How to Exercise Safely and Increase Fitness Levels

24 02 2010

Bicep Exercise tones and strengthens grip, wrists, forearms, bicepts

MAE Video Safely Build Fitness Exercise Activity.  There are so many exercise programs one could engage in to increase fitness levels.  How does one know which is right for them?  This is pretty much a two part question because you also want to know, “even though you may not have completely thought it out, which exercise activity will increase your fitness levels significantly?  This is important why?  Increased fitness levels contribute to healthy heart, lungs, metabolism, lean body, body strength, reduced body fat, weight control, weight loss, better physical endurance, excellent circulatory properties, pain alleviation and ill-health prevention, etc.  So what you really want to know, how you can get the best bang for the buck with busy lives?

I highly recommended if you are getting back into an exercise fitness program or activity, you participate by working your way back to a 5 day/wk program.  This may take you 2-6 weeks or longer to get back into gear.  For example, after one of my surgeries, it took me one and half years to work my way back to walking significant miles in a day.  Persistence paid off big health and fitness dividends for me.  Having an Exercise Science undergraduate degree provided a knowledge base in my rehabilitation fitness process.   I understood without applying fitness, alternative health and pain management methods I would experience a disabling life outcome of limited activity, mobility, more pain and increased secondary health risks.  I know many of you reading this won’t have to rehabilitate yourself from injury, depression, disease or surgery.  However, it is important to understand, if you find yourself in a disabled and rehabilitative state you can enjoy fitness conditioning activities that provide quality living experiences while you nurse yourself back to good health.  The point is, depending on your fitness and health condition(s), there is a way to slowly work back into a 3-5 day exercise-activity program.  Those that work too fast to achieve an exercise-activity program will likely drop out of fitness conditioning; while possibly looking for high risk shortcuts to achieve physical results.  This is a bad plan!

One would be wise to follow a physical fitness conditioning program for the first 6-8 weeks while easing back into a fitness routine if you’ve been out of it for a while.  Your goal is to achieve a 3-5day consistent exercise activity program after significant fitness conditioning occurs.  Fitness conditioning prior to the 3-5 day exercise activity program may require rehabilitative services to reach the 3-5 day exercise activity goal.  And if you need to, consult with your medical providers before you exercise to ensure applicable health risk considerations are taken into account before you begin a 3-5 day exercise program.

Five day exercise program – Consider making two of your exercise days on Saturday and Sunday to include family fun activities as substitutes for exercise activity.  Work in the other 3 exercise activity days convenient with your work schedule, etc.  This will provide more flexibility at first to develop healthy fitness activity around your busy schedule, reduce stress, and more time to focus on exercise-activity technique, etc.  After the fitness habit is maintained for 2-6 week period, begin to modify the plan much like you’d schedule anything else “balance!”  I’ve always found it important to take two days off in the week for needed rest (Mon & Fri).  I don’t recommend a 6-7day workout routine unless you are training at an elite level for competitive sport.

 Recommendations, Tips, How to safely increase fitness levels and activity,

 First of all you must develop a plan around busy lives.  And before you develop the plan, you must have an ideal of what are your fitness goals.  Is your goal to lose weight, rehabilitation, build muscle, better health, sustain weight, increase endurance, competitive sport, improve task specific activity (ski, golf, walk, biking, running, etc.).  So now you know before you spend money on an exclusive fitness membership, be sure to have a plan to achieve the fitness goal in mind. 

 Second, you must be realistic about your daily schedule.  If you’re a working adult with children, there are considerations that must be thought through, like working around schedules, appointments, etc.  However, it is not impossible to squeeze in exercise activity even with a busy schedule.  It’s a matter of behavioral habit change.  For example, if you want something bad enough like taking a family vacation, new car, boat, weekend outing, social networking during time off, watch evening football, baseball, basketball game, spending more time with your significant other; you manage to find the time and resources don’t you?  Yet you have a tough time committing to a healthy activity because you simply don’t have the time or see the point.  Your fitness requirements must simply become as valuable to you as personal time, or personal possessions that you protect through health, home or car insurance.  You pay for these things for prevention against catastrophe.  Your fitness health requirements are no different.  You simply must value your health as much as you value your personal time and possessions.  Also keep in mind, just because you pay for health insurance there is no guarantee after years of physical and mental abuse medical services will provide a cure-all solution.  You must also do your preventative health part.  Only through daily preventative activity exercise can one add an additional layer of protection from all that will assault the mind-body as we age.  Activity exercise is the best pain and ill-health alleviation strategy.  Physical activity for life is a key centurion attribute.

 Many employers have fitness centers at the job and/or promote life fitness schedules that allow time for workouts.  Be sure to check with your employer, if you haven’t’ already done so to see if they have corporate fitness center discounts in the local area.  If you have time before work or after the children are in bed a daily exercise program can become a daily habit that you will become addicted too.  You simple must want increased fitness benefits as bad as working more overtime for more discretionary income.  Or value fitness goals as much as indulgences.  For me, working out after work and before dinner had a great stress relief benefit.  And for many years I’d get up at 5:30am go to the gym, or jog where the adrenalin and metabolism was at full throttle as I hit the job at 7:00am.  This habit served me and my professional careers well as I was always at the top of my game, I didn’t need energy drinks to start my day.  Now in my 50’s one of my age appropriate exercise activities is walking which I’m as competitive as when I played football as a youth.  I attribute much of my life and career success to my age appropriate fitness habits.

