What Is an Effective Weekly Exercise Plan?
Effective exercise plans include cardiovascular exercise, strength training, stretching, balance and core work. As you think about each week that lies ahead, take time to pencil in workouts that will afford sufficient time for you to get the recommended 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three to five times each week. Carve out another 15 to 45 minutes two to three days for strength training, and tag on another 10 minutes to each of your scheduled sessions to accommodate work that will improve your flexibility, balance and strength of your core.
Cardiovascular exercise gets your heart pumping, your respiratory system optimally performing, and your body burning some serious calories. If you are new to a consistent exercise program, start by doing 15 minutes of low impact aerobic exercise like walking or riding a recumbent bicycle three days each week. Work your way up to a place where you are doing 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like running, jogging or higher intensity aerobic classes most days of the week.
Strength training increases your bone density and improves your muscle mass. Because muscles burn more calories than fat, including adequate strength training in your weekly workout regimen will help you burn calories more efficiently. When you initially start a strength-training program, do one set of eight to 12 repetitions of exercises that target each of your major muscle groups. Try bicep curls and triceps extensions for your arms, shoulder presses and upright rows for your shoulders, bent over rows for your back, chest presses for your chest, lunges and squats for your legs and glutes, and crunches for your abdominal muscles. As you get stronger, do as many as one to three sets of up to 12 repetitions using a weight that fatigues your muscles without compromising your form.
Your core is comprised of two sets of muscles. Your inner core muscles wrap around your abdominal area and lower spine, shaping and properly supporting your torso. They provide the support that allows you to develop the visible outer core muscles that form into the often-coveted six-pack. Having a strong core makes performing nearly all of your daily tasks and exercise easier. When you strengthen your core, you improve your balance and stability. You are able to shift your weight faster and with more ease, making yourself less susceptible to injury. Incorporate at least five minutes of core work into your workouts most days of the week. Do exercises like crunches and planks after each of your cardiovascular exercise sessions while your muscles are already warm.
Stretching improves flexibility, reduces your injury risk and enhances your proper postural alignment. Take a few minutes after each of your workouts to stretch your muscles. Perform each stretch two to four times, holding the stretches for 15 to 30 seconds. Also take a few minutes two to three days each week to find your center by challenging your balance. Start by standing on one foot. When this is easy for you, look to the right, left, up or down while standing on one foot. You'll improve your balance and find your center more easily.
Rest and Recovery
Equally as important as working your muscles is resting them. In fact, it is during periods of post-training rest that your muscles actually get stronger. Devote at least one day each week to completely rest and recover from your week's training. The rest will allow your body to recover, promote strength and prepare you to go into your next week's workouts newly charged and energized.
Mary Marcia Brown has worked in the health and fitness industry for more than 15 years. A writer and runner with road race directorship experience, Brown has been published in "Running Journal," "Florida Running & Triathlon" and "Outreach NC."