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Fitness Information is Plentiful, but It’s Not All Equal

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Why Are There So Many Conflicting Opinions on fitness?

By: Morgan Radlinger C.W.P.

Exercise is a popular topic and information on it is everywhere. When it comes to finding the right exercise for you, however, things become less clear. Most people begin their fitness journey by asking, “what is the best fitness option?” This question can be difficult because there is not a one-size-fits-all exercise regimen.

Unfortunately, the lack of personalized guidance leads many people to abandon or put off their fitness goals every year.

So, to answer the question, “why are there so many conflicting opinions on fitness,” the answer is that no two bodies are the same, no two lifestyles are the same and no two fitness routines (or regimens) are the same.

How Do I find a Fitness Routine that is Right for Me?

With so many conflicting opinions, then, it is necessary to figure out what kind of fitness routine will work best for you and will allow you to hit your own personal fitness goals. To do that, it’s important to look at the three elements of a well-rounded fitness routine.

  • Cardiovascular training
  • Resistance training
  • Flexibility training

Before starting a fitness program, make sure you talk to your personal doctor first. When you are evaluating different fitness programs, look at all three of these areas to help determine the best program for you.

What is cardiovascular training and why is it important?

Cardiovascular training, or cardio for short, focuses on increasing your heart rate to help your blood pump more efficiently throughout your body.

Including cardio into your fitness routine will help with various daily activities such as walking and climbing stairs. You’ll feel out of breath doing regular tasks less often.

In addition to simply feeling better throughout your day, cardiovascular training can help prevent heart disease and other chronic illness.

One of the best things about cardiovascular training is that it’s an incredibly versatile element to your fitness and can be performed in short bouts or all in one session. You should aim to perform cardio for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

Some of the most popular ways people get in their cardio minutes include walking, cycling, swimming and jogging. Group exercise classes do a great job at including cardiovascular training which makes for an easy and fun way to stay motivated and accountable while increasing your heart rate.

What is resistance training and why is it important?

Arguably the least understood element of fitness, resistance training, is also known as strength training.

According to Ace Fitness, resistance training places external stress on your muscles and joints which helps increase your bone density and lean muscle mass.

Strength training is important to help build lean muscles which in turn will help increase your metabolism during the workout and while resting. Many people are afraid to start strength training because they believe that it will cause them to immediately “bulk up.” Unless you’re following a body-building regimen, however, strength training typically has a slimming effect as you replace body fat with lean muscle.

Experts recommend strength training two or three times a week. Body-weight exercises, like squats, are a great way to start because they work large muscles and engage multiple moving joints. You’ll be able to see quick results as these exercises become easier with every set.

As you progress, add weights and/or resistance bands. Strength training is one of the most impactful elements to your fitness routine. As you work your way up, you’ll notice everyday tasks like lifting items around the house, pushing and pulling items become easier and easier.

What is flexibility training and why is it important?

If resistance training is the most misunderstood part of a fitness routine, flexibility training is the most overlooked. Flexibility training helps you become more mobile, preventing problems with posture and muscle/bone/joint pain that can make achieving fitness goals and performing everyday tasks even harder.

The core part of flexibility training is stretching. Dedicated stretching should be performed a minimum of two to three days per week.

You should also be stretching, however, before and after other workouts – targeting the muscles and tendons you will be exercising through resistance or cardio. Performing these few minutes of stretches before your workout helps warm up your muscles and including stretching after will help cool down your muscles and help prevent muscle tightness.

When stretching, focus on large muscle groups such as your hamstrings (back of your upper thigh), hips, lower back and chest which all help with the daily impact of your routine such as sitting or walking. 

Balance training also falls under this category and includes popular exercises like yoga. Beyond simply a great flexibility exercise, yoga is a wonderful activity that reduces stress and clears your mind.

