Move better, feel fitter and get stronger
At Copeman Healthcare, our team’s philosophy is that exercise is more than pushing through boring or brutal workouts, losing weight or aiming for an arbitrary goal. It’s about being fit, for life, and celebrating what our bodies can do rather than punishing them when they don’t meet our expectations.
The exercise and training principles you’ll find in this guide will help you discover a new way of looking at exercise. The fact is, the only perfect workout plan is the one that you love doing. Your fitness plan should be unique, involve moving in a way that you enjoy, make you feel good, and support your long-term health.
Exercise plays an integral role in our health
What if we told you exercise isn’t just a recommendation, it’s in our health guidelines? More and more studies are showing that engaging in regular physical exercise is essential to maintaining good health.
Living an active lifestyle plays a vital role in reducing, alleviating and improving the symptoms of many chronic illnesses and diseases. Decades of research also indicate that moving more, being active and keeping fit are the keys to living a longer and healthier life.
Beyond physical health, exercise promotes better mental health and sleep habits, decreases stress and even helps you boost your immune system and age more gracefully. Because of its total body benefits, many health and medical experts consider it among the most powerful (and free!) preventative medications available.
No matter where your starting point is, everyone can do it.
We make fitness way more complicated than it needs to be. The best exercises are often the simplest of activities. Exercise doesn’t need to cost a fortune nor take a major portion of time out of your day. Even the busiest business executive, working parent or full-time student can swing it. From splitting up your workouts into smaller, bite-sized chunks or turning daily errands into a mini-workout, the possibilities are endless.
Fall in love with moving better
Our team has scoured the studies, research and latest advances to assemble a comprehensive collection of evidence-based exercise tips, techniques, tricks, routines and plans into a simple guide. With it, you can design an exercise regime that perfectly fits your tastes and lifestyle.
Keep reading to discover your best workout, including how you can successfully integrate a daily exercise plan that will improve your physical and mental health. Dive right in at the beginning or jump to the section that most interests you.
Welcome to Copeman’s ultimate guide to getting fit—for life!
**Before commencing any new physical activity or fitness routine, we recommend consulting with your primary care physician to ensure you are ready and healthy to begin, and set up a plan that supports your health and meets your preferences.**
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Getting started: Considerations for your personalized workout plan
- Getting to work: Creating your own personalized workout plan
- Creating your perfect workout plan
- Finding the balance: Incorporating strength training, mobility & cardio
- Flexibility or mobility: What’s the difference?
- Warming up effectively
- Don’t forget to cool-down
- Exercise misconceptions
- Pregnancy: Exercise pre + post-partum
- Chronic illness and disease management
- Injury rehabilitation and prevention
Getting started: Considerations for your personalized workout plan
Before jumping right into a new workout plan, there are a few considerations. Not only is it important to stay safe and enjoy the workout, but also you want to make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck. By being more efficient with your activity choices, at home or in the gym, you can save time and maximize your results.
Optimize your fitness routine with realistic goals
Setting realistic goals is one key to successfully sustaining your exercise routine in the long-term and ensuring you get the most out of the experience. Many of us have specific fitness targets. Take a moment to think about your objectives.
No matter what they are, the best goals are S.M.A.R.T: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound.
The realistic part is particularly important. We often see driven, ambitious people who are desperate to make a big change, such as those fair-weather exercisers who decide to run a marathon in three months’ time. While ambition has its merits, action is where the magic happens. Approaching goals realistically helps people decrease barriers so they can stick to their plan, enjoy the process, be consistent and avoid burnout or injury.
We encourage setting goals, both short- and long-term. But to achieve your best health possible, it’s important that those targets are realistic, healthy and attainable. A great first step is to book a fitness assessment with a certified professional to tailor your routine to your goals, fitness level, preferences and physical abilities.
If you’re already physically active and looking to forge ahead on your own, check out this four-step Fitness Optimization Worksheet; it offers handy tips and proven techniques to ensure you’re set up to achieve your goals.
Alternately, if you need some extra support, you can work with a professional, accredited personal trainer at your local fitness facility. If you’re struggling to get started and would like a more hands-on approach to planning, motivation and guidance, Copeman Healthcare offers personal training in one-on-one or semi-private sessions at each of our clinics. Contact us to find out more through a free personal-training assessment.
Why a structured exercise program works
Looking for a way to stay motivated, maximize your workout time, avoid plateaus and target your specific fitness goals? Come up with a plan!
