Everyone knows they need to exercise, and most Americans have tried--or
at least heard of--a dizzying multitude of exercise techniques. From aerobics
to Zumba, there are so many options that it’s no wonder some people
dart from one workout plan to another, without having a good baseline
for their fitness goals.
Since the principles behind all exercise are essentially the same, it
can be helpful to simplify exercise down to the basics – literally.
Each letter of the B.A.S.I.C.S. formula can stand for one of the pillars
of fitness. Originally developed by exercise instructor Jim Kirwan, here's
our explanation of the formula in a nutshell. If you can remember the
acronym B.A.S.I.C.S., you can always have a framework for fitness at your
B – Baseline
Baseline exercise is everything that comes under the umbrella of everyday, unplanned
activities – standing, walking, sitting, household chores, etc.
Since people nowadays are sitting more and walking less in general, doctors
are seeing more and more patients for health problems related to inactivity.
You can greatly improve your baseline exercise by making seemingly small
changes to be active--getting up to stand or walk when you take a phone
call, parking at the far end of the parking lot, or taking the stairs
instead of the elevator. The extra activity adds up over time, to your benefit.
A – Aerobic
Aerobic exercise provides important systemic benefits to the body, especially
in the area of improved heart and lung function.
Aerobic doesn’t necessarily mean heart-pounding jazzercise, either –
it can be as simple as walking, dancing, swimming, hiking or cycling. The key is to gradually introduce
more movement into your daily routine and build up the physical challenges
as you go. Aim for doing aerobic exercise 30 minutes at a time, five days
a week. If this schedule is too difficult to follow, or you are just beginning,
try breaking those 30 minutes into three sessions of 10 minutes each.
Even after a few sessions, you should start seeing the these benefits:
- better sleep
- less stress
- lower blood pressure
- better weight control
S – Strength
Strength exercise is one of the most important elements of the fitness formula.
Especially as we get older, strength exercises help to prevent the loss
of muscle mass and maintain strong bones.
Fortunately, strength or resistance exercises can be done anywhere, and
you don’t even need special equipment. Jumping jacks, push-ups,
squats and lunges can be performed indoors or out. Resistance exercise
can also be done with:
- hand weights or bands
- exercise balls
- machine or free weights
Strength exercises should be performed twice a week, focusing on the major
muscle groups. Heavier exercises that involve larger muscles need to be
spaced out with three to four days of rest in between. Lighter exercise
may only require a single day of rest between sessions. Be sure to review
your exercise plan with your doctor or physical therapist to achieve the
maximum benefit with lowest risk of injury.
I – Intensity
High intensity exercise can be thought of as aerobic 2.0 – where your exercise
routine stops being routine, and you take the effort up a notch. Just
doing the same amount of aerobic exercise every week is not nearly as
effective as changing up the intensity level periodically. Try doing your
sessions longer, and introduce more resistance – hiking uphill instead
of flat surfaces, for example. As with any exercise however, it is easy
to overdo things; and getting an injury while exercising defeats the purpose
of exercise in the first place! Take it slow, adding intensity gradually.
Your doctor or fitness instructor can help you manage your exercise routine
in a successful way.
C – Cross-Training
Cross-training simply means doing extra forms of exercise that are different from the
ones you regularly do. By adding new activities to your routine, you not
only improve fitness and strength, you add variety and enjoyment to your
exercise regimen. And keeping it fun is important for maintaining your
commitment to exercise. If you walk five days a week, try bicycling one
of those days, or add in a swimming session. Look into other sports you
haven’t tried, like skiing, handball or kayaking – you will
find yourself enjoying exercise more and more!
S – Stretching
Stretching and flexibility are important components of a fitness routine. Stretching
can be done both before and after exercise to prevent pain and maintain
good range of motion. Stretching needs to happen when muscles are warm,
however, so a lower-intensity exercise beforehand is a good idea. Of course
stretching is beneficial even on days when you are not exercising. Tai
chi, yoga, or simple held positions can keep you flexible and better prepared
for your next workout. Ask your fitness professional or therapist which
stretching methods are best for you.
The B.A.S.I.C.S. approach is a great formula for those who are ready to
organize and improve their exercise regimen. If you are just beginning to exercise, you should focus on Baseline,
Aerobic, Strength and Stretching first; you can add Intensity and Cross-training later on.
Do you have any tips that help you remember your exercises? Leave a comment below.
The B.A.S.I.C.S. Formula by Jim Kirwan
Cleveland Clinic: The Benefits of Exercise