Participants Need to Know the Principles
A fitness instructor should be able to tell you what their principles of fitness are. A participant who understands the principles can use them to plan their personal goals and track their progress, as well as choose the right class and the right instructor.
The Four Basic Components of Exercise
- Cardiorespiratory Endurance: Over sustained periods of time, your body needs to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, as well as remove wastes. During the cardio portion of the fitness class, we challenge our bodies to do this at a higher rate of intensity for a short time: in short, to build endurance. Warm-up begins the process; it continues through the cardio exercises and even strength training. Cardiorespiratory endurance activities include obvious activities such as walking and/or jogging, dancing, swimming, or simple movements such as knee lifts, arm circles or trunk rotations; it is generally recommended that these activities should be done for a minimum of ten minutes, three to four times a week.
Muscle Strength: How long can you hold a 50-pound box before your muscles grow too tired to hold it any longer? That is the first goal of strength training (usually lifting weights). A general rule of thumb is that you should strength train a minimum of two twenty-minute sessions per week; include exercises for all the major muscle groups. More research is coming out to indicate that strength training is just as important as cardiorespiratory endurance.
Muscle Endurance: How long can you sustain repeated contractions or continue to apply force against a fixed object? This is the second goal of strength training. There should be at least three twenty-minute sessions each week that include activities such as squats and abdominal exercises along with weight training for all the major muscle groups.
Flexibility: Can you move all of your joints through a full range of motion? Nearly everyone will have limitations in their range of motion, particularly if the joint has suffered an injury. The bigger our range of motion, however, the more easily, efficiently, and effectively we can do daily tasks. All activities during fitness class encourage achieving as great a range of motion of joints as possible, but the final section is particularly useful; it is sometimes referred to as the cooldown, and includes static stretching for a ten-to-fifteen-minute period.
Balance Training: In addition to these four basic elements, you will now find that many exercise classes for older adults are also adding balance training. This helps older adults to prevent falls and remain independent.
What does it mean to be fit?
Being physically fit means you can:
- Perform tasks with energy and alertness;
- Enjoy leisure time activities;
- Carry on (both physically or emotionally) with enthusiasm and determination, even in adversity;
- Cope with the stressors of life;
- Maintain a healthy weight which is right for you;
- Use your muscles at their full potential;
- Use your heart and lungs efficiently.
Keep in mind that fitness is different for every single person. Body weight and body composition will vary, but fitness is not about body weight. One of the keys is endurance and strength. If you can maintain a high level of energy during fitness class, you are probably fit, no matter what it says on the bathroom scale.
Commitment comes Before Attendance
Hopefully, you have already made a commitment to exercise when you pass through the door to fitness class. Before you arrive, you should be sure that you are either in good health or are aware of any health conditions which you need to monitor.
Here are some issues that you should see your doctor about before you come to fitness class:
- High blood pressure (See also Exercise and Hypertension);
- Family history of heart disease or stroke (See also Exercise and Heart Disease);
- Breathlessness after mild exertion;
- Muscular, ligament or tendon problems;
- Joint pain (rotator cuff, for instance);
- Any recent injury;
- Arthritis, either osteoarthritis or rhuematoid (See also Exercise and Arthritis);
- Osteoporosis or Osteopina (See also Exercise and Osteoprosis); and,
- Any known or suspected disease (e.g. diabetes, cancer) (See also Exercise and Diabetes or Exercise and Cancer).
Patience is important. You will not see miracle changes in days, weeks, or even months. If your goal is to be healthy and fit, then you may not see any difference in the mirror, but you may feel differences inside: more energy, better breathing capacity.
Consistency in attending is also key. Attending only a few times, without doing other activities during your “off” days will not help you to see changes in the near future, if ever.
If you have any concerns, talk to your instructor or see your doctor. (See also Fitness Class Benefits and Fitness Instructors: What do they Know)
How do I know what's right for me?
The answer depends a lot on your goals. But other factors are involved, too: your current fitness level, your age and health, what skills you already have, your interest in attending regularly, how convenient classes or fitness equipment are located to you. If you find a fitness class that includes the four basic fitness components, then you can adapt the activities to fit your needs.
Here are the keys to your success, once you’ve picked the activities you will do:
SPECIFICITY: Pick the right kind of activities to meet your goals (If you want to be a gold medal Olympic swimmer, then you should swim!) Once chosen, purchase the right clothing to make your workout comfortable: cool, relaxed clothing; strong, supportive shoes.
OVERLOAD: Work hard enough and at levels that are vigorous and long enough to overload your body above its resting level. When you stop lifting weights after a second set of exercises, you should feel as though you could not possibly do one more.
REGULARITY: Commit to regular exercise, usually two to three times a week. You don’t have to go to fitness class every day, and you can make your exercise different every time: a walk one day, an exercise class the next, and a visit to the gym on a third day. But, generally speaking, three balanced workouts a week are necessary to maintain a desirable level of fitness.
PROGRESSION: If you monitor your progress, you can then decide to increase or decrease intensity, frequency or duration — depending on what improvement you are (or are not) seeing. You can attend more (or fewer) classes. You can choose heavier (or lighter) ropes or weights. You can make changes on a daily basis, or you may find a schedule that works for you and maintain it for months. But now and then you should ask yourself: How am I feeling? Am I working too hard or not hard enough? And then adjust accordingly.
A common question: Can I lose weight if I exercise?
It sounds simple: burn more calories than you eat, and you will lose weight. But there are other factors: hormones, metabolism, genetics. There is no simple answer, and I will never suggest to anyone that attendance at fitness class will always help you lose weight. There is more involved than "calories in, calories out."
Of more importance than body weight is body composition. We are made up of tissue types, including muscle, bone, and organs (which are metabolically active) and fat (which is not). When we weigh ourselves, we know what our total weight is, but we don’t know what our lean-to-fat ratio is. Therefore, we need to know our body composition.
This can be measured in a number of ways. You can find websites which make it easy for you to measure body fat, body mass index (BMI) and lean-to-fat ratio. Just type into your search engine what you are looking for and you will no doubt find suggested calculators and charts.
- Fitness Class Benefits
- Fitness Instructors: What they Know and What they Don't Know
- Fitness Instruction for the Older Adult: BCRPA Guidelines
- Do Not Be Late, Do Not Leave Early: All parts of the Fitness Class have a Purpose
- Why Warm-Up?
- Why Lift Weights?
- Metabolism, Calorie Intake, and False Promises: Getting Through the Dieting Maze
- Book Review: Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?
- Book Review: Body by Science
I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.