Creating a Physical Activity Plan
Updated: Apr 28
Looking for a little more energy in a day? Exercise is absolutely the key that unlocks that subject! At times movement may seem like an easy achievement but any of you who work a desk job or ever suffered with an injury know it isn’t always so! Not to fear though there are some simple facts I'm happy to share to help remind you that all movement counts and good things take time.
First of all though I do want to say if you don’t have a lot of time to spend working out splitting up your ‘work outs’ is absolutely ok and in fact there are zero studies that show that one has to block off a steady 30 minutes or more a day for full benefits. Brisk walking a couple times a day or some walking lunges on your work hour can still work wonders!
That said making a plan is absolutely an effective way to really nail the goals you want to achieve and it’s not as complicated as you think. Nope, no need for expensive memberships or workouts that kill for days. In fact if you are that sore your trainer needs to ease up a little because any good trainer knows recovery is a key component to achieving any fitness goal. One can alternate muscle groups or mode of exercise. You may need to take an active recovery day and just go for a nice walk in the fresh air. A good plan will be flexible and should be personalized to suite ones specific needs.
Once you’ve made your commitments and set your goals assessments are an excellent place to begin.
Weight and measurements are excellent to chart so as you progress you can use these successes to keep you motivated to continue. I recommend not doing it too often either, perhaps every two weeks or so.
Fitness assessments are also a great idea. There are many to choose from and it really depends on your current fitness level and goals. Measuring the distance of a one minute walk or run is a good test. How many push ups per minute is another simple test. Fitness testing should include tests for strength, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility such as a shoulder flexibility test were one measures the range of motion of the shoulders.
Whatever tests one chooses to do always remember to spend 10 minutes or so and do a proper warm up to avoid injury as well as to provide a better reading of tests chosen.
Once the plan has been made its time to get to work. Always, always take the time to warm up before a workout. I know folks like to get to the good stuff but you really are doing yourself a disservice if you skip this part. Warming up can reduce the risk of injury and the needless wear and tear of ones body, remember your workout is only as effective as your ability to recover so do take care and spend about 10-15 minutes or so warming up before a session. Seniors should spend about 15 minutes where youth can get away with 5-10 minutes. The warm up can be some low intensity versions of your work out, brisk walking or a light jog. Always aim to increase heart rate gently before beginning your workout.
Training: three things to consider when organizing your workouts are Frequency, Intensity & Duration
Most fitness professionals agree that exercise should be performed 3-10 times per week. Again adjustments should always be made when recovering so choosing a variety or exercises is always a good idea. Variety will also help one stay interested and engaged in their progress all the while conditioning the body. Choosing a variety of exercises will also help to improve all aspects of our physical health; strength, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. Addressing the body as a whole is always the smart way to go. Even a short stretching workout done daily has been shown to dramatically improve the health and wellness in people of all ages!
The second part to consider is the intensity of your workout. No not every workout needs to be incredibly intense but if you really want to improve your physical health and your body’s ability to effectively use oxygen you do need to push your limits to see those improvements in your current fitness level.
While we can benefit from any type of well preformed exercise (and breaking up workouts is still very effective) when we are considering cardiovascular health working our heart and lungs for a minute or two really isn’t going to cut it. Currently it is advised for cardiovascular benefits exercise needs to last 20-60 minutes. Of course the less intensive the longer the workout needs to be for benefit. Sprints can help burn more calories but long distance running can really improve our energy levels. Again variety is indeed the spice of life!
Of course similar to a good warm up a cool down is an essential part of your workout. Extremely beneficial to the body, 15 minutes or so of light movement and stretching helps to circulate blood to the heart, rather than the extremities, regulate the heart beat and reduce muscle soreness.
Fitness Program Phases
Now that we understand the basics of a workout the next obvious question is how long does it take to get fit!? Following are some helpful guidelines to help answer just that.
(3-8 weeks) The Starter Phase
Well its true what they say, getting started is often the hardest part! That said there is so much goodness to be experienced once you chose to live an active lifestyle! Balance is key. If new to exercise, its been a while or you have an existing health condition it's always important to check in with your health care provider first. Once you get the green light and understand the basics above give yourself some time and pace yourself. Often times when we get back into moving again we can begin to feel incredible and we take on too much. This phenomenon is known as the 'training effect'. At first we might feel pretty good and then seemingly out of no where it hits you like a tonne of bricks! Just like our diet we need to find a way of living that supports and nourishes our hard working body. Its very important to support and give things time to adapt. A good trainer or program should always have the participant ease into an exercise program and help clients to avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort. This is important if you want to be able to enjoy and look forward to exercise and maintain an active lifestyle for the rest of your life.
(12-18 weeks) Slow-Progression Phase
Once a good balanced routine has been established then one just needs to keep up the good work. The slow-progression phase typically lasts 3-5 months. Interestingly as a nutritionist and holistic practitioner three months does seem to be the magic number! Continue with your healthful practices and keep setting small attainable goals along the way. Its important to stay disciplined and moving forward.
Once one reaches the maintenance phase one starts to meet their fitness goals. Improvements are continually being met. Advances in frequency, intensity and duration can all be observed. Once a person a person reaches this stage in their training they typically stay here for many years only needing to make small changes a long the way.
Personalize and Enjoy!
Just like ones diet, there really is no one size fits all. Exercise can enhance our lives in so many ways! For some a brisk walk in a forest trail can feel amazing, for others it may be a full on adrenaline fueled session at the gym. Maybe getting in both is just the ticket. Personally my taste in exercise has changed over the years and I'm sure it will again. Exercise is my way of getting a little more adventure in my life and energizing my days ahead. I use it for my mental health as much as I do my physical health. Exercise really is a personal experience, and no matter what your flavor it's important to choose what makes you happy!
Sarah Hooff CHN, CSNC