How to Develop a Holistic Health and Fitness Program

Three Parts:Increasing your EnduranceBuilding your StrengthStaying Flexible

Fitness is crucial to living a long and healthy life. When creating a holistic health and fitness program, it is important to incorporate exercises that will build your endurance, strength, and flexibility. It is also good to include exercises that will engage your whole body. If you are in good health, the Mayo Clinic recommends 75 to 150 minutes of endurance exercise per week and strength training twice per week. Consult your doctor if you are unsure whether a new exercise routine will be safe for you.

Part 1
Increasing your Endurance

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    Exercise outside during good weather. Being outside will give you fresh air, a change of scenery, and make the time go by faster as you exercise. Exercise that increases your endurance will get your heart rate up and cause you to breathe faster. Many people enjoy:[1]
    • Brisk walking. This easier on the joints than jogging and is good for people who may not feel comfortable biking.
    • Biking. Biking is lower impact than jogging. It is good for people who enjoy getting out and being able to go longer distances. If you live near where you work, consider biking to work. It will get you in shape and save you money on gas.
    • Jogging. Running is an excellent aerobic activity which will strengthen your heart.
    • Swimming. Swimming is good for people with sore joints because the water takes the weight off your joints and supports your weight.
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    Give yourself credit for heavy yard work. There are many chores that have to be done around the house which are very physical. These activities will get your heart rate and breathing rate up. If you do them for the same amount of time that you might otherwise do another form of aerobic exercise, give yourself credit for having worked out that day.[2]
    • Sweeping.
    • Raking leaves. This is especially physical when the leaves are wet and heavy.
    • Shoveling snow. Be careful not to injure yourself. Remember to keep your back straight and bend your knees when you lift. This will help protect you from back injuries.
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    Join a sports team. Sports teams are great places to make friends and receive motivation from the camaraderie and competition. Choose a sport that you enjoy and fits your abilities.[3]
    • Many people enjoy fast-paced sports like basketball, volleyball, tennis, or hockey.
    • If you are older or are less mobile, look into other options such as seated volleyball, wheelchair basketball, or golf. Ask about clubs and teams at your local senior center or gym.

Part 2
Building your Strength

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    Build your leg muscles. Strengthening your legs will make you faster, build bone density, and stabilize your leg joints. You can do the following exercises without having to go to a gym or use expensive machines.[4]
    • Toe raises. Balance on one foot while raising yourself up on the balls of your toes. Raise yourself up slowly and smoothly. Adjust the number of replicates you do according to your strength and fitness levels. If you are not confident about your balance, you can stand near a wall or tree so that you can reach out to steady yourself if you need to.
    • Hamstring exercises. This exercise requires you to have a workout partner with you. Kneel on the ground while your partner holds your feet behind you. Lean slowly towards the ground without bending your hips or your waist. If the ground is uncomfortable, bring a rubber mat or small pillow to kneel on. Do three sets of 10 replicates.
    • Lunges. This should be done in a smooth controlled manor while walking. Lunge forward with one leg. Lower the knee of the other leg towards the ground. Do three sets of 10 replicates. You should feel the workout in your thighs.
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    Strengthen your core. Having strong muscles in your core is important for keeping your back strong. Be sure to build up slowly. If you are unsure whether your technique is correct, consider consulting with a personal trainer or physical therapist.[5]
    • Sit-ups. These exercises are also called abdominal crunches. They strengthen your abdominal muscles. Lie on your back with your knees bend and your feet on the floor. Cross your arms over your chest. Use your stomach muscles to curl forward, bringing your chest towards your knees. You can do them while keeping your knees up, or focus on the muscles on each side by laying your knees flat to one side, then the other.
    • Bridging. This exercise will strengthen your outer hip muscles. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Lift your backside off the floor. Hold this position and then lift one foot off the ground. Keep your hips level. Put that foot down and lift the other.
    • Push-ups. This works your arms, shoulders, and chest muscles. Lie on your stomach on the floor. Support your weight on the balls of your toes. Put the palms of your hands against the floor at the level of your shoulders. Push against the floor and straighten your arms. Gently let yourself back down and repeat. Keep your back straight throughout. If you are not strong enough at first to do this exercise, you can bend your knees and support your weight on your knees rather than your toes.
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    Strengthen your upper body. These exercises will help you build the strength in your arms. You can either purchase small weights at an athletics store or fill a bottle with water or sand. If you do fill a bottle, be sure to fill it entirely. If it is only partially full, the water or sand might shift while you work out, making the weight harder to control. [6]
    • Arm curls. Stand with your feet under your shoulders. Hold the weights in your hands with the palm directed forward. Your arms should be down by your sides. Bend your elbows and bring the weights towards your shoulders. Repeat 10 times.
    • Side arm raise. Sit or stand with your back straight and your arms by your sides. Hold the weights with your palms facing in. Raise your arms straight out to the sides until they are parallel to the floor. Slowly lower them back to your sides. Repeat 10 times.
    • Forward arm raise. Sit or stand with your arms by your sides. Hold the weights with your palms directed backwards. Slowly raise your arms in front of you to be parallel to the floor. Lower them back to your sides. Repeat 10 times.

