From the expert: Smart Training – it’s a balancing act!
Being physically active is one of the most important things anyone can do to stay healthy and fit. Regular physical activity can help you feel more energized, look better and live longer. Many chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, depression, and heart disease can be prevented or at least considerably improved with a prescription of daily exercise. The bottom line is that regular physical activity will not only improve your quality of life, it may actually save your life!
Staying physically active isn’t always easy, especially when you are faced with the demands of a busy life. It is important that each of us takes ownership of our own health and wellness and finds the motivation to do something about it. Leading by example, looking good in your uniform, reducing your cholesterol, enjoying retirement and staying operationally ready are all examples of goals you can use to motivate yourself to stay physically active. Visualizing the benefits that come with achieving your goal is one way to remind yourself that your physical fitness program is worth doing.
Whether you are just getting started or trying to maintain a physical fitness program, it is very important that you ensure your program is balanced. That way, you get the most from your efforts while minimizing your risk of injury. A well balanced physical fitness program should include the following three basic components:
Aerobic training: involves activities that require your heart and lungs to work harder than normal. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend all adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity every week. Use the “Talk Test” to determine how hard you are working. Exercising at an easy level – you have no trouble breathing and can talk comfortably. During moderate exertion – your breathing increases and you can talk taking 1-2 breaths/sentence. Working at an intense level – you will breathe rapidly and comfortable speech will be impossible. You can meet the activity guidelines by doing something as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week. This may not sound like a lot but research shows a significant number of CAF personnel fail to achieve this basic activity standard.
Strength training: involves challenging different muscle groups with resistance exercises. This can include doing exercises such as squats and bench presses using free weights or machines. You can also subject your body to resistance training doing things such as push-ups, climbing stairs, chin-ups, rucksack marching, lifting or carrying boxes and doing physically demanding work. It is recommended that you do this at least 2 times per week. Try starting your strength training at a relatively easy level and then slowly increase your workload as tolerated.
Flexibility training: involves holding or reaching a position in which specific muscles in your body are stretched. You should hold these positions for a minimum of 30 seconds and have a routine where you end 3-4 of your workouts/week with approximately 10 minutes of stretching. This is very important especially if you are stuck working at a computer for many hours/day.
Employing the above training strategies is a good start to developing a well-balanced physical fitness program. Improving your physical fitness will help you function more effectively in virtually every aspect of your life. If you have any questions about building yourself a safe physical fitness program please contact your local PSP sports and fitness staff for help. So, get up, get going and keep going – your body will love you for it!
Dr. Darrell Menard OMM MD, Dip Sport Med
Dr. Menard is the Surgeon General’s specialist advisor in sports medicine and has worked extensively with athletes from multiple sports. As part of the Strengthening the Forces team he works on injury prevention and promoting active living.
Strengthening the Forces is CAF/DND’s healthy lifestyles promotion program providing expert information, skills and tools for promoting and improving CAF members’ health and well-being.