Is your workout routine complete?

Experts in the field say that any exercise is good, but more is better! Health benefits and fitness levels increase with increasing volume (a function of how hard you exercise and for how long). However, experts have defined a level of exercise volume, which not only gives these benefits and but is achievable by all

Thus a complete workout plan should include

  • Aerobic/cardiorespiratory exercise: 150 minutes of moderate intensity  (or 75 minutes of vigorous) aerobic exercise per week
  • Resistance exercise: 2-3 days/week involves all major muscle groups with 48 hour gap
  • Flexibility exercises or stretches: 2-3 days/week, which can be part of your ‘cool down’ phase of workout or Yoga
  • Balance exercises: 2-3 days/week, especially important for the elderly

Find below the information that decodes this concise statement and helps you understand what exactly you have to do!

1. Cardio exercise/aerobic exercise

This type of exercise has been most researched with regards to its beneficial impact on health, and it has been shown to have nearly all benefits attributed to exercise

Examples: walking, jogging, running, swimming, skating, cycling, stair climbing and cross-country skiing.

Recommended level of exercise:

  • Intensity:
    • Moderate intensity or vigorous exercise needs to be done
    • For most people brisk walking is moderate intensity and jogging is vigorous exercise.
    • It is important to make sure that you are actually doing moderate or vigorous level activity (check out: ‘How to measure intensity of exercise‘)
  • Frequency:
    • At leat three days/week
    • You should have no more than two consecutive days without exercise
  • Duration:
    • At-least 30 minutes/day of moderate-intensity or 20 minutes/day of vigorous activity
    • You can break these 30 minutes into bouts of ten minutes at least, but make sure you get to moderate intensity

Check out: ‘How to begin and build up on aerobic exercise

2. Resistance or strength training

This type of exercise has the added advantages of preservation/gain of muscle and bone mass, increasing metabolic rate in the long run and loss of body fat, especially abdominal fat loss and better functional level of all body muscles

For example: training with machines or free weights, exercises using body weight or resistance bars

Recommended level of exercise:

  • Frequency: On two or more days/week, you can do them on the same days as aerobic exercise, or on the off-days, But a gap of 48 hours between two resistance training sessions should be given
  • Duration and intensity of exercise:

At least one set (8-12 repetitions) and ideally 2-3 sets (with 2-3 minute rest between sets) of 8-10 exercises, that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms), check out

Not sure, what to do with this information: check out ‘Workout planner for strength training

3. Flexibility exercises or stretches :

  • Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion
  • The muscles groups that need stretch exercises most commonly are the hamstrings, hip flexors, calves and chest muscles
  • Each muscle group should be targeted with total one minute of stretch exercise in one session: stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness and repeated two to four times in each session
  • Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm, so either do them as cool down after your aerobic workout or do  some bit of warm up before doing stretches
  • Each of these can be stretched using different positions, and some general motions may stretch more than one muscle group. For simplicity’s sake, only common static stretches will be described below
    • Hamstrings: Sit on the ground with legs straight in front of you. Gently lean forward from the hips (try to keep the back fairly straight) until a stretch is felt on the back of the thighs
    • Hip flexors: Stand on one foot, and bring the other foot to the buttocks. Pull back gently, while keeping your knee pointed at the ground and your hip straight. If needed, hold onto a counter or chair to keep your balance
    • Calves: Step forward with one leg. Shift your weight toward the front leg while keeping the back heel on the ground. If you press the hip of your back leg forward, this will also help stretch the hip flexors.
    • Chest muscles: Standing in a corner, bring hands up to shoulder height and place against the wall on either side. Keeping hands in position, lean body forward until a stretch is felt in the front of the chest

4. Balance exercises

If you are able to stand on one leg for at least 20 seconds without any support, your static balance is alright.

Problems with tripping or falling often indicate difficulty with balance. Balance activities should be focused on by those that already have balance issues, especially senior adults

Yoga and Tai chi are very good in providing a mix of stretching, balancing and muscle toning exercises

CHECK OUT: Our references for exercise recommendations