Part 3
Staying Flexible

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    Stretch your legs. Stretching will reduce muscle soreness the next day. It will also help you to keep your range of motion and reduce stiffness. It is best to stretch after you have done five or ten minutes of light aerobic activity, like walking or jogging. This reduces the risk of tearing muscles during stretches.[7]
    • Stretch your calves. Put one foot in front of the other. Keep the back heel firmly on the ground and reach toward the ground. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds without bouncing.
    • Keep your hip flexors flexible. Your hip flexors are the muscles on the front of your thighs. You will stretch one side then the other. Step forward with your left foot and let your right knee sink towards the ground. Use your hands to slowly and carefully pull your right ankle towards your backside. Repeat this for the left side
    • Ease tension in your quadriceps. You can steady yourself on a wall, tree, or workout buddy during this stretch. Bring your heel up to your backside and gently pull your ankle until you feel the stretch. Keep your knee close to your body.
    • Stretch your inner thighs. Sit on the floor with your legs out straight and spread a comfortable distance apart. Lean into the middle and feel the stretch. Reach with your left hand towards the toes on your left foot. Bring your right arm over your head and reach with that hand towards your left toes. Repeat this for your right side.
    • Keep your hamstrings supple. Your hamstrings are on the back of your upper leg. To stretch them, sit on the floor with one leg out straight and the other folded so that your knee is on the floor and your sole is against the outstretched leg. Slowly and gently reach for your toes. Do not bounce. Once you feel a stretch hold it for 30 seconds.
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    Loosen stiff muscles in your back. If you have lower back pain, these exercises may help you release tightness. Try doing them once per day. If it hurts, stop immediately and consult your doctor.[8]
    • On all fours stretch. Kneel on all fours with your back flat. Slowly bring your bottom back towards your feet while keeping your back parallel to the floor. You should feel a stretch in your back. If you have knee problems, consult your doctor before doing this.
    • Knee rolls. Lie on your back with your knees bent and together. Stretch your arms out flat on the floor. Move your knees to one side towards the floor. Keep your arms and your shoulders flat on the floor. You should feel a stretch on the opposite side. Next go in the other direction. Repeat 10 times.
    • Back extensions. Lie on your stomach and support your upper body on your forearms with your elbows on the floor. Arch your back by moving your shoulders up and back. Do not bend your neck backwards and keep your hips on the floor. Breathe throughout. Repeat 10 times.
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    Relieve tension in your upper body. These exercises will help loosen tight spots and knots in your shoulders, upper back, and arms.
    • Shoulder rolls. Stand with your feet squarely under you and roll your shoulders. Roll your shoulders together five times forward and five times backwards.[9]
    • Doorway stretch. Stand in a wall or doorway with your hands above your head holding the doorway. Lean in slowly until you feel the front of your shoulders stretch. You can also repeat this with your arms out to your sides, parallel to the floor.


  • Consult your doctor, physical therapist, or trainer before making any changes to your fitness program or starting a new one. This is important to verify that you are in good enough health to exercise.

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Categories: Diet & Lifestyle | Personal Fitness