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By Sam Mower and Katrina Nilan, founders and directors of Harness Your Health, a Sydney based health and fitness organisation. Visit http://www.harnessyourhealth.com/ for more information.

Maintaining fitness and undertaking regular exercise are key components of achieving better health.

One of the best ways of sustaining an exercise program is to keep it varied – this keeps your interest up and provides a challenge.

Avoid training immediately after eating a meal, so that your food can digest and make sure you drink plenty of water before and after your exercise. Muscle composes of 78% water so when trying to build muscle maintaining hydration is of the utmost importance.

Remember to modify your exercise regime if you have an injury and be sure to consult your doctor or a personal trainer before taking on a new exercise program.

Aim for at least one session of each of these disciplines each week:

Cardiovascular exercise

What qualifies as cardio? Any activity that gets your heart rate up. It could be dancing to your favourite music, playing frisbee in the park or plain old power walking. The key to cardio training is that the heart rate must be elevated for a continuous amount of time, the suggested time is at least 30 minutes.

The benefits of cardiovascular exercise include improved heart health, the ability to control weight and an increased sense of wellbeing (nothing beats stress like burning it off with cardio exercise!).

Weight bearing or resistance

Resistance training is activity where a weight is used to challenge muscles of the body. This can be in the form of a person’s own body weight, dumbbells or barbells, medicine balls or even shopping bags!

When putting the muscles under stress we are looking for the point at which it becomes uncomfortable – “the burn”. This is when your muscles reach fatigue and undergo the stress needed for adaptation and growth. This results in muscles which become tighter, firmer, stronger and leaner!

Muscle toning is important too and a basic body weight circuit is recommended for undertaking this muscle maintenance.

The benefits of weight or resistance training include an ability to control weight, increased muscle tone and strength, a better resting metabolism and bone density (to prevent osteoporosis), the ability to control diabetes (blood glucose levels), increased good cholesterols (HDL’s), enhanced self esteem and increased sex hormone production.

Core strength

Activities such as yoga, pilates and abdominal work use the postural muscles as a functional unit to enhance flexibility, build core strength and improve posture. If you have the time you can attend classes in person or if not there are a variety of DVD’s classes available. DVD’s can be a convenient tool to help you incorporate this practice into your weekly routine.

Core exercises help the link between the upper and lower body while protecting your back, and helping sustain any exercise program.

Also don’t forget about the benefits of Yoga and meditation which helps to reduce stress levels, initiate a union of the body and the mind, increase restorative hormones, decrease ageing stress hormones, decrease blood pressure, increase presence and awareness and increase sex hormone production.

The benefits of flexibility and posture exercises include a reduced chance of arthritis, a decrease in injuries, increased longevity of physical activity, improved physical appearance and an improvement in body alignment.

So why not start your exercise regimen today! Setting a foundation of good fitness habits can transform your body and your mind and bring your body back into balance.

By Sam Mower and Katrina Nilan, founders and directors of Harness Your Health, a Sydney based health and fitness organisation. Visit http://www.harnessyourhealth.com/ for more information.

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