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Components of a Well-Rounded Exercise Program

With the seasons changing in September I find people like to start new exercise routines and maybe even try new activities.  Here are some tips to help get you started, keep you injury free, and motivated!

What are the elements of a well-rounded exercise program?

Cardiovascular exercise

This is the exercise you get from cycling, brisk walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, dancing, and water aerobics.  The aerobic exercise will cause you to breathe harder and allow your heart to beat faster.  This will boost the amount of oxygen in your blood and send more of that oxygen to your muscles and back to your lungs which will increase the efficiency of your cardiovascular system and ultimately make physical activity easier.

The goal is to do this at a level of intensity that will improve your endurance.  It is important to keep your heart rate in the correct range to optimally train this system (60-70 % of your maximum heart rate).  The workout should feel pretty easy, about 4-5/10 on a perceived exertion scale, and most importantly you should be able to hold a conversation.  At this level your muscular fitness will increase, your capillary density will improve, and your body will get better at burning fat.

How much cardiovascular exercise do you need?  This depends on what your fitness goals are.  If you are training to run the TC 10k or a half marathon, participate in the Tour de Victoria biking event or walking the camino trail you will need a program that builds your distance by gradually increasing your long slow distance workout once per week.  If your goal is cardiovascular health, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week in bouts of 10 minute sessions or more. 

High Intensity Interval Training

To improve your strength, get faster  in your activities, and improve your bone health it is important to include some high intensity interval training into your program.  This involves short bursts of activity at a faster pace or with increased load (hill work or increased weights) followed by a recovery phase in which you are working at a low intensity.  These short bursts should be at a fairly high threshold pace, about 8-9/10 perceived exertion or in zone 4.  Your breathing should be laboured and your arms and legs will feel heavy.  When starting a HIIT program it is good to start with a 1:3 work to rest ratio.  So for example you would do 15 seconds of work and 45 seconds of recovery.  As you get fitter you can work to change these ratios to incorporate more work and less rest.  Some high burst activities that you can do at home include high knees, skipping, jump squats, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers.  

Strength, Core, and Balance Exercise

Resistive exercise with body weight, weights, or bands is an important component of your exercise program.  Having strong muscles will help with posture, bone health, weight loss, joint protection, and optimizing efficiency in your everyday activities and sport.  Balance can worsen with age or injury, it is important to practice balance exercises to prevent falls for older adults.  Balance training is also a great way to work on your functional core stability which will be beneficial for performance of athletes in all levels of sport.


It is important to maintain full range of motion of your joints and have full length of your muscles.  This will help your posture and help to prevent back and neck pain.  A regular stretching program that incorporates deep breathing will also help to decrease stress and tension.  The best time to do static stretching is after you have done exercise. It is important to hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds.  If you want to stretch before your exercise sessions you should do a series of dynamic movements to incorporate full range of motion and mimic the functional movements you will be doing in your activity or exercise session.

How do I get started?

Did you stop going to the gym or your exercise class with the pandemic?  Are you finding yourself less active and worried about getting started?   We will need to scale your program so that you can go back to doing the things you love safely and without injury.  


When starting an exercise program it is important to be hydrated.  Recent studies have shown that it is important to have a small amount of glucose and a small amount of sodium to allow your body to have optimal absorption.  All your body fluids contain sodium and so the salt helps get the water you are intaking out of the stomach and into the blood.  Dr. Stacy Sims recommends 1/16th tsp of salt and 1 tsp of maple syrup in 500 mls of water.


The most important equipment to own when starting an exercise program is a good pair of supportive shoes.  You can include all of the components of your exercise program for very low cost.  You can use homemade weights such as plastic soft drink bottles filled with water or sand, use low cost resistance bands, and your own body weight works too with exercises like squats, push ups, sit ups, and pull ups.


To keep you motivated I suggest choosing activities that you find enjoyable, joining a cycling, hiking, or walking group, registering for a class, and doing exercise with friends.  I like to choose a “stretch goal” like a race or an active trip that I want to get fit for.  It is also important to schedule your exercise into your calendar so that you stick to your goals.

Does getting started feel overwhelming?  Don’t do it alone.  At Active Balance Physiotherapy Studio, our physios and kinesiologists are trained to assess your fitness level so we can provide you with advice on how to get started. We are experts at analysis of the body to find your shortfalls in mobility, flexibility and strength that may lead to improper technique for your sport.   We can give you exercises to help optimize your movement patterns so that you can not only stay injury free but perform at higher levels.