As a Personal Trainer, I am keenly aware of the increasing interest in health and fitness. The problem is, however, that there is too much misinformation on the topic. I am appalled and offended at many of the websites and magazine articles I see touting the latest fitness crazes and diet pills that are often unhealthy and ineffective. I am also shocked by how many people I see go to the gym day after day and see little or no improvement in their health and fitness levels.
No matter what you read in the magazines or see on the infomercials late at night, your health and fitness comes down to what I like to call the, “3 Keys to Fitness.” They are cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, and proper nutrition.
Let’s start with the dreaded cardio! Cardio is any activity that places strain on your cardiovascular system. It can be riding a bike, going for a run, jumping rope, or power walking. All forms are equally beneficial for weight loss and increased heart health. I recommend that people start slow and always build up their endurance before they increase their intensity. The most common mistake I see people make with their cardio routines is, well, that they are routine. Walking for 30 minutes every day at the same pace is great for general health and maintenance, but those looking to get in better shape or lose weight need to challenge themselves a little more. A few recommendations for spicing up a boring cardio routine include increased distance, trying different types of cardio, or trying interval training. For instance, you can alternate between walking for three blocks and then running for one block.
Next up, let’s look at resistance training. Resistance training is beneficial for a number of reasons. It increases lean muscle mass, helps increase bone density, and keeps joints and connective tissue strong. When most people think of resistance they think of big muscular guys grunting, squatting hundreds of pounds and flexing their biceps in the mirror. In actuality, strength training can be done with machines, free weights, cables, bands, and even your own body weight. Whether resistance training is done once a day or once a week it needs to be challenging and varied. The human body adapts quickly. My biggest recommendations are to keep workout logs so progress can be marked and goals can be set. Also avoid doing the same routine for more than a month.
The most important factor in your health and fitness is definitely your nutritional habits. People always ask me which diet I recommend (Atkins, low-fat, Beyonce Diet…). I always say none. Balanced nutrition over time will keep you feeling and performing at your best. My nutritional recommendations to keep you healthy and fit include: Eat small meals frequently, make sure all meals include good carbs, good fats, and protein, avoid processed food as much as possible, and drink plenty of water.
No matter where you are in your journey to a healthier and fit lifestyle, working on these three areas will help you get to where you want to be.
Alex Nsiah-Kumi Jr. is the founder and president of Paramount Personal Training Inc., a Chicago based mobile health and fitness service that includes personal training, yoga, nutrition, and massage therapy at whatever locations are needed. Since he first started training 5 years ago he has helped hundreds of clients of different backgrounds reach their goals. Alex is a firm believer that no matter what a person’s current situation may be, they can always achieve superior health and an increased quality of life by through proper nutrition and a comprehensive health and fitness program.