Never wing your workouts—a straightforward fitness principle that is commonly overlooked. You’ve likely heard the saying, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” This is especially true when it comes to sustaining your fitness resolutions beyond New Year’s. As any professional athlete, certified personal trainer or registered kinesiologist will tell you, to reach your goals you need structure.
The benefits of working with a personal trainer (and/or your kinesiologist) to design a personalized workout plan are endless, explains Chad Cardoso, Copeman Healthcare kinesiologist. A structured exercise program helps you save time, allows you to try new exercises, creates more balanced results and (most importantly) supports noticeable progress in strength, muscle size, movement, posture and cardiovascular capacity.
Wondering what kinesiologists do, and why you would benefit from working with one? Check out our Kinesiology 101 webinar for some fast facts.
Defining the structured workout
Mapping out a workout plan is different for everyone. A plan depends on your individual situation and goals and could include any combination of the following:
- Warm-ups—ensuring your body is primed and less prone to injury
- Cardio—ideally something that you enjoy, to support your cardiovascular health and endurance
- Strength training—a mix of all major muscle groups, including upper, lower and core body
- Circuit training—maximizing your muscular endurance, body conditioning and strength
- Cool-downs—enabling your body to smoothly transition back into a resting state, without complications.
Realistically, no matter how meticulously you plan, there will be days when you just don’t have time. Under those circumstances, it’s always better to squeeze in an impromptu workout (or partially complete your routine) than to skip it entirely!
Make exercise fun
Whatever it is you enjoy and makes you feel good while you’re moving, build your routine around that. You have the option to customize your routine, whether it includes exercise at home, the gym, indoors, outdoors, solo, with a partner or in a group. The only limit to what qualifies as “exercise” is your imagination; so find something fun, call a friend and get going.
There’s an ideal workout for everyone (and every body) at every age, stage and fitness level. Making physical exercise more fun can be as simple as switching up your activities. Enjoy adrenaline and fast-paced cardio? Try rock-climbing, HIIT workouts, CrossFit or kickboxing classes. If you like going solo, simply lace up your runners and go. Shoot some hoops on the court, train for a triathlon or try a new team-based sport like soccer, hockey or rugby if you prefer group activities.
If you’re looking for something more Zen, try yoga, Pilates, stretching or meditative practices that incorporate movement. Enjoy nature and take a long walk, go gardening, strap on your snowshoes or cross-country skis in winter and try kayaking or canoeing in the summertime.
Have an adventurous spirit? Get outside and try something totally new—go geocaching with the kids, try horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking or snowboarding. (Reminder: adventure goes hand in hand with preparation and planning, so always tell someone where you are going, take due precautions and plan for the varying conditions and hazards).
How long do I really need to workout for?
Did you know that LONGER workouts don’t equate to BETTER workouts? Your two-hour workouts four times a week might reap the same level of health benefits as your neighbour’s 40-minute workouts five times a week.
It all depends on the following FITT variables:
- Frequency: How often you exercise
- Intensity: How intense your activity is
- Time: How much time you have
- Type: The kind of activity you are doing
Think of it as a pie chart: if you decrease one of the slices, the other slices will increase in size as compensation. Once you have decided what you want to do (type), the goal is to adjust the other three slices as a function of your lifestyle, interests and goals. If your exercise frequency is four or more times per week, then each session can be shortened and/or less intense. On the other hand, exercising two or three times means intensity and/or time of movement should increase.
The goal is 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate to vigorous activity per week for optimal health. Apart from that, there’s no right or wrong amount of time to spend in the gym. Consider your FITT variables and goals then figure out what to adjust.
Anyone training for something specific, like a weightlifting competition, a marathon or team sport might want to consider getting further coaching, as these goals will require more specific and calculated changes in frequency, time and intensity to perform competitively.
Hit all the major muscle groups
When drafting a workout plan, make sure to include all major muscle groups. We all have exercises we’re most comfortable with, but a lack of novelty and variety will inevitably stump results. In addition, repeating the same exercises can result in muscle imbalances that can lead to injuries, poor mechanics and failure to reach full athletic potential.
