How to modify any program to improve your body fitness.
Fitness plays an important role in our life. You probably have some idea of how to fit you are. However, assessing and recording baseline (starting) fitness scores can give you benchmarks (points of comparison) against which to measure your progress. It’s valuable to assess your progress on a regular basis, for example, each month. Remembering progression with some goals may be achieved in shorter or longer periods of time.
Before you start your new exercise program, record:
- your pulse rate (heart rate) before and after a walk
- how long do you take to walk a certain distance
- how many bench push-ups or squats you can do in 30 seconds
- your waist circumference (measured midway between the top of your hip bone and the bottom of your ribs).
- your body mass index (BMI). This is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters, squared. If you would like this accurately assessed, visit your local registered allied health or exercise professional.
(Note: Some medications affect your heart rate. If you are taking any medications that do so, consult a health professional and consider another way of measuring your exertion levels, such as the Borg scale.)
The adult pre-exercise screening tool contains exercise intensity guidelines, including exertion and other descriptive measures.
Consult an exercise or health professional to help you interpret this information or to do a fitness assessment for you, and work out what sort of program is best for you.
Designing your fitness program
Consulting an exercise professional when designing your fitness program can help you reduce injury and customise your program to your needs, especially if you are new to exercise or you haven’t done any physical activity for a while. Points to keep in mind when designing your program include:
- Consider your goals. Are you starting a fitness program to lose weight or for some other reason?
- Think about your likes and dislikes. Choose activities you will enjoy.
- Plan a logical progression of activity. If you’re just beginning to exercise, start cautiously and progress slowly.
- Build activity into your daily routine. Schedule time to exercise as you would any other appointment.
- Think variety. By varying your activities (cross-training), you can avoid exercise boredom.
- Allow time for recovery after exercising and make sure you have an adequate healthy diet.
- Put it on paper. A written plan can encourage you to stay on track.
Starting a new workout routine by searching online or at your local fitness center is exciting but can also be overwhelming if some of the exercises bother your body. Luckily, you can modify exercises to make them easier or more difficult in order to accommodate your needs. There are a few basic principles to understand that will enable you to exercise to work for you instead of having to avoid it completely. Here are some easy Modifications for at-home exercise:
- Change the range of motion
- Change the number of weights or reps
- Change the speed
- Change the amount of impact
Change the range of motion.
Using the full movement potential of a joint provides optimal gains in strength and muscle growth. When full range of motion isn’t accessible, try decreasing the range of motion. With this exercise modification, you are still working the same muscles, while putting less pressure on the effected area. In some cases, as you gain strength, you can experiment with slowly working your way up to full range of motion.
Change the amount of weight or reps.
The most important part of your strength training routine is proper form. If the weight your routine is calling for is too heavy, compromising your ability to stay in form, decrease the weight or number of repetitions. Conversely, if the exercise isn’t enough of a challenge, increase the weight until the last rep in the set is the last one you can do with proper form.
Change the speed.
Don’t rush it, giving yourself extra time for an exercise not only gives you time to focus on proper form, it can also decrease the intensity—especially cardio-based moves. You can experiment with this exercise modification by increasing the speed of cardio exercises as you become more fit.
Change the amount of impact.
Joint issues like back pain, knee pain, or arthritis do not respond well to high-impact activity. Try removing or decreasing the amount of impact, which will decrease the intensity and make it more accessible. This is most commonly found with cardio exercises.
Change the surface.
The more solid your surface, the more confident you will feel. If a routine calls for a piece of equipment you are not comfortable with, consider using a more solid surface instead. If you decide to add new surfaces in down the road, remember to go slowly as it can take time to get used to the change in area and balance.
Common Exercise Modifications:
Planks require a great deal of upper-body and core strength. If full planks aren’t comfortable for you, try a modified plank instead. Both are equally difficult. Planks on the knees are easier and can be held from the hands or elbows. Wall planks are another option if you have difficulty getting down on the floor or have back pain.
Full pushups are tough if you lack upper body strength. Instead, start with modified pushups and work up to the full pushup position as you get stronger. If getting down on the floor is difficult, you have wrist problems or modified pushups are too challenging, try wall pushups
Instead of a typical squat, where the bend in your knees reaches about 90 degrees, never going past your toes before you return to the standing starting position, try a shallow squat, which is done the same way, however, you are bending to less than 90 degrees until you feel the muscles working. Wall squats are another option if you need additional back support.
Lunges can be challenging for those with balance issues, knee pain, or lower back pain. If the balance is the problem, hold onto a chair or wall for additional support. As with squats, you can decrease the range of motion to decrease the intensity on your knees and the pressure on your lower back.
Jumping jacks aren’t just for kids on the playground! They are a great cardio activity but can be difficult if you’re new to exercise or have joint issues. Modified jumping jacks cut the movement in half and remove the “jump” to lessen the impact. If you’re ready to increase the intensity but not quite ready for full jumping jacks, move quicker and/or step out farther for more of a challenge.
Burpees can be an intense workout, especially if you add a jump when returning to the standing position. If that’s too much, try stepping back one foot at a time to come to the plank position on the floor instead of jumping out with both feet at once, then do the same thing to return to the starting position. Modified burpees are also a good lower-intensity option if you’re not keen on getting on the floor. Alternative exercises: front kicks, step touch with double punches
This exercise is great for targeting the lower back, but it can be difficult if you have back issues. To modify, try lifting just the upper body on the floor or on a stability ball, which puts less pressure on the back. Alternative exercises: slow swimming on a ball, full-body bridges
Triceps dips are perfect for adding muscle definition to the back of the arm. Unfortunately, they aren’t so perfect if you have shoulder or wrist issues, since they put pressure on both. Bending your arms is one option, as is doing them on the floor where your range of motion is smaller: lying triceps lift, boxer.
Health benefits of exercise programs
An exercise program that is tailored specifically to your needs is a great way to stay physically and mentally fit. It also provides additional benefits such as:
- improved condition of the heart and lungs
- increased muscular strength, endurance, and motor fitness
- increased aerobic fitness
- improved muscle tone and strength
- Weight management
- better coordination, agility, and flexibility
- improved balance and spatial awareness
- increased energy levels
- improved immunity
- increased physical confidence
- reduced risk of chronic disease (such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease)
- improved sleep
- improved brain function and health
- improved general and psychological wellbeing
- greater self-confidence and self-esteem
- improved social life.
When you are ready to start getting active:
- Start with low-intensity activities such as walking with a friend or family member.
- Over time, build up to the amount of physical activity recommended by Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines:
- Be active on most (preferably all) days every week.
- Accumulate 2½ to 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity or 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
- Do muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days each week.
- If you are unsure about any of the above, seek help from an exercise professional. Recognized industry associations such as AUSactive hold a directory of AUSactive registered professionals, where you can search for an exercise professional based on their:
- level of experience working in the industry
- delivery, knowledge, and skills
- Start slowly and build up gradually.
- Break activities up if you have to.
- Be creative – include other activities such as walking, cycling, swimming or dancing in your routine.
- Listen to your body – don’t push yourself too hard.
- Be flexible – if you’re not feeling good, give yourself permission to take a day or two off.