If your goal is to get fit in the easiest and most efficient way possible, it doesn't have to be complicated or take a lot of time. All you need is a well-rounded fitness routine that covers the essential components of fitness.
This program will have you covered if what you are looking for is a fitness program that you can do anywhere without equipment which is demanding, but not complicated or hard to stick to.
What Are Components Of A Basic But Comprehensive Fitness Program?
A complete, comprehensive exercise program should comprise of three essential components: Cardiovascular Conditioning, Mobility & Flexibility, Strength and Resistance Training.
Cardiovascular conditioning or aerobic exercise is the most important part, because its purpose is to optimize the function and health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. It is also key to burning stored bodyfat, weight management and metabolic health.
Mobility and flexibility focuses on stretching and lengthening the muscles so that they can operate through a full range of motion and avoid injuries, postural and back issues and improve our overall balance and athletic performance. It also plays a key role in recovery and becomes even more important as we age.
Strength and resistance training confers many benefits from bone mineral density, muscle size and strength, boosting resting basal metabolic rate, and makes everyday tasks easier, helping us avoid injury.
Exercises such as push-ups and squats are designed to make the muscles of the body work to overcome a resistance force against them, making them stronger and improving their function and fitness.
Strength and resistance training slows down and prevents the inevitable loss of lean muscle mass as we age, also known as sarcopenia.
Moderate Intensity Vs Vigorous Intensity?
Intensity is a key factor in determining the exact nature of benefits we get from exercising. Experts commonly break this down into moderate and vigorous activities to measure the amount of energy being burned to gauge the effect on metabolic activity, calorie/energy expenditure and impact on various aspects of fitness.
How is energy measured in physical activity?
According to Harvard University
"Exercise experts measure activity in metabolic equivalents, or METs. One MET is defined as the energy it takes to sit quietly. For the average adult, this is about one calorie per every 2.2 pounds of body weight per hour; someone who weighs 160 pounds would burn approximately 70 calories an hour while sitting or sleeping.
Moderate-intensity activities are those that get you moving fast enough or strenuously enough to burn off three to six times as much energy per minute as you do when you are sitting quietly, or exercises that clock in at 3 to 6 METs. Vigorous-intensity activities burn more than 6 METs."
One can quickly get a rough idea by the amount of metabolic equivalent units of energy we are burning in an activity by measuring how it is affecting our heart rate and breathing.
An example of this is the so-called "talk test", which is to say that if you can talk but not sing during exercise, it is within the scope of moderate activity.
Examples of moderate activity include: walking, dancing, slow bicycle riding on a flat plane, yoga etc.
Vigorous intensity exercise includes activities such as running, skipping, swimming laps, shadowboxing, circuit training and so on. With vigorous activity exercise, you shouldn't be about to say more than just a few words without having to catch your breath.
How to Determine Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate?
To determine your target heart rate while performing moderate intensity physical exercise, the target heart rate should optimally be between 64% and 76% of what's called your "maximum heart rate.
Your maximum heart rate is an age-related metric and is calculated by subtracting your age from the number 220. So for a 40 year old, the estimated max heart rate would be 220 - 40 = 180 beats per minute.
This would then be used to calculate your target heart rate for moderate intensity at between 64% - 76% as being:
64% of max heart rate: 180 x 0.64 = 115 bpm
76% of max heart rate: 180 x 0.76 = 137 bpm
A 40 year old will be in the range of moderate intensity exercise if they keep their heart rate between 115 and 137 beats per minute.
For vigorous intensity physical activity, the target heart rate should be between 77% and 93%. Again, using our example of a 40 year old we would determine the max heart rate as 220 - 40 = 180.
This would then be used to calculate your target heart rate for moderate intensity at between 77% - 93% as being:
77% of max heart rate: 180 x 0.77 = 138.6 bpm
93% of max heart rate: 180 x 0.93 = 167.4 bpm
How Much Exercise Do We Need?
Researchers have shown that we need approximately 150 minutes a week of moderate physical exercise or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity physical exercise.
Besides slowing down the aging process and improving quality of life, it will also protect against heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.
This breaks down to between two and a half hours to one hour and fifteen minutes a week. What we are going to do is to mix it up and combine both of these approaches into our routine to cover all of our bases.
This routine will be done 5 times a week for a total of 1/2 hour a day and 150 minutes a week, combining moderate and vigorous physical activity.
10 Minute Conditioning Workout
If activities such as running, jumping and so on confer the best means towards vigorous activity, we are going to combine an assortment of them into a circuit-based simple fitness routine that can be done anywhere with no equipment.
Circuit training or High Intensity Interval Training is the most efficient way to get and keep our target heart range between 77% - 93% of max heart rate.
For this workout, we are going to primarily use calisthenics-based movements as they require no additional equipment.
We are going to perform each of these exercises, one after the other, for 30 seconds each with a 5-10 second rest in between. This should take you approximately 10 minutes. If it doesn't then don't worry, with time it will come.
Perform 30 seconds each of:
Running In Place (Knees High)
Bodyweight Air Squats
Supermans (Prone Back Extensions)
Alternating Reverse Lunges
Assorted Punches (Combinations, Full Speed)
The great thing about this assortment of movements is that it covers all three prime components of a total fitness routine we talked about above: 1) cardiovascular conditioning 2) mobility & flexibility 3) strength and resistance training.
Another key benefit which relates to mobility and movement is proprioception. This is the ability of the brain to sense movement, to know where its limbs are and judge its movements in correspondence with external objects. It also entails the brains ability to sense and anticipate joint and muscle movement.
This, if done 5 times a week, will already give us 50 minutes of vigorous physical activity at close to max heart rate.
20 Minute Walk (at 3mph pace minimum)
Immediately following the above circuit routine, all one has to do to get the requisite amount of moderate activity is to go on a brisk 20 minute walk. This will be good for a cool-down and overall de-stress activity to unwind.
With a 20 mintute walk 5 times a week, we get 100 minutes of moderate activity level.
Combined with the 50 minutes of weekly cardio circuits, this is a balanced approach to 150 minutes a week, giving us all possible benefits of a well balanced fitness routine.
And one which can be done safely anywhere, anytime.