To remember which muscle groups to include, think about hitting all the different movement patterns instead of individual muscles, then include an opposing movement. A balanced workout (or sets of workouts) will include the following movement patterns:
- Horizontal Push—a push up, chest press, pushing a heavy door open
- Horizontal Pull—seated rows, pulling your dog back on its leash
- Vertical Push—shoulder press, putting items in highest shelf in cupboard
- Vertical Pull—pull ups, pulling the binds up
- Hip Dominant—deadlift, hip hinge, picking up a wide bow without letting knees come forward
- Knee Dominant—squats, step-ups, going up stairs, sitting in and out of your chair
- Abdominal—anti-rotation, anti-flexion, anti-extension, such as putting on a seatbelt, dog tugging on leash, Pallof press
You don’t need to do every movement type on the same day, but consider your weekly routine and mix it up. If you incorporate a push exercise, make sure to do a pull exercise. If you love squatting, make sure you also include some form of hip hinging. Opposing movement patterns will ensure you stay balanced and develop even muscle tone.
Exercise for your age
Worried your age might be a barrier to starting a workout routine? Don’t be. It’s never too late to start exercising. Regular activity can dramatically help improve energy levels, mood, balance and overall strength—and it’s easier than you think.
One of the biggest age-related fitness myths is that there are risks of exercising more as you age. This could not be further from the truth. Muscles adapt regardless of age. If you don’t move, muscles atrophy and shrink. When you use them, they get stronger and build tone. The aging process can affect how quickly it happens, but it doesn’t stop your body from positively adapting.
Exercise also improves mood, memory, confidence and movement abilities at any age. Learning how your body works and develops is an important part of keeping a healthy body and mind. As your interests change, skills develop and motivation levels fluctuate, there are always opportunities to try new activities.
Reducing barriers to exercise is important regardless of your age; however, there are a few safety considerations. Different types of exercises place different demands on your cardiovascular system, joints and muscles. For example, high-impact activities might not be the best choice for someone prone to joint pain. Higher intensity activities, such as squash or soccer, might not be suitable for those with cardiovascular conditions. Chat with your doctor to determine your risks and select appropriate activities.
Have a look at our webinar that details how to exercise your age
Getting to work: Creating your own personalized workout plan
The difference between a generic workout on YouTube and one made specifically for you is saved time and improved results. Here at Copeman, we don’t believe in having to train harder, faster or longer; we believe in training smarter. Simple things like proper warm-ups, cool-downs, muscle activation exercises, workout structure, and timing of exercise can all help increase effectiveness and efficiency.
Creating your perfect workout plan
Looking for the best workout—one that maximizes your results, helps you sustain a healthy weight, improves your fitness-level and keeps you consistently coming back for more? The good news is that exists; but the tricky part is that it’s different for everyone – and, because the only perfect exercise routine is the one that you’ll stick to.
Similar to how there is no official “perfect” healthy diet (as individual nutritional needs typically vary), our ideal physical workout routines also differ dramatically based on a number of factors: age, fitness level, body composition, physical abilities (flexibility, strength, coordination and equilibrium), mobility-level, preferences and fitness goals.
When it comes to developing your perfect workout routine, our Copeman Kinesiology team encourages you to remember the three P’s:
- Planning—the best routines will maximize your health by incorporating some elements of each of the four types of fitness: aerobic, strength, balance and flexibility. Ensure you’re planning ahead for considerations like location, time of day or year and air quality!
- Personalization—identify your goals, be honest about your limitations and strengths, choose activities you enjoy and then structure your workout routine around these things.
- Preparedness—keep the excuses at bay by ensuring you have the tools to stick to the training plan even when life’s chaos ensues. For example, have your gear ready to go; commit to stepping into the gym for at least 15 minutes no matter how busy work gets. Being prepared will help keep you accountable and moving.
Need a hand determining your perfect plan? Copeman Healthcare offers personal training in one-on-one or semi-private sessions at each of our clinics. Ask your physician or request a consultation with our kinesiologists to find out more!
Finding the balance: Incorporating strength training, cardio and mobility
Having a personalized plan is akin to having an effective plan. Within that plan there should be multiple elements that address strength, cardio and mobility. The balance will look different for everyone, but figure out what is optimal for you.
Strength training is essential to your health
Additionally, by decreasing rest time in between exercises and incorporating full body movements that incorporate all the major muscle groups, your strength training workout can evolve into cardiovascular exercise. This kind of strength training is an efficient way to workout if you’re crunched for time—you build muscle, burn significant calories and reap all the health benefits in one workout.
Cardiovascular fitness and endurance
A healthy cardiovascular system and strong muscles are linked to a wide range of physical and psychological benefits for your body, including improved mood, weight regulation, better sleep patterns, lower blood pressure readings and decreased chronic pain symptoms.
