DEAR DOCTOR K: You’ve written that a complete exercise program involves a combination of activities. Can you discuss these exercises? How often should I do them?
DEAR READER: All-around fitness calls for a combination of aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance exercises.
Let’s start with aerobic activities, which are great for burning calories and paring down unwanted fat. These activities – think of walking, biking, running and swimming – push large muscles to repeatedly contract and relax.
Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as a brisk walk) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week.
Strength or resistance training works by forcing muscles to strain against an opposing force such as free weights or a resistance band. Strength exercises build muscles and protect against bone loss.
Aim to perform a complete strength-training routine two to three times per week. Your routine should work all the major muscle groups. Give your body at least 48 hours to rest between strength-training workouts.
Flexibility exercises like stretching, yoga and Pilates gently reverse the shortening and weakening of muscles that typically come with age. Shorter, stiffer muscle fibers are more vulnerable to injuries. They contribute to back pain and balance problems. Flexibility exercises help stretch and strengthen muscles. Well-stretched muscles can more easily achieve their full range of motion, which makes it easier to reach, bend and stoop during daily tasks.
Perform flexibility exercises at least two to three times a week. Hold stretches for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat each stretch four times.
Balance exercises help improve stability. They offer an excellent defense against falls, which can cause disabling bone fractures. Activities that enhance balance include tai chi, yoga and Pilates. You can do balance exercises two to seven days a week.