health goals safely and efficiently. Moreover, it can help you avoid two common mistakes that exercisers often experience – over training, which can lead to injuries, and under training, which minimizes benefits.
Start customizing your own exercise program by identifying your goals. Some popular goals are to reduce weight, increase muscle strength, improve flexibility, increase overall fitness, improve appearance, and reach peak performance in a participating sport. After the goals are set, you can then choose the right exercise based on what you are aiming for.
Despite numerous fads, the not-so-secret strategy to weight loss is to burn more calories than you take in. In the beginning, you may want to start with aerobic exercise because it is the relatively fastest way to burn the most calories and basically the easiest exercise to start with, especially if you have not exercised in a while. It also helps improve your heart strength and relieve stress. After you have mastered this, you may want to add some strength training and stretching exercises into your designed program.
Second, you must also determine optimum exercise intensity. When you exercise, you actually injure yourself to trigger the body repair system. So the optimum exercise intensity mainly depends on body repairing ability. Unlike normal injuries, exercise is predetermined so that the level of injury is controlled. At the optimum level of injury, your body will adapt and eventually become stronger. But if the level of injury is too high and beyond the body's ability to repair, then your body will become weaker.
Your body repairing ability depends on your physical fitness and many other factors. If you are a beginner, it is advisable that you have a basic check-up including monitoring your blood pressure. But if you are a serious athlete, then a more detailed check-up is recommended. These results will help pinpoint the "sweet spots" that you should train in order to achieve your desired goal.
The bottom line is that you must enjoy the exercise program you choose. If you hate running, then do not run. If you cannot stand spending hours lifting weights, then find another activity that will give you the same benefit.
By Asst. Professor Prawee Sirithientha M.D., Ph.D, SEACSM