Exercise BASICS — What You Need to Know
Welcome to the second article in my new blog series – “The eXercise Factor Blog”!
Exercise is a very broad term covering a multitude of different physical activities, from Aqua Aerobics to Zumba. So what kind of exercise should you do? To answer this important question, I created an easy to remember acronym – the BASICS.
B – Baseline
Baseline exercise is a term used to describe the unplanned activities of normal living including standing, walking, sitting, housework and lifting light objects. It excludes planned exercise, such as going for a walk or a run or to the gym. Those who only do baseline exercise (i.e. no planned exercise) are generally considered inactive.
We do far less baseline exercise today than we used to and this gradual reduction in physical activity contributes to many of the health problems we now face. You have probably heard of the term “Sitting is the New Smoking”, so make Baseline exercise a high priority in your life by adding activities such as:
- Walk or cycle instead of driving.
- Take the stairs instead of using the elevator.
- Take 5 minute exercise breaks every hour when you are working.
- Drink plenty of water which will mean more trips to the bathroom.
- Stand instead of sitting, especially when talking on the phone.
- Go for a walk or cycle after dinner.
A – Aerobic
Aerobic exercise includes activities such as walking, running, swimming and biking. I am definitely a proponent of including aerobic exercise in your weekly exercise routine. Unfortunately, it increasingly gets a bad rap in some quarters and is sometimes described as boring or a waste of time. Some experts say that you are always better off focusing on quality rather than quantity when you exercise. While intuitively this makes sense, with exercise it just doesn’t work that way and this is especially true as we get older. We need to ease our way gradually and progressively into exercise and aerobic exercise is the best form of exercise to do that.
S – Strength
Strength exercises should be a high priority as we lose muscle mass as we get older. You can use weight machines or free weights but my favorite is to use your own body weight. You can do exercises such as push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, planks and lunges anywhere and you can nearly always do them outdoors. You don’t need any special equipment and most importantly they are very functional in that they support your daily life.
I – Intensity
High intensity exercise should be an integral part of your exercise routine. While aerobic exercise is great, it is not as effective in the longer-term if that is all you do. You need to exercise at different levels of intensity as this is how you get fitter, stronger and faster. However, be careful with high intensity workouts! If you try to do too much too quickly you greatly increase your risk of injury which defeats the purpose of doing higher intensity workouts in the first place.
C – Cross-Training
This is simply a technical term which means that you should do other forms of exercise along with your main exercise. So instead of, say, walking or running four or five days a week, try something different on one or two days. Exercises such as swimming and biking are great cross-training activities and will provide welcome variety in your workouts. They increase the overall enjoyment of your exercise, which should be an important, ongoing objective. So cross-training is a great way to really promote optimum fitness and you should try skiing, kayaking, rowing and maybe even a triathlon if you get a chance.
S – Stretching
This should be an important part of your exercise program as it helps you maintain flexibility. Stretching and warming up are not the same so always warm up for ten minutes if you want to stretch before exercise. Stretching after exercise is definitely a good idea as you improve the flexibility of muscles that would otherwise have tightened up and this will pay dividends in your next workout.
The BASICS implies that for optimum fitness you should be doing all of the above. If you are just starting back into exercise, your initial focus should be on Baseline, Aerobic, Strength and Stretching. You can add higher intensity and cross-training later.
Until next time,
P.S. If you live in the Charleston area, tune into Low Country Live this morning (April 6, 2015). I am doing a segment called “The Exercise BASICS Formula for Boomers”!
P.P.S. You can get a signed copy of my book “The eXercise Factor” here!