Cardiovascular fitness comes in many forms. If you love the machines, keep it up! Machines often decrease impact on joints while still getting the heart rate up and muscles working. Make sure to balance your workout by also incorporating upper body strength (e.g., weights, resistance bands, etc.) and mobility work. Alternatively, you can take up other aerobic activities such as cycling or dancing. Choose what makes your heart sing!
For more information, have a look at our webinar on cardiovascular fitness.
Running for your life
Nothing beats the feeling of freedom that comes with running, whether you’re lacing up your running shoes and hitting the pavement in the early hours before dawn or dialing up the speed of the treadmill and de-compressing after a stressful day. It’s free, fast and easy to perform without special equipment, tools or training. You can run any time of year and under almost any weather conditions.
Skeptical? Check out our top tips for cold weather in this webinar on winter running.
The benefits of running are plentiful. It boosts your metabolism, burns calories, builds stronger bones (as a weight-bearing exercise), supports cardiovascular and heart health. Plus, it creates an addictive endorphin boost that supports better mental and psychological health. Some studies indicate running helps make you more resilient and resistant to stress and can even help to stave off cognitive decline (Time magazine).
You don’t have to run for long periods of time, or at a break-neck speed, to yield rewards. Run-walking, slow jogging and short runs (of 20 minutes or less) can have a valuable place in a workout routine, too.
As with any higher intensity activity, use some common-sense strategies to prevent injuries: stretch, warm up, learn proper techniques (consider working with a kinesiologist or professional running coach), cool down and increase the intensity/frequency/duration of your workouts gradually.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has risen to fame within the fitness world as an ideal alternative to traditional workouts. Its popularity is attributed to its near unparalleled effectiveness and efficiency. Plus, it’s fast, free, requires no equipment and can be performed literally anywhere.
What is HIIT? A compact high-intensity workout, HIIT takes a fraction of the time required to complete a standard workout (20 minutes, versus the normal 60) and involves alternating periods of intense work, which can range in duration from ten seconds to six minutes, and short periods of rest. The aim is to complete the work intervals at 75 to 95 per cent of your estimated maximum heart rate (MHR). The result is increased caloric- and fat-burning capacity during your workout.
Of course, with the high intensity comes an increased risk of injury. Consult your Copeman Healthcare team—as well as implement preventative steps before, during and after your workout—to help safeguard against common injuries.
To learn more about HIIT and if it’s right for you, watch our HIIT webinar with kinesiologist Kathryn Wytsma-Fisher.
Flexibility or mobility? What’s the difference?
These terms are often used interchangeably, however they are quite different. Flexibility is how much a muscle can lengthen and stretch. Mobility is how well your muscles and joints can coordinate to move through a range of motion. In other words, mobility is a measure of how functional your flexibility is.
For example, gymnasts have incredible flexibility, strength and control (aka mobility) of their limbs, which is necessary for their performance. However, if an average person had the same flexibility but lacked the strength and control, they would end up in an involuntary pretzel and injured if they attempted the same movements.
Being mobile is important for joint health and has shown to help reduce falls, improve posture and decrease risk of injuries. But did you know there is such a thing as too much mobility? Being too mobile, also known as hypermobility, without strength and control can put you at risk of premature joint wear and tear or nagging aches and pains. Like any good workout, make sure to pair mobility activities with activation and strength exercises.
Tools like foam rollers and various ‘release’ paraphernalia can be a great start to target tight and troublesome areas of your muscles, while not over stretching them. Click here to learn what you can do to make sure you’re getting the most out of your stretching and mobility work.
Regular practice calms the sympathetic nervous system that often keeps the body in a state of continuous stimulation, causing stress hormones to surge and our temperature, heart rate and blood pressure to spike. Yoga can reverse these effects and quiet the mind, undoing negative thought patterns, while the gentle stretching and poses help to strengthen the body.
Countless studies show it boasts an enormous range of mental and physical benefits. Regularly practicing yoga has shown to help:
- Improve physical strength, flexibility and balance
- Decrease stress, depression and anxiety
- Regulate hormonal and fasting blood glucose
- Minimize inflammatory responses
- Improve pain management
- Promote relaxation and a better night’s sleep
- Support heart health
- Aid with migraines and chronic pain
Yoga encompasses many types, from fast-paced and flowing Ashtanga to hot, regimented Bikram to the gentle stretches in Yin Yoga. This variety makes it suitable for any age, fitness or experience level. It can also be adapted to accommodate almost any health condition or mobility-related issues—making it safe, inclusive and one of the best options for anyone wanting to practice a gentle, relaxing workout.