Like anything else it takes dedication to be successful at anything you do.  It’s more a matter of finding an activity that you really enjoy, get excited about and can become addicted to.  I tended to become addictive to my exercise program if I could get through the first 5 days.  If I didn’t make 5 days at the planned fitness level goal, I would reduce intensity until ready for more intense training.  I didn’t quit the training; I took it down a notch until ready for the stress load on mind-body.  Activity exercise must vary daily dependent on how the mind-body feels.  To push when not ready is defeating and causes many to give up when they don’t have flexibility built into the exercise activity.

Third, you must plan and program around age appropriate exercise if you want to find a workout plan, or activity that you’ll stick with.  All too often I hear people give up their fitness goals and activity dreams because they “self proclaim” their too old at forty to exercise.  And simultaneously they begin to look for fountain of youth quick results gimmicks (weight loss, muscle max goals, chemical stimulus, etc.).  This is absolute nonsense; when did 40 become the new 80 plus crowd?  On the flip side, there is absolutely no reason, 50 can’t be the new 30 plus crowd.  Also, you are not 20 if your biological age is 40.  Age appropriate exercise does not mean training to become a marathon runner at 40 years of age!  My point is, if you want to look and feel better regardless of age, you must find age appropriate activity and exercise programs, or you’ll not experience true quality living experiences.

I’m not saying this isn’t possible, as a matter of fact there are some very conditioned athlete’s well into their 50’s.  But for most of us, you can’t go from lethargic couch potato and train the way you did before you became a potato.  One thing you’ll find out about elite athlete’s (50+) they have not lost step with their competitive physical-mental edge, they’ve sustained a competitive habit without fail throughout the years.  Is there a health risk for this competitive demographic?  Certainly there is, they are pushing the biological-physical plane envelop.   This activity training intensity is not meant for most entering their 40’s.  Unnecessary stress on mind-body relative to age is something that needs to be considered if you want to increase fitness health goals safely.

Forth, if you are infrequent about your exercise, or activity routine, it is very important you learn to pace yourself each time you exercise until your body is ready for a 3-5 day exercise activity routine.  Ease into your workouts, forget about competing with what you see others doing.  Set your mind to see yourself as the healthiest 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 year old possible in your neck of the woods.  If you think exercise-activity appropriate per decade, you’ll stick with a healthy exercise program for your age while physically appearing and feeling 20-30 years younger for your age.  Why don’t I go beyond 80 years of age?  Actually, 80 years and above should walk-swim, light weight, flexibility training, eat right for good health and socialize, travel as much as possible.  At this age, I thoroughly believe, each day is a blessing and one should enjoy life to the fullest while reducing life stresses.

All too often those 40 and above seek the Hollywood conventional wisdom to find their fountain of youth quick result gimmick(s) after they fail to change behavioral fitness activity habits.  They become mesmerized by the tabloids and their favorite star’s physical appearances.  They focus in on young, vibrant and wrinkle/fat free models and starlets.  They are not focused on age appropriate activity.  Instead desperately want to turn back the hands of time and will stop at nothing to achieve this goal.  This is not God’s law. You have a purpose for every decade of life.  It is your job now to be wise and healthy for your children’s sake and grandchildren.

Those that follow Hollywood conventional wisdom must have blinders on.  Because if they follow the nip-tuck; take 30lbs off in 30 days; blast your abs, thighs and buttocks; fountain of youth gimmicks then they also know the following is true.  What does Hollywood do with its actors and actresses once their physical flaws become too apparent?  They throw them out like old dish rags don’t they?  The paparazzi relentlessly pursue them and exploit their aging, overweight, illness flaws, relationships gone bad through the tabloids for a buck.  Many of these star icons you worshiped can’t keep up with the immortal Hollywood youth expectations and self destruct.  You see this, but deny the reality of the situation and search for a younger icon to follow ageless beauty advice, etc.  Why would you ever follow a celebrity’s advice as a fitness health expert in your 50’s?  Especially if they have no specialized training in age appropriate fitness techniques?  Hollywood and your iconic stars don’t cater “how to achieve” quality living experiences for the 50plus crowd.  Instead, they offer quick result diet and fitness solutions to turn back the hands of time to make a quick buck.  All the while, they use perfect model specimen’s, made up to look as if the results are mostly due to their products secret ingredients. 