How to Combine These Elements for a Personalized Fitness Routine

As you might imagine, there are endless possibilities for your own personalized fitness routine. To ensure you’re sticking with it, it’s crucial to find a routine that you enjoy doing. If, for instance, you’re looking to build muscle, your routine is likely to include an emphasis on strength training and a minimal focus on cardio and flexibility.

If you’re looking to cut body fat and build lean muscle, a balance of the three will likely be the perfect fit.

Ultimately, your fitness goals are just that – your fitness goals. Working with a wellness planner, personal trainer and your personal doctor is the best way to ensure that you’re creating a routine that will let you hit these goals while avoiding injury and unrealistic expectations which can leave you feeling disheartened.

If you are new to fitness, starting a routine can be intimidating. It’s helpful to always keep in mind that everything can be modified to what your capabilities are in the moment. Always listen to your body to help prevent injuries.

Why the Confusion Around Fitness Information?

With abundant conflicting opinions and no such thing as a one-size-fits-all (or even one-size-fits-most) approach, fitness is best viewed through two objective lenses – science and performance.

On one hand, scientists take a cautious approach when working with fitness, trying to understand how the systems of the body are impacted by certain routines and exercises and how athletes and others can avoid injury while working.

Performance coaches, however, frequently promote a more improvisational method, based on goals and pushing through to the next target.

While there is debate between the two approaches, many experts agree that the performance side may be ahead of the actual science because it is always being put into practice and always working to find the boundaries of human performance.

The downside is that those in the world of fitness expertise are often basing their advice on their own experience, promoting their own journey as universal guidance.

For example, a Pilates instructor may be using terms that may have different meanings in Pilates than they do in boot-camp or total resistance exercises. An exercise scientist may come back and say how the phrase they are using is not physiologically possible.

Another issue that makes it hard to find concrete information about physical fitness is that outdated research is frequently used or cited. Like all science, the world of exercise science is constantly changing and updating as we learn more about the body and its performance. Having current information is a must.

Exercise as Medicine

Because the best thing we can do for our bodies is to allow it to move, exercise is one of the best forms of medicine.

Exercise can improve mental health, cardiovascular fitness and increase muscle tone. Simply exercising enough to elevate your heart rate for 30 minutes a day can limit the body’s risk of chronic conditions as well that significantly and negatively affect your quality of life.

Finding an exercise routine you can stick with is important. The personal nature of these routines and their physical, mental and emotional benefits are a huge part of why there are so many conflicting opinions out there.

One person may be doing a cross-training class, another Zumba and the next cycling. All are great workouts and will increase your heart rate to help improve your health. The trouble is when anybody in this group promotes their own favorite exercise as the best across the board. This is a common part of the misinformation around exercise you’ll find at outlets that lack credible authority.

How Do I Measure an Effective Workout?

The effectiveness of exercise is difficult to measure because it is often subjective. The exercises themselves can also be subjective from a scientific perspective. What is considered an accurate pull-up or what equals one full abdominal crunch? Variation in answers to these questions can influence the results that are being measured.

Mental elements also play a huge role in measuring the effectiveness of an exercise routine. For instance, you may find variation among subjects doing the same workouts in the amount of sleep they got that day, their mood, what they ate over the past week and if they are stressed or anxious about any upcoming events. These x-factors can make the job of an exercise scientist a difficult one, with overlap into fields like sociology and psychology.

Finally, results from cardio-based workouts compared to interval-training type workouts can vary significantly from one person to the next.

Physical factors that influence these results include a person’s age, fitness capabilities and prior injuries.

Starting with Body Type: Ectomorph Vs. Mesomorph Vs. Endomorph

Understanding that there are no one-size-fits-all routines out there, one of the great places to start is by tailoring your workout for your body type. By training specifically for your body type, you have a higher chance of seeing the results you want.

What is body type? Each person has a unique physiological and genetic design which helps determine body type. While body shape ranges dramatically among healthy people, the concept of body type works to simplify this range, limiting it to three overarching types.  

