As easy as 3-2-1

We recently completed an eight-week fitness challenge at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA called the “3-2-1 Fitness Challenge.”

All members were invited to record their weekly on-site exercise for entries into a prize drawing. Each week had to include six 20-minute or longer workout sessions: three cardiovascular (raising the heart rate), two strength building and one flexibility. A staff member would sign off on each section.

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) has set this “three cardio – two strength” standard in their 2008 publication “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.”

Additionally, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released a report in 2011 confirming the government’s guidelines, as well as adding recommendations for flexibility and mind-body disciplines.

Simply put, through the 3-2-1 Fitness Challenge, we wanted our members to establish the habits that our nation’s government and fitness science experts have recommended for greater health.

Here are the main points of the ODPHP and ACSM Guidelines:

• Some activity is better than doing nothing, and the benefits of being active far outweigh potential problems. Physical activity is proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and early death.

• Cardio for three days or more. The most consistent health benefits occur when adults exercise for at least 150 minutes a week at a moderate intensity level (ex. brisk walking, water aerobics, or general gardening), for 70 minutes a week at a vigorous level (ex. jogging, swimming laps, or heavy gardening) or an equivalent combination of both. These sessions should be spread out across a minimum of three days a week and increase your heart rate for a minimum of 10 minutes at a time. Also, studies show that the more additional minutes you exercise, the more health benefits increase.

• Muscle strengthening for two days or more. Using weights, resistance bands, or body weight against gravity, adults should work their major muscle groups at least twice a week, with a rest day in between. Whether you perform biceps curls in your kitchen with soup cans or do push-ups at the gym, the purpose is to apply extra force to your muscles and bones.

• Stretching for flexibility. The ACSM recommends stretching two to three days a week, holding each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds and repeating up to four times. You should stretch when your muscles are warm, perhaps after your cardio sessions.

• Neuromotor exercise is also important. The ACSM also endorses performing neuromotor, or “mind-body,” exercises two to three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes. These are exercises that help with balance, agility and coordination, like those found in tai chi and yoga.

These guidelines apply to everyone! If you haven’t been active, then “start low and go slow.” To see examples of how to get started or to how to improve your workouts, access the ODPHP’s “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” at http://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/. If you are an older adult or a pregnant or postpartum female, this booklet also contains specific additional guidelines for your safety and benefit.

Choose activities that you enjoy and that get you moving, even for just 10 minutes at a time. When trying exercises that are new to your body, get proper instruction and start slowly.

Even though our fitness challenge is over, I hope that our members will continue to use this 3-2-1 formula as a weekly baseline for health. To find out more, look at the ODPHP and ACSM web sites, or come see us at the Y! Let’s get moving together.

 

Chrissie Kaufmann teaches cardio, strength and mind-body classes at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA.

 

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