Warming up effectively
Warming up before exercise is important for anyone wanting to exert themselves physically. Omitting warm-ups can increase your chances of injury, decrease your performance and mobility and even lead to a lag in reaching that second wind. The idea behind warm-ups is to ease your way into exercise by increasing blood flow, preparing and rehearsing unexpected variables that might come up (e.g., running on gravel vs over trails) as well as priming your muscles and lungs so they can work efficiently when needed.
Common barriers to warm-ups are time and not knowing what to do. Warm-ups should include a mix of myofascial release, dynamic movements, activation exercises and a gradual increase in intensity, which can all be done in 10 minutes! Save time and solidify what you’ve learned by having your warm-up exercises written out or downloaded on a device for a quick reference.
Don’t forget to cool-down
You might be happy to hear that your cool-down doesn’t need to be as comprehensive as your warm-up, but cool-downs and post-exercise stretches are still important. Cool downs slowly decrease heart rate, include deep stretching and calm the body and mind after physical exertion.
Gradually decreasing your heart rate can protect from unwanted cardiovascular complications and can minimize or eliminate symptoms like light-headedness or nausea (especially for chronic conditions like hypertension or cardiovascular disease). Cooling down helps keep blood flowing to the muscles so they don’t stiffen up too soon. It’s also a great opportunity to do some static stretching or myofascial release. Stretching during this time will help restore the working muscles to their optimal length and minimize the chances of long-term tightness or pain as nagging injuries are often caused or aggravated by overly tight muscles.
The calming and therapeutic elements of cool-downs are equally as important. If you’re having trouble sleeping, incorporating a relaxing cooling routine can help unwind your body and prepare your mind for restful sleep.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of people following terrible fitness advice they’ve taken as fact—and every January, without fail, hundreds of thousands of new gym-goers, dieters and health & wellness embracers across North America jump on the bandwagon to lose weight and get into better shape.
While that’s a good thing in theory, it doesn’t always work out in practice. When it comes to exercise and training principles, there is lots of conflicting information out there. This can make it hard to know what’s accurate, or if the workout routine you’re currently following is right for you.
Not all exercise is created equally
We all want the best bang for our buck when it comes to fitness, but not all exercise is created equally. For our money, total-body fitness is a great way to go.
Just as there are “superfoods” that promote a wide spectrum of nutritional benefits, some physical activities provide “total-body” benefits. These benefits include cardiovascular, muscular and toning, strengthening and conditioning, mind and brain. Consider giving some of these less popular total-body activities a try:
- Dancing—Blast some tunes and unleash your inner Beyoncé, because dancing is among the most versatile exercises, offering infinite varieties, disciplines and intensity-levels. It’s fantastic for your cardiovascular system, builds strength and flexibility, keeps your mind busy and it also hones your coordination, focus and memory. It’s fun, freeing and there’s something for literally everyone.
- Gardening—Avid gardeners can attest that with all the digging, kneeling, lifting, walking and stretching this popular pastime demands, you can get an excellent workout. Be prepared to get your sweat on, as it’s both cardiovascular and muscular. Plus, you’ll enjoy some relaxing eco-therapy with the fresh air, smell of new soil and feel of sunshine.
- Tai Chi—Everyone raves about the benefits of yoga for your mind, body and spirit. But if you’re looking to branch out and explore something new, try Tai Chi! You’ll increase your flexibility, strength and circulation with this calming martial arts practice.
- Cycling—It’s scenic, it’s breezy and it can be as leisurely (or challenging) as you want. This solo or group activity affords many of the same benefits as running with less impact, and it’s suitable for any age, fitness level or intensity. Enjoy the benefits of being outdoors and get pedaling!
There are no magic tricks—consistency is key
A common question kinesiologists and trainers are asked is, “What exercise can I do to get rid of my belly fat?” Unfortunately, no single exercise spot-targets body fat in a specific region. Sorry.
However, certain nutritional and exercise approaches can help you lose overall body fat efficiently and gain muscle tone in the right areas.
Nutrition: Most weight loss will come from eating a clean and sustainable diet.
Reduce alcohol consumption: Alcohol is the top nemesis to weight loss. Reducing your daily or weekly intake can work wonders in helping you lose that belly fat, plus reduce your chances of developing metabolic syndrome, liver disease or long-term memory loss.