Ectomorph

This body type has a thin build, long limbs, smaller joints and thin bones relative to the others. Despite appearing “skinny,” this body type may have a higher body fat percentage than those that appear bigger.

People with an ectomorph body have a high metabolism, making it difficult to put on muscle mass. This body type tends to thrive in endurance training and those whose body could be categorized this way should find an exercise regimen that includes strength-training. When weight training, it is efficient for ectomorph body type to use heavy weights.

Mesomorph

In between the two extremes, mesomorph body types have a moderate frame and medium-sized bone structures.

Those whose bodies could be categorized as mesomorph are typically well proportioned with wider shoulders and a narrow waist. They may also have a lower body-fat percentage relative to the other types.  

People with mesomorph bodies tend to lose and gain weight quickly, which can become a health risk as they age.

With fluctuating body-fat numbers, the diet of individuals with a mesomorph is an important focus.

Since this body type is genetically inclined to build muscle, a lean diet and endurance training are necessary if a person with a mesomorphic body wants to be slim.

Due to the higher muscle mass (muscle weighs more than fat), caloric intake needs are higher for those with a mesomorphic body. This body type responds best to a high-protein diet and low-intensity workouts.

Endomorph

The endomorph body is often considered “curvier,” and may be labeled small-waisted or pear-shaped.

Those with a body that fits into the endomorph category have medium-large bone structure, small shoulders and shorter limbs. They often carry excess weight in their lower abdomens, hips and thighs rather than having a more even distribution as other types.

Although those with this body type frequently have trouble losing weight, it does not mean they cannot reach the goals they want. On the contrary, individuals with a body that fits into this category make strong athletes with a defined muscular build and burst power.

Those with an endomorphic body tend to be carbohydrate- and insulin-sensitive and should rely on carbohydrates from vegetables and small amounts of high-fiber starches.

The endomorphic body has trouble losing excess body fat from diet alone. If this is a goal, those with this body type often find success by relying on a well-rounded fitness program that includes cardiovascular training and strength training.

Am I an Ectomorph or an Endomorph or a Mesomorph?

Self-classification for body types is not easy. Many of us have insecurities related to the shape our body takes and harmful and toxic representations of a hypothetical “ideal” body in media can make this problem worse.

Another reason it is often difficult to classify your own body in line with the above criteria is that you may see elements of two or more types in your own body and the way you feel. It’s important to remember that these body types are made to simplify something infinitely complex and that no individual person can be reduced to a single label. Find the type with which you fit the closest.

No matter what your body type is, diet and a personalized exercise routine are primary drivers of your results.

If your diet is poor but your exercise is good, you will likely have a difficult time reaching your goals.

Diet and exercise work together in a team to help drive these results. Exercise helps determine your muscle-to-fat ratio. In other words, exercise is what will typically give you definition.

It’s also important to remember that even if you feel completely at home with one of the above body types, it doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from exercises outside of those recommended for that type. If you feel like you are 100% mesomorphic, for example, and already calling the local yoga studio to get in on a daily class, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try a High-Intensity Interval Training (HITT) workout to see if you enjoy it.

Age can also play a factor in which type of exercise may be the best fit for you depending on your goals. It is important to always keep your body moving for as long as you can, so your body doesn’t struggle with losing muscle or mobility in the future. A focus on lifelong fitness will also help prevent you from cardiovascular diseases and other chronic diseases in the future.

It’s About Finding What’s Right for You

Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach (and anybody who tells you otherwise is likely not coming from a place of expertise), there are still universal things to keep in mind as you reach for your fitness goals.

Your mental state, body type, age, preferred exercise and more will help you stay on track and be excited to cross off old goals.

Before starting an exercise program and determining what may work for you based on your interests to help keep you motivated, remember to talk to your personal doctor first.

As always, if you have additional questions about getting started with a great fitness routine, contact Network Health today.

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