Anatomy of a Workout Program


When it comes to lowering blood sugar, working out works. You may already know that you can greatly lower your risk for type 2 diabetes if you are physically active, especially if you achieve at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity. 

It sounds so simple if you translate those 150 minutes into walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, but things can get more confusing as you learn more. What is a workout, and should you increase the intensity, and is it good or bad to do resistance training? Take heart: it is not as complicated as it seems, and the following information can help you make sense of it all.

 

A Workout from Start to Finish


The idea of doing a formal “workout” may be daunting if you are a beginner, but it does not have to be. A workout is just the time that you dedicate specifically to exercise. It can be a 10-minute walk or a 30-minute bike ride, for example, but you can also make it a little more structured. These are the components of a workout.

  • Warm-up, ideally 5 10 minutes.

  • Main workout, often 10 to 30 minutes.

  • Cool-down, usually 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Stretching, about 30 seconds per each major muscle.

There are a few benefits to this type of structure. 

  • It lowers injury risk by allowing your muscles to loosen before you work them hard.

  • It speeds up recovery by letting your breathing and heart rate slow gradually.

  • It helps you get ready for the next workout by giving you a more pleasant experience to remember.

  • It helps make your workout longer without much more mental effort or physical strain.

When you warm up, start very slowly and gradually increase the intensity. By the end of your warm-up, you should be working nearly as hard as you plan to work at the start of your main workout.

Be sure to target your warm-up specifically to the workout you are doing. Incorporate motions that are similar to those you will be doing in your main workout. For example, include arm swings if you will be playing tennis, and get in some deep knee bends if you are planning to hit the rowing machine.

Your cool-down can be the opposite of your warm-up, starting out higher intensity and finishing up very slowly. Once your heart rate is down and your breathing is back to normal, you can safely stretch your muscles for injury prevention, and do some deep breathing to relax and recharge.

 

Main Workout


So what is this “main workout” that comes between your warm-up and cool-down? Basically, it is whatever you planned for. It can be a basketball scrimmage, a tennis match, or a hike. It can be a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout or a zumba class. It is the meat of your exercise routine.

 

Intense Benefits with Intense Activity


You may have seen in the Lark check-in that you can get benefits when you do as little as four minutes a day of vigorous-intensity activity. That is true, but there are some things you should know. 

  • Four minutes of vigorous-intensity activity is better than nothing.

  • More is better.

  • You can get plenty of benefits when you sprinkle a total of four intense minutes into your overall workout. For example, you can do 8 repetitions of 30 seconds hard, separated by 1 to 2 minutes of lower-intensity activity, for a total of 4 minutes of high-intensity activity.

 

Support Your Workout Habit


There are simple things you can do all day to feel better and increase motivation for your physical activity. These actions can give you better workout results along with more weight loss and improved health to boot.

  • Drink water all day, especially before and after workouts, and including small sips throughout your workout.

  • Eat a small snack or meal within an hour after your workout to speed recovery. Include a bit of protein and some carbohydrates.

  • Make sleep a priority by allowing enough time each night and establishing a relaxing bedtime routine to help you sleep.

Physical activity can get you far in your journey towards health, and making a few small changes to your workout routine can get you even further. Use Lark DPP to its fullest by logging your activity and checking in often for coaching, and you may be pleasantly surprised at your progress.

 

Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health

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Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health