There is nothing mentioned about life long health habits and healthy behavioral change in order to achieve and maintain these quick result appearance benefits.  And this always leads me to wonder, really how healthy and how well do these diet and fitness products improve fitness levels?  And what health risk are these customers subjected to in the long run for a quick result promise?  I know this to be true because I have a vice.  I love to read smut magazines about the stars.  And they do slam aging stars without mercy.  I read these for pure entertainment, a habit I can’t seem to break since my childhood.   There is one fitness celebrity that sticks out in my mind as one of the greats, Jack Lalanne.  For years, he has been known as a world renowned fitness expert through the 60’s at his peak celebrity status through our TV’s.  He now is known for his Power Juicer products.  To this day his life-long fitness story is amazing.  Research him on the Internet if you get the chance and learn more about someone’s applied exercise fitness principles that have served his followers well through a lifelong fitness career discipline. 

Fifth, the other factor to staying with an exercise age appropriate fitness program is food intake.  If you over consume, especially after 7:30 pm, or on the weekends it will be hard for you to notice weight loss and body toning (reduced body fat).  Body metabolism slows down tremendously after this evening time storing excess calories as fat.  Weekends will be your worst enemy (over consumption typically occurs during this time).  This is why in the next paragraph I recommend if you are just getting started into a workout, fitness activity routine; plan two of your five days on the weekends during the first 2-6 weeks.  Try consuming mostly a Mediterranean diet and/or 50%protein, 20%fat, 30% carbohydrate diet.  What this means in real general terms.  Stay away from the following main dishes/snacks:  Pizza, pasta, breads (whole grain ok) baked goods, ice cream, deserts, casseroles, pancakes, waffles, restaurant chains (fast foods), too much salt, chocolates, muffins, donuts, lard, candy, gum, chips, fried foods, milkshakes, alcohol, beer, diet sodas, popcorn, artificial sweeteners (aspartame), energy drinks, coffee additives (cream, sugar, artificial flavored, etc.).  These are the main addictive foods and food consumption habits that are causing much obesity in this country. 

After exercise and fitness goals are achieved, balanced eating behaviors become much easier.  You will naturally crave healthier food as the chemical food toxins are removed from the body.  This is not to say you can never have pizza, deserts, etc., or have a few drinks.   “That would be ridiculous.”  Balance my friends; we simply must get to a level of fitness for your age that you desire and will stick.  Thereafter, the fitness habit will become addictive which will lead to lifelong healthy habits including balanced consumption of food choices.

Sixth, find a workout routine you can stick with and enjoy.  Various examples:  Try biking, stationary treadmill, stationary rowing, dance, ball room dancing with spouse, tennis, walking, golf, jogging aerobics sessions, swimming, etc., 3 days a week (mix it up with gym activity).  Make sure you get in 2 days a week exercise gym activity and 3 days aerobics (walking, biking, treadmill, elliptical walker, swim, hike etc.).   On the weekends substitute an aerobics week day activity with a planned family outdoor activity, backpack, dance, healthy cooking recipes (walk and shop for your meals), camping, beach walking, fishing, etc.   I recommend 5 days a week exercise activities to sustain fitness levels and good health.  I use combinations of all these activities throughout the week to sustain my age appropriate activities.

I use combinations of daily walking, swimming, gym exercises (stationary equipment use for muscle building and toning, light weights, 12-15 reps per exercise per body part), to include aerobic cross trainers (elliptical), bikes, etc.  I also like to bike, boat, walk, hike, travel, camp, and fish on the weekends as activity substitutes, etc.  Changing up fitness activities will help with motivation, will power to stick with a program and breakup gym exercise routines nicely.  These are activity mix habits that become very addicting if you can break the 4-8wk exercise habit barrier, because it takes this long for brain chemical stimulation, muscle toning and toxins to be adequately removed from the body.  Natural brain chemicals will stimulate activity motivation and will power if given the chance.  Efficient Brain chemical release (adrenalin, epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin) through exercise is as addicting as nicotine is to a smoker; chocolate is to a chocoholic.

Now that I’ve provided you “How to Exercise and Increase Fitness Levels,” get out there and get it done!  Try various combinations of exercise activity, break up the fitness conditioning patterns and don’t go into any activity program at full intensity until conditioned to do so.  “Good things in life come to those that take the time to do it right!”

Author:  Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET2010 Copyright.  All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @:,  Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.



One response

8 12 2010
Marc Woodard

My current fitness routine: Walking daily. I’m now able to walk 8-10 miles on any given day and 14 miles once a week. Within this time I go to the gym and may substitute a walk for aerobics conditioning on recumbant bike, walker, etc. This may/may not include Pilates stretches. Once to twice a week I try to work upper body mixed in with the walks. Upper body usually includes the following: Chest, biceps, tricepts, rotor cuff (shoulders) and ab crunches. All weight bearing exercises are high reps (12-15) and 2-3 sets each. I modify every weight bearing exercise to remove direct pressure on my back. So all exercise with weights braces the back to a stationary position. My biggest challenge with all my exercises: Ensuring I minimize aggravation to my entire back including my neck. For me, exercise is pain managed. This means I experience pain with all activity and exercise. However, to not exercise creates more pain. I choose less pain, so I’ve learned to pain manage around my pain trigger points. To do any less is not an option for me.

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