Include the four cornerstones in your fitness plan

Paula Reece

Achieving a healthy and fit lifestyle involves more than just a few minutes of exercise here and there. A complete and balanced fitness plan includes four elements considered the cornerstones of fitness: cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and nutrition. When you incorporate all these elements into your fitness plan, you’re on your way to success.

Cardiovascular exercise: Cardiovascular exercise simply means you’re performing an activity that raises your heart rate. Cardio exercise is important. It not only strengthens your heart, but it’s also one way to burn calories and help you lose weight. Another benefit of cardio exercise is that it increases your lung capacity. It helps reduce your risk of heart attack, high blood pressure and diabetes. It releases endorphins into your system to help your mood and makes you feel better. It aids in better sleep and reduces stress. Some ways to achieve cardiovascular exercise include cardio machines, playing racquetball, brisk walking and dancing.

Strength training: Strength training is an important part of an exercise plan. With a regular strength training program, you’ll increase lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently.  You naturally lose muscle mass with age. If you don’t replace the lean muscle you lose, your body fat eventually increases. You might hear people say they don’t lose weight the way they used to. Strength training is essential at any age. It helps you develop strong bones.  It reduces your risk of injury. It can help reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis and diabetes. Did you know that a single pound of muscle burns between 30 to 50 calories a day as compared to a single pound of fat that only burns two to three calories a day? Some ideas for strength training include lifting weights; attending a group exercise class that includes weights, such as a BodyPump class; and functional fitness training that uses just your own body weight.

Flexibility and mind and body exercise: Flexibility is important because having flexible muscles allows your body to move easily. When your muscles and joints are able to have full range of motion, you have fewer limitations to your activities.  Reaching, bending and twisting are all movements made possible by flexibility in your muscles. Flexibility also helps maintain good posture. Stretching is often the most overlooked part of an exercise routine, but one of the most important. By stretching after a workout, you minimize muscle soreness. You can achieve flexibility a number of ways:  taking yoga or Pilates classes, using stretching machines or simply stretching on the floor.

Nutrition: The best laid exercise plans won’t be successful without a nutrition plan.  The fuel you put in your body is just that — fuel. Remember the old adage, “You are what you eat?”  Everything you eat and drink is part of your nutrition.  Nutrition is usually referred to as your eating and drinking lifestyle habits.  Keeping a daily food log is the first step to eating correctly.  Knowing exactly what you’re eating each day will help pinpoint the areas that are working and those areas that need improvement. This is so important, especially if weight loss is the goal. Healthy, natural foods should be the base of your diet and nutrition program.

Understanding and implementing the four components to a complete health plan is essential. Refer to it as a box. You need all four corners to make the box complete. After you create your box, watch and see what amazing things can happen. This box will become you: complete, strong, fit and happy.