5 Areas to Balance for Maximum Fitness and Health

To achieve the maximum results in striving for a fit lifestyle, there are five key areas that need to be in sync, and properly balanced. Having some, but not all, will result in lower than possible results, and can diminish the benefits of your efforts.

Before we look at the five categories, let’s discuss EPOC, or Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. In overly simplistic terms, EPOC is the process where your body recovers from the work you have done in your lifting or cardio routine, and includes balancing hormone levels, repairing stressed or damaged cells, and oxidizing lactic acid, or the soreness you feel post exercise. In addition, all of these activities require fuel to make them happen, so you continue to burn calories long after the exercise session ends. Learning to maximize the benefits of EPOC can help accelerate the benefits of your exercise prescriptions.

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Resistance Training-Resistance, or typically weight training, provides a multitude of benefits, beyond the most widely known, muscle development, or hypertrophy. Among them are strength gains, positive mood changes, lessening the impact of osteoporosis, improved balance, agility and range of movement, lower risks of certain diseases, like Type II diabetes, improved cardiac health, and better core stability, just to name a few. Women, especially those over 40, can slow and possibly even stop bone loss, and, in some cases, even add back bone mass that has been lost. The improvement in your metabolic rate when you add muscle mass turns your body into a more effective fat burner, helping you achieve the lean profile many of us seek. A weight training program, when followed consistently over time, will develop a substantial EPOC benefit.

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Cardio training-Cardio covers a wide spectrum of exercises, from low to very high intensity. While normally thought of as the exercises we see in gyms, like running on a treadmill, using an elliptical, riding an exercise bike, etc., there is much more here. Interval training, and High Intensity Interval Training, are two of the ways to maximize the benefits of a cardio routine. Many mistakenly lump activities, such as walking, under the cardio label. Not to offend anyone, but walking is a poor use of your exercise time, especially if weight loss and heart health are among your objectives. Ramping up the intensity will benefit your heart health, burn more calories, offer post-exercise benefits, and provide a noticeable improvement in your stamina. Cardio routines with higher levels of intensity will drive the EPOC results.

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Hydration– If you are like most people, you think you are better hydrated than you are. When most clients begin to track their daily water intake, they find it is lower, often substantially, than what they perceived. If you wait until you feel thirsty to drink, you are already in an early stage of dehydration. Especially as you add to your daily exercise routine and intensity, you will need higher levels of hydration to replace fluids lost from perspiration. Your muscles need water to provide the gains they develop in recovery. There are also ancillary benefits to staying well hydrated. Your skin will look healthier, your kidneys will be healthier, and the sensation of fullness will help lower your cravings for unhealthy foods.

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Nutrition– This is a topic that obviously requires more than a couple of sentences to properly outline, but, in general terms, your nutrition needs to properly tie in to your exercise protocol and activity levels. No area of health is as subject to misinformation as nutrition. Think of it as trying to get a Formula One race car to run properly on gas purchased from your local station. 87 octane fuel will never allow a high output engine to reach its potential. Your body is the same way. Muscles require sufficient protein to grow, for example, and having insufficient protein intake can render the weight lifting you do less effective without the proper protein intake. A proper balance of protein, carbs and fat, with elimination of sugars and white flour can add tremendously to your overall health, and, when combined with a proper exercise routine, can add both time and quality to your life. Learning how to properly time your nutritional intake to your exercise sessions can help you maximize the impact of the sessions, and enhance your results. There is an old adage in the fitness industry that rings true for almost everyone. You can’t out train a bad diet, and you can’t out diet bad training. The two are very closely connected.

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Sleep/Rest-Most of the progress you receive from exercise actually takes place during the recovery period afterwards. Sufficient quality sleep allows your body to repair muscle fibers and “recharge your batteries” for your next session. Most adults need around eight hours sleep each night to recover from the previous day and exercise session, and be ready for the upcoming day.  In most cases, our mental sharpness increases when we get sufficient sleep as well.

Tying all five of the areas together, in proper balance, will definitely help anyone improve their overall fitness levels. Many clients, some only thirty days into an exercise program, have been able to not only lose pounds and inches, but reduce dosages or even eliminate certain meds, lower their blood pressure and cholesterol, and drastically reduce the symptoms of Type II diabetes. One thing is for sure, if you are unhealthy currently, six months from now you will wish you had started working on your fitness today.

Jim Harris