Fitness training: Elements of a well-rounded routine

Fitness training balances five elements of good health. Make sure your routine includes aerobic fitness, strength training, core exercises, balance training, flexibility and stretching.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Whether you're a novice taking the first steps toward fitness or an exercise fanatic hoping to optimize your results, a well-rounded fitness training program is essential. Include these five elements to create a balanced routine.

Aerobic fitness

Aerobic activity, also known as cardio or endurance activity, is the cornerstone of most fitness training programs. Aerobic activity or exercise causes you to breathe faster and more deeply, which maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood. Your heart will beat faster, which increases blood flow to your muscles and back to your lungs.

The better your aerobic fitness, the more efficiently your heart, lungs and blood vessels transport oxygen throughout your body — and the easier it is to complete routine physical tasks and rise to unexpected challenges, such as running to your car in the pouring rain.

Aerobic activity includes any physical activity that uses large muscle groups and increases your heart rate. Try walking, jogging, biking, swimming, dancing, water aerobics — even leaf raking, snow shoveling and vacuuming.

For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. You can even break up activity into spurts of 10 minutes.

You can also try high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity (around 30 seconds) with subsequent recovery periods (around 3 to 4 minutes) of lighter activity. For example, you could alternate periods of brisk walking with periods of leisurely walking, or include bursts of jogging into your brisk walks.

Strength training

Muscular fitness is another key component of a fitness training program. Strength training can help you increase bone strength and muscular fitness, and it can help you manage or lose weight. It can also improve your ability to do everyday activities. Aim to include strength training of all the major muscle groups into your fitness routine at least twice a week.

Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines, free weights and other tools for strength training. But you don't need to invest in a gym membership or expensive equipment to reap the benefits of strength training.

Hand-held weights or homemade weights — such as plastic soft drink bottles filled with water or sand — may work just as well. Resistance bands are another inexpensive option. Your own body weight counts, too. Try pushups, pullups, abdominal crunches and leg squats.

Core exercises

The muscles in your abdomen, lower back and pelvis — known as your core muscles — help protect your back and connect upper and lower body movements. Core strength is a key element of a well-rounded fitness training program.

Core exercises help train your muscles to brace the spine and enable you to use your upper and lower body muscles more effectively. So what counts as a core exercise? A core exercise is any exercise that uses the trunk of your body without support, such as bridges, planks, situps and fitness ball exercises.

Aug. 10, 2017 See more In-depth