3 Is The Magic Number

Posted by in December's Magazine

So, you want to exercise. But how much do you need to do, and how often? One of the common themes I encounter as a personal trainer is folk not knowing exactly what they need to do to keep fit. Exercise can be roughly divided into three categories: cardiovascular, strength and flexibility. It’s the balance of these three that is important, and a correct balance will ensure that you have the most effective exercise programme possible, even if you’re rushed, you should still be able to fit these in.

Cardiovascular exercise elevates your heart rate. There are a number of benefits to be found in cardio. Firstly, it burns calories, secondly it boosts your metabolic rate (after exercising is a good time to eat, as you burn up calories faster) and thirdly, it makes you feel good. In other words it’s ideal for weight loss. Hidden benefits are deeper than cosmetic in that it strengthens your heart, that big muscle that pumps blood around your body. Cardiac muscle can be strengthened by exercise, and elevating your heart rate will help you to avoid heart disease. It’s also a natural way to lower your blood pressure, but check with your doctor first if you’re unsure about starting on an exercise programme to lower blood pressure. Cardio exercise should be done at least three times per week, aiming for a minimum of 30 minutes continuously in the training zone per session. More is good, and you can work up to doing it nearly every day when you get into it. For some people starting out, fast walking is sufficient. If you’ve been exercising for a while, you may need to jog. Other options are aerobics classes, cycling, swimming, climbing, basically anything that makes you puffed for at least 30 minutes. You need to keep your heart rate up to a level where you feel breathless – the easiest way to work out your heart rate is to invest in a heart rate monitor and you can get a good Polar entry level one for about £30.


Strength exercises work your muscles against resistance. Like cardio, it boosts your metabolism (muscle requires calories to exist because it’s metabolically active tissue, whereas fat is not). Cardio burns calories, whereas strength ‘turns fat to muscle’. Another advantage of doing regular strength exercises is that it will help with running technique, injury prevention and, basically, make you look toned. Strength is not just weightlifting. In fact, personally, I haven’t been to a gym for over five years. Strength exercises can be anything from body weight exercises like press ups, squats and lunges, to lifting weights, to using rubber resistance bands (like they do in Pilates), or tubes. Anything that requires a bit of effort in moving the body is probably strength. You may already have a strength programme at the gym, or do body weight exercises as part of sports training. It is a crucial aspect to any exercise programme, and if you’re not doing it already, investigate how you can incorporate some strength exercises. You need to do strength work about three times per week, usually taking days off in between as muscles require a day of rest from resistance exercises to help them rebuild.

Or how bendy your body is. Whilst stretching alone does not burn extra calories (unless you’re doing pulse-raising Ashtanga yoga), it is useful in myriad ways. Being flexible is an important element in injury prevention, as is maintaining a good range of motion. You may notice that some folk become hunched as they get older, so remember to do lots of stretching and keep ‘great posture’. You can stretch the major muscle groups in your body adequately in about ten minutes if you know which stretches to choose. Ideally stretch at least three times per week, and certainly always after exercise when the body is warm. Try a yoga class to learn new stretches, or pick up exercises from the (very brief) stretches at the end of an aerobics class. You will also probably find charts of stretches on your gym wall, but you may like to ask a qualified trainer for stretches specific to your needs.

So it’s the rule of three – cardio at least three times a week (at least half an hour), strength three times a week (usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes) and flexibility exercises at least three times per week (anything from 10 minutes to an hour for a yoga class). I utilise all three aspects of fitness in an hour-long session. Try 30 minutes cardio to warm up, followed by some strength exercises, then stretching to cool down and finish. See you next month for expert advice on how to boost your metabolism – even in party season. Because you’ll need it!

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One response to “3 Is The Magic Number”

  1. 3 has been my favorite number and I was pretty sure about this from a while since I have read this post. It was the exact feeling that I was having in my mind about my lucky number.

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