Increase cardiovascular work: Increasing your activity levels will help keep the weight off. Make sure to include exercises that will get your heart rate up, and increase your number of daily steps.
Weight training: The fastest way to lose weight and see more muscle definition is by incorporating weightlifting. Although you will see muscular development in specific areas, remember it is important to hit all the major muscle groups.
Consistency is key with weight loss; set yourself up for success by having realistic expectations and formulating a plan.
Women and strength training
A popular myth related to “bulking up” had some women avoiding weight training for quite some time. Thankfully, most women now recognize that “lifting weights will always give you big, bulging muscles” is a fitness misconception.
Bodybuilding is a sport of its own, and it is not the natural by-product of weightlifting or strength training. Female bodybuilders do exist—and there are some extraordinarily successful lady lifters—but science dictates that due to androgenic hormonal differences between the sexes, deliberate and significant muscle growth in females is a more difficult process. In fact, getting a “ripped” body is not even a guarantee for most men; although biologically, men have an easier time building visible muscle mass.
What strength training actually does—no matter what gender you identify with—is provide better muscular strength, protect your bone density and make you look slimmer. You may think you have to run miles or do some hard-core aerobics to lose weight; but when it comes to losing inches, strength training will be your strongest ally.
No pain, no gain
Thanks to Jane Fonda, this phrase became popular in the fitness world in the early 1980s. She encouraged her viewers to “feel the burn” and that “no pain equals no gain.”
Unfortunately, individuals have taken this phrase to the extreme and believe that pain must be felt in order to experience physiological adaptations. This is false. Pain is not a prerequisite to positive, long-lasting changes in your body. Pain is the body communicating that it’s not safe and needs help. If you are experiencing true pain, seek medical attention before continuing exercise.
What Jane Fonda most likely meant was “no BURN, no gain.” People have confused the burning muscle sensation and soreness for pain. The burning sensation is an indication that your body is responding to imposed stresses. Although it can be a positive sign indicating sufficient intensity, it’s not the be-all-end-all.
Ultimately, consider how much effort you’re putting in and the physiological changes you see as you exercise, such as an increased heart rate, sweating, faster breathing and/or muscle fatigue. A more accurate mantra should be “no effort, no gain.” With little effort comes little gains or changes, regardless of the soreness we feel.
Fitness advice: How to recognize fact from fiction
The number one fitness misconception is that all fitness advice is factual. However, this is not true. For advice that is backed by scientific research, you need to consult qualified experts.
When it comes to your physical health, the best way to make sure that you’re not being misled when searching for health and fitness advice is to seek professional opinions. That means talking to one of the following:
- Your primary care physician or nurse practitioner
- An accredited and qualified personal trainer
- A kinesiologist (a recognized exercise expert who helps clients prevent and manage injuries as well as reach peak physical performance through education, programming and active rehabilitation techniques)
- A registered nurse
- A registered dietitian
- A registered massage therapist (RMT)
- A registered physiotherapist
Of course, advice from elsewhere isn’t automatically wrong, but you’re more likely to receive misinformation, distorted information or a sales pitch disguised as a “fitness fact.” For information you can trust, go straight to a reliable source.
Popular exercise misconceptions debunked
At Copeman Healthcare, we believe knowledge is power—especially when it comes to keeping fit and maximizing your physical health. We asked our multidisciplinary team with specialized expertise to help us debunk some of the most popular fitness misconceptions.
- You don’t need to run or do aerobics to have a healthy heart. Hate cardio? We have good news: jumping around to the beat of an aerobics class, hill sprints and marathon running are not prerequisites to maintaining heart health or weight loss. Yes, cardiovascular health is extremely important, but you can keep your heart healthy without running or doing something you dislike. Low-impact activities like brisk walking, swimming, mountain biking, kickboxing, martial arts, dancing, hiking, even heavy-duty house cleaning can promote a good sweat and periods of elevated heart rate!
- You don’t need a “gender-specific” workout routine. Structurally, we’re all very similar, no matter the gender we identify with, so we do not require drastically different workout routines. While differences in our hormonal make-ups are indisputable, our genders don’t constrain us to doing (or avoiding) upper body, lower body, cardio, strengthening or circuit training. Choose exercises that make you feel good and move more!
- You cannot spot-target fat from specific areas on your body. What you can do is focus on total-body fitness. You can work on conditioning, toning and strengthening different parts of your body, but your efforts are unlikely to address your problem areas exclusively.
