EXERCISE PLANS: How to Choose the Best One

These suggestions will help you choose the correct exercise plan to meet your needs.

The Seven Major Components of Fitness

  • Body composition
  • Cardio-respiratory function
  • Flexibility and range of motion
  • Muscular strength
  • Endurance
  • Balance
  • Agility and coordination


Yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates

  • Reduction of muscular tension
  • Injury prevention
  • Body relaxation
  • Strengthening of the skeletal system
  • Enhancement of circulation
  • Immune system boost
  • Reduction of symptoms of chronic disease, especially arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid disorders
  • Mood improvement
  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved muscle tone 

Amount needed for benefit — at least three times/week.

Aerobics (swimming, power walking, running, cycling, dancing, and in-line skating)

  • Improvement of heart, lungs, and circulatory system functioning
  • Better processing of oxygen and more effective transporting to muscle
  • Burning of calories and body fat
  • Increase in metabolism
  • Decrease in blood pressure and risk of heart disease
  • Help in prevention of diabetes
  • Strengthening of skeletal system
  • Strengthening of immune system
  • Improvement in sleep
  • Reduction in risk of cancer, especially breast, prostate, and colon cancers
  • Possible improvement in cognitive function and help in prevention of memory loss
  • Reduction in overall mortality
  • Mood improvement
  • Injury prevention

Amount needed for benefit — 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days/week, and if you want to lose weight, exercise more often or at higher intensity (you have to burn 3500 more calories than you take in to lose a pound). Some experts recommend purchasing a heart monitor and aiming at 30 minutes at 60% of maximum heart rate/day.

Anaerobic (weight lifting and calisthenics)

  • Help burning more calories, even at rest, by increasing metabolism
  • Bones become denser and less prone to osteoporosis and injury
  • Protection for  joints against wear and tear
  • Reduction in arthritic pain
  • Injury prevention
  • Muscle loss delay and building of muscle mass
  • Improvement in glucose tolerance and reduction in risk of diabetes development
  • Mood improvement

Amount needed for benefit — 3-4 days/week, not exercising the same muscle group 2 days in a row.

Before choosing a plan

Take into account these considerations before choosing an exercise plan:

  • How much you like exercising around other people will determine whether or not you should try a new fitness class, as some people feel self-conscious in group environments.
  • Some people become bored or distracted if attempting exercise without an instructor, a timer, or other people nearby to keep them interested. If you are this type of person, but still want to exercise in the comfort of your own home, consider investing in fitness DVDs or making your own mix of music to keep you mentally involved in the activity.
  • Some people need a goal in mind before starting a program. This goal varies according to the individual. For the athletically inclined, it could mean running a marathon. A less cardio-fit person may set a more reasonable first goal for themselves, such as walking up four flights of steps without feeling short of breath. Whatever your goal is, make the goal specific and something you can visualize easily. Then, you can consistently remind yourself of it before stepping onto the treadmill or beginning your sun salutations. 
  • Thrill-seekers naturally stick to routines that reflect their adventurous side, such as kayaking, mountain biking, or snowboarding. If you are not one of these people, you should never attempt to force yourself to try these activities without testing the water first.
  • Recent studies have shown that breaking your aerobic exercise into 10-minute spurts throughout the day works as well as doing a full-length session at one time. However, this approach does not work for everyone, as some people skip their 10-minute spurts or begin to overestimate their level of physical activity throughout the day.


References and recommended readings

Well R. Aerobic exercise. Available at: http://www.medicinenet.com/aerobic_exercise/article.htm. Accessed October 19, 2008.  

Zelman K. Benefits of exercise. Available at: http://www.medicinenet.com/benefits_of_exercise/article.htm. Accessed October 19, 2008. 

Weight Awareness. Comparing exercise programs. Available at: http://www.weightawareness.com/topics/doc.xml?doc_id=1361&__topic_id=1114. Accessed October 19, 2008.

Jordan J. Yoga. Available at: http://www.nywellnessguide.com/yoga/  Accessed October 19, 2008.

 Review Date 11/08