best workout planYou may want a simple answer, but there is no one best workout program. Exercise in any form is better than none at all, but to determine the best workout program for you, you have to consider what your goals are. Sports articles in health and fitness magazines such as Runner’s World and Stack offer advice on the best workouts for ultra-specific goals such as an 8-week plan for runners or a 4-day workout for softball players to increase their hitting power. The average person on the street has a much less focused goal. Most people want to lose a few pounds and improve their health. The good news is that’s very doable.

Before you embark on your health and fitness program, it helps to know what your physical activity requirements are. The CDC publishes guidelines for different age groups including children, senior citizens and pregnant or postpartum women. The guidelines for adults aged 18 to 50 say that both aerobic (cardio) and resistance training exercise is necessary for everyone to stay healthy and maintain or lose weight. The best workout program includes 75 to 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week, depending on how intense the exercise is, and at least two days of resistance training, also known as strength training, each week. If you get tired just considering that kind of effort, relax. The CDC also says the entire amount can be broken down into mini-workouts throughout the week, even as few as 10 minutes at a time. Just make sure that, by the end of the week, you’ve gotten the full amount in.

As for the workouts themselves, HelpGuide says the best workout program includes flexibility training such as yoga, Pilates and other stretching techniques. Along with strength exercises with free weights or resistance bands, include some balance exercises such as single-leg standing for 30 to 60 seconds at a time and heel-to-toe walking, on a balance beam, if you have access to one. Be sure your workout includes time to warm up before and cool down afterward. Remember not to hold your breath while exercising, and challenge your muscles by increasing the resistance once the weight you’re working with becomes easy to lift.

Since the CDC recommends strength training at least two days a week, it’s a good idea to divide those days up into lower and upper body days. Experts such as Stew Smith of Military.com say the best workout program is one that works upper body muscles with exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups and crunches on one day and works your legs on one day with squats, lunges and running. Balancing the resistance training out with 30 to 45 minutes of aerobics on the days you don’t strength train is the best workout plan that will get you on your way to a healthier, fitter you.

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