Whether you are a fitness fanatic or just starting to workout, it is important to approach exercise the smart way. If you are asking yourself what that means, keep reading to learn the benefits of incorporating the right types of fitness and fitness habits to get the most from your workouts.
There are two main types of exercise: cardiovascular (cardio) and strength training. Cardio is essential in making your heart healthier. It makes your resting heart rate decrease, can lower your blood pressure and increase your endurance. This translates into tackling your everyday activities with more vigor and having more energy and staying power to do just about anything. A healthy heart also means you are less likely to face health conditions associated with an unhealthy heart.
While cardio makes your heart stronger, strength training builds your muscle mass. An increased muscle mass benefits you in several ways. One, your stability and balance improve dramatically. Two, you are less prone to injury overall. Three, you have more strength that makes day-to-day living easier and more productive.
In addition, your metabolism becomes faster as well because your body works harder following a good strength training session because your muscles are rebuilding and repairing themselves. Cardio also gives your metabolic rate a boost, but it generally only lasts for several hours following your workout. Both work over time to increase your metabolism, too.
With the right mix of cardio and strength training, you can maximize your fitness and health benefits. However, when you engage in physical activity, it is important to make sure your body receives the foods that fuel it to exercise. You want to aim for a diet that consists of a healthy mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fat. If you engage in vigorous strength training, it is a good idea to beef up your protein intake, as your muscles use protein while they are rebuilding. Cutting out carbs completely is never a good idea, either. Carbohydrates give you energy, especially complex and nutrient-rich ones found in grains. Avoid sugar and other empty carbs, as these give you an artificial level of energy followed by a crash that leaves you with little energy to exercise.
Eating to stay energized is important, but equally important is eating the right way following a workout. Ideally, you should eat within 15 minutes of exercising. This does not mean you need to consume an entire meal, but the enzymes that recoup your muscle glycerin is most active for the first 15 minutes post-workout. Eating during this time frame reduces your overall soreness and can prevent delayed onset muscle soreness the next day. Try adding a protein shake, a peanut butter sandwich, a serving of trail mix or any other snack that is a good mix of protein and carbs following your workout – the sooner you eat afterward, the faster you recover.
Preventing injuries is vital. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workouts. When you are well-hydrated, your muscles are well-hydrated, which means they function better and are less prone to pulls, strains and tears. Likewise, it is important to engage in the proper stretching techniques. Pre-workout it is important to do dynamic stretches that incorporate movement with the stretch. The reason for this is that “cold” muscles are less flexible, so static stretching before your workout can actually cause injury. Conversely, at the end of your workout, you want to do static stretches that relieve tension in the muscles you just worked. Doing so greatly reduces the amount of post-workout and delayed onset muscle soreness you experience.
With any fitness routine, it is important that your body is never overworked. This does not mean you should not exert yourself. If you want to see the results of a fitness plan, you must put effort into it and work hard. However, your body is not a machine that never stops running. It is important to provide the rest needed for your body to recuperate. Always take at least one day off per week, preferably two. This also means that with strength training, you should never work the same major muscles two consecutive days. Similarly, on days you engage in strength training, drop your cardio time down a bit, and save those longer, heart-pumping sessions for days you are off from strength training. Most importantly, listen to your body. If you have a strain or muscle soreness that seems like it is more than just sore muscles, rest that area for an additional day or two.
As you can see, the benefits of a fitness plan that incorporates the right things and habits works towards keeping you healthy and maximizing the results of your workouts. Keep these tips in mind to receive the most benefits from your exercise, and enjoy the rewards fitness brings to your quality of life.
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