How do I create a fitness program to improve my general health?

If you haven’t yet seen your health care provider, for medical clearance, you should go for a complete physical and blood tests for a full understanding of your health status and general fitness before creating a fitness program for your general health.

Also to help prevent injuries when creating your fitness program, meet with a NASM certified personal trainer for a dynamic postural assessment. A dynamic postural assessment observes your basic body movements, how your muscles and joints work together, and to look for any imbalances or dysfunctions in your posture alignment that can be corrected

After completing your dynamic postural assessment, I highly recommend beginning your fitness program by completing (for 4 to 6 weeks) the stabilization endurance level of the NASM’s Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model.

The stabilization phase offers many benefits to prepare your body as you proceed into your fitness training. The two best stabilization endurance training benefits I found are: preparing your body structure and connective tissues for the stress of strength training, and addressing and correcting restrictive flexibility, muscle imbalances and posture adjustments.

ANY amount of additional physical activity and healthy food choices will begin to impact your general health immediately.

Some great ways to get started are:

1. Get a good pair of shoes and clothes and start WALKING!! Take the dog, spouse, child, or friend and try including a 15-30 min walk into your daily routine 3-4 days per week.

2. Open your food pantry and throw out anything in a box, bag, or plastic tin. Go to the store and stock your refrigerator with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low sugar beverages that you enjoy.

3. Try and eat 4-5 SMALL meals spaced out throughout the day. This includes breakfast (protein shake and fruit/oatmeal), morning snack (fruit and nuts, or yogurt), lunch (salad with grilled chicken and limited vinagarette dressing), afternoon snack (cottage cheese, greek yogurt, nuts, protein shake), dinner (lean meat, veggie, whole grains), and WATER, WATER, WATER!

4. Get set up with an online Sharecare coach or local fitness professional to assist you in developing a strength training program specific to YOUR goals, body mechanics, body type, fitness level, and lifestyle.

5. GET EDUCATED!! Sites like Sharecare have AWESOME educational tools from the top trusted experts in the field.

6. A complete exercise program to improve your general health should include:

a. Some kind of body composition testing

b. Flexibility/balance training: 3 times per week, 10 min per session

c. Cardiovascular training: 3-4 times per week, at 50-70% of your max heart rate. 20-30 minutes

d. Strength Training: 2-3 times per week, 1-3 sets per exercise, 1-2 exercises per body part, 10-20 repetitions per set, 60-90 seconds of rest between sets

Creating a fitness program is a step in the right direction to improving your general health. But with all the choices of home gyms, fitness clubs, fad diets and funky products, where does a person even start?

Everyone of us has a unique body, a unique set of circumstances, and even perhaps, some physical limitations to consider before beginning a fitness program.

Start by taking a hard look at your nutrition habits. Afterall, fitness and nutrition go hand in hand. Learn how to read food labels. Discipline yourself to spend at least one week tracking your calories; you might be surprised at what you learn! Making small changes, like avoiding seconds, or eating smaller portions, can go a long way.

Get a physical from your family doctor. Let your doctor know your interest in starting a fitness program. He or she can tell you where you are physically; your heart, blood pressure, bone or joint issues, etc.

Once you are armed with information regarding your health, find a certified fitness professional. A professional fitness trainer can help you define your goals and needs, based on your current state of health, and always considers the results of a recent physical. Your trainer will perform an assessment by having you do simple exercise tests. By this, the trainer can see weaknesses, strengths, posture habits, and tight areas.  The trainer knows what corrections to make and how to keep you from getting injured. He or she will create a fitness program personalized to you.

Many fitness centers offer complimentary consultations with personal trainers or affordable fitness program packages. At the very least, if you are able, take advatage of the professional consultation. You just might be surprised at what a trainer can offer!

If going to a gym is not an option for you, consider a virtual fitness coach on the Health and Fitness Providers Network (HFPN). You have the opportunity to train in your own home, on your time, with any equipment you may already have. The HFPN fitness coaches are also able to create a personalized fitness program just for you. We are here to provide the motivation, information and help you need to acheive general health or any other fitness goals you might have.

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
Your fitness program should include activity to get your heart rate elevated and condition your muscles at least 5 -7 days a week. According to the most current public health guidelines on physical activity (the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans), adults should accumulate 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week, or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running). Health benefits can also come from an equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

A general health program will consist of a combination of flexibility exercises, aerobic work, and resistance training. When you are starting from scratch or for the first time, it might be helpful to consult a health professional who can assess your readiness and find exercises that are right for you. It is also important to remember that nutrition is an integral part of a fitness program. A health professional should also be able to guide you on creating a nutritional plan that will meet your individual needs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.