Since the field of fitness has become a popular effort and it has become additionally profitable to dispense fitness related services and information, it has become progressively difficult to get any simple answers. The following are some thoughts and observations about fitness formulated by more than twenty years of professional experience in the field:
I. Overweight and obesity are well documented problems in this nation. However, many sincerely involved fitness enthusiasts agonize over that "last ten pounds" for which no method seems to be working. Thousands of individuals are longing for the answer to help them overcome that barrier which separates them from their perceived perfection.
The story is repeated a thousand times over in the case of the men who want that last vestige of abdominal (love handle) fat to disappear and more than that number of women who struggle to dissolve in any manner imaginable the hip and thigh area (saddle bags). The basis of the dilemma lies in the imbalance between reality and perception.
Primarily, most fitness participants are part-time athletes who expect full-time results. Simply stated, the paragons of fitness who embody the goals of many fitness enthusiasts are professionals whose primary concern and livelihood are dependent upon the physical excellence which they achieve. If that last level of physical fine tuning is to be accomplished then high levels of physical training must be sustained and finely honed diets must be adhered to on a long term basis. Very few fitness enthusiasts are willing to alter their lifestyles to the extent that is required to attain those physical levels to which they aspire.
The choices are therefore simple: Either the lifestyles must be significantly changed or the aspirations must be.
II. Many individuals become involved in fitness endeavors for rather vague reasons. For example, people are aware that exercise is related in some way to enhanced performance, better health and cosmetic benefits. It might be interesting to note that most fitness participants find it very difficult to identify their objectives. Many will request the full treatment, i.e. they want all the benefits that exercise has to offer.
In general this all inclusive category of results can be attained on a preliminary level. However, the various consequences of exercise training require a corresponding variety of applications in order to specifically direct the exercise effort.
If nothing else is understood from this presentation, it should be emphasized that exercising for health requires different manipulations than does exercise directed towards cosmetic enhancement and that exercise intended to enhance performance (running faster or longer or lifting more weight) is structured in a manner that might not be very efficient for either of the aforementioned objectives. Furthermore, as the level of attainment becomes finer, the exercise training becomes more specific and less generally beneficial.
III. Much confusion exists with regard to the parameters of beneficial exercise. For example, legitimate scientific studies have indicated that aerobic benefits can be derived from exercise protocols ranging from 12 to 30 minutes undertaken 3 to 7 days per week at intensities from 60% to 85% of maximal capacity.
Strength studies have supported regimens varying from 1 maximal set of 6 repetitions performed twice per week to 5 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions performed every other day.
How then, is an interested party to select the most beneficial exercise system to meet their specific needs? The best advice that this exercise pragmatist can offer can be summarized as follows:
1. Analyze your exercise objectives carefully. What are your priorities? Are they health related, directed towards a specific performance or is physical appearance your preference?
2. Begin your program with the help of an exercise professional with whom you can relate and whose advice makes practical sense.
3. Construct a program which is feasible with regard to your time constraints and the accessibility of the prescribed facilities, equipment and personnel.
4. Try to incorporate the most conservative exercise regimen that might reasonably stimulate progress toward your intended goal.
5. Be consistent with regard to participation and effort. After all the expertise and planning have been applied, productive exercise requires real time and effort.
6. If reasonable progress is not accomplished within a six to eight week period, review the plan and make some adjustments.
7. The best judge of the efficacy of any exercise routine is the objective and reasonable participant - YOU!
Ex. #1. An excellent stretch for the hamstrings and lower back. Lie on the back with legs up against the wall and let gravity work for you.Ex. #2. A great, inexpensive way to get the benefit of stair machines right in your home. This sturdy, home-made platform can be used for cardiovascular exercise. Simply step up and down at different rates for various levels of intensity.