- What you eat matters—both in quality and quantity! Proper diet and appropriate caloric intake are important if you want to attain your best results in fitness level and athletic performance. Our Definitive Guide to Healthy Eating, compiled by our team of registered dietitians, details how nutrition can support your fitness plan.
- Rest is a required part of your workout routine, period. Whether you are commencing your very first exercise regime or you’re a semi-professional athlete training for a big event, you need time to rest. Never underestimate the importance of adequate rest. Get enough sleep (in both quality and duration), and incorporate rest days into your workout program.
- Plateaus are not part of any exercise regime. Feel like you’re not getting results? When facing plateaus, most people either throw in the towel or crank up the intensity of their program to blistering and unbearable—both are ineffective. Try re-evaluating and changing up your routine, and check out these 3 common exercise mistakes to see if you might be overlooking something.
- Rushing injury recovery can do permanent, long-term damage—and for most of us (unless we’re professional athletes) it’s totally unnecessary. Don’t try to work it out or walk it off. There is no gain in pain, when it comes to your health—give yourself the time, tools and professional support to get better!
Pregnancy: Exercise pre- and post-partum
Exercise for women: the scoop on pre- and post-partum fitness
Short answer: absolutely! For pregnant women, a well-chosen fitness plan can provide a host of benefits to you and your child before, during and after pregnancy. In fact, studies have shown that safe exercise during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do to support your health and that of your baby. However, there are some important considerations when exercising while pregnant; always discuss with your healthcare provider before commencing, or continuing, any type of exercise regime.
Which activities are safe during pregnancy?
Engaging in a doctor-approved daily exercise routine can help improve your health, minimize excess weight gain, combat common pregnancy-related complaints (back pain, fatigue and constipation) and may even make your delivery easier! Because a prenatal workout routine depends on a range of factors, your healthcare provider can assist you in designing a routine that is safe, enjoyable and suitable for your needs.
Recommended low impact activities:
- Swimming—A heart-healthy exercise that’s low-impact, easy on your joints, promotes flexibility and relieves the feeling of extra weight. Try aqua-aerobic classes for prenatal and post-partum women, or even just walk in water).
- Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates—Each of these calming, gentle martial arts help to promote flexibility, muscle and body conditioning, increased circulation and relaxation techniques; many studios and gyms offer prenatal classes.
- Walking—One of the safest, most relaxing and reliable methods to engage in low-impact exercise. Whether you prefer the treadmill or a walk around the block with friends, this is generally suitable for most women during most trimesters and can be performed at a leisurely or brisker pace.
- Kegels—Did you know that pregnancy increases your risk of pelvic floor dysfunction, even if you have a C-section? Kegels can be helpful in maintaining (or improving) pelvic floor health; work with your Copeman Healthcare physiotherapist or kinesiologist to ensure you have the right techniques and practices to stay healthy!
- Stretching—Warm-ups and cool downs take on extra importance during and after pregnancy. Regular stretching keeps you flexible, promotes blood circulation and allows your body to smoothly transition into a resting state. Be mindful not to overstretch as pregnancy causes the body to produce extra hormones called relaxin, which increase joint mobility in joints and ligaments and tendons laxity.
Workout precautions for pregnancy
In general, most exercises are safe to perform during your pregnancy—if they’re performed with due consideration and the supervision of a physician. If you are exercising regularly before your pregnancy (and your doctor has confirmed you’re healthy and can exercise), you should be able to continue with your normal activities—although you may be required to make alterations to intensity or frequency of your workouts, depending on the trimester.
We recommend maintaining a low to moderate activity level (with approval from your physician) and working with your healthcare providers to select activities that are suitable to your individual needs, medical history, current health and trimester, as well as your fitness level.
If you have been sedentary before your pregnancy, we advise starting with a gentle, low-intensity workout routine and gradually increasing activity-level with the supervision of your primary care physician and the guidance of qualified professionals (such as kinesiologists and physiotherapists).
Always stop exercising and consult your physician immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Pain (especially abdominal, chest, pelvic or muscular)
- Dizziness, vertigo or nausea
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Difficulty breathing or walking
- Changes in heart rate or irregular heartbeat
- Contractions or water breakage
- Abnormal sweatiness or clamminess
- Coldness or chills
- Swelling of extremities (upper or lower body)
If you have gestational diabetes, it is important to discuss precautions with your physician. While being active is an excellent way to help manage your blood sugar, you will require modifications to your exercise routine.
Talk to your healthcare provider for a personalized program that keeps you and baby healthy and happy through pregnancy.
Decades of research have proven that regular exercise during pregnancy is safe and highly beneficial for your mental and physical health, as well as your baby’s health. In fact, it may be one of the very best things you can do in those 40 weeks!
Having a personalized program, developed with the help of your primary care physician and a Copeman kinesiologist, is a great way to maximize your health (and baby’s!) throughout your pregnancy—and beyond.
Chronic illness and disease management
We all know that regular exercise is good for overall health. But did you know that combined with other healthy-living principles, exercise can act as a powerful, preventative medicine? Exercise can help reduce, alleviate and improve symptoms of many chronic illnesses and diseases. And the best part? It’s free, effective and accessible to everyone.
How much do I have to do?
Health Canada recommends 150+ minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity per week.
By splitting up your workouts into bite-sized chunks (e.g., a 15-minute jog across campus before class, a 20-minute stint on your exercise bike after work or a 20-minute walk with the dog ), getting the most out of your workout need not take up tonnes of time. Try incorporating some calorie-burning into your daily routine and turn your errands into a mini-workout!
Preventative medicine is the best medicine
Weight management is always at the forefront of people’s minds when discussing exercise, but regular activity has been shown to combat several health conditions and diseases, including:
- Heart disease
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
- Chronic inflammation
- Depression and anxiety
- Various sleeping disorders
- Overall brain health
Of course, daily exercise and an active lifestyle play a major role in reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. If you have a predominantly sedentary lifestyle, high body weight with a large proportion as visceral fat, or a diagnosis of one of the conditions above, exercise as a tool to manage weight is very much a preferred method along with appropriate dietary counselling. Side effects of these lifestyle adjustments not only include weight loss but also improved mood and sleep, among other things.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in adults in North America, and physical exercise is one of the main preventative steps in reducing heart disease risk.
It’s never too late to start! Any exercise can be effective for strengthening your heart. If you struggle with hypertension or high blood pressure, which often go hand-in-hand with heart disease, exercise can even be a drug-free way to control, and lower, your blood pressure.
Whether you’re interested in designing a heart-healthy exercise plan or maximizing your cardiac benefits in your existing workout routine, options to keep your heart functioning at its best are numerous and varied!
Active living and arthritis
Osteoarthritis affects nearly five million Canadians and the numbers are increasing. So, how can you manage your risk?
Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight have been shown to significantly reduce its likelihood, slow its development and manage its symptoms. A daily exercise routine that incorporates plenty of strength exercises and stretching (keys to increasing and maintaining flexibility, mobility and dexterity through aging) can be highly beneficial in supporting healthy joints. Learn more about arthritis prevention and management here.
Another option for managing arthritis is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. PRP helps stimulate and enhance healing in areas of injury.
For a comprehensive overview of this treatment, check out our recent webinar on PRP therapy with Dr. Nathan Thakur, Family Physician and Medical Director at Copeman Healthcare.
Swimming and rehabilitation
Water babies, rejoice! Suit up and dive in, because swimming is being hailed by experts as the ultimate total-body exercise. Aquatic workouts can range from relaxing to intensely challenging—but they all share in promoting a wide array of mental, physical and psychological benefits.
A full-body workout that improves cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and overall endurance, swimming is a workout program that’s perfectly suitable for all ages and levels of fitness and experience. Because the buoyancy of water supports your body weight, aquatic activities are low-impact and easy on joints; it’s a highly inclusive exercise and appropriate for anyone with joint issues, including seniors, prenatal women or those recovering from injuries.
Water-based exercise doesn’t just mean swimming laps in your community pool. Aquatic fitness activities, like water-walking and water aerobics, offer phenomenal ways to burn calories, strengthen and tone your muscles while having fun. You can swim outdoors in lakes and oceans and get some quality fresh air at the same time. Team sports like water-polo and underwater hockey have less of a rehabilitation focus but contribute to socialization and other mental health benefits.
The benefits go way beyond physical
Exercise isn’t just important for your physical health, it can help improve your quality of life, maintain your mental health and provide you with healthy tools for managing daily stress.
At times, life throws us all challenges—from finance and family troubles to workplace woes and health-related scares. Developing a regular fitness routine that you enjoy and allows you to de-compress is an invaluable asset and part of your toolkit for managing the stresses you’ll encounter.
Reminder: Always talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness routine.
Injury rehabilitation and prevention
We’ve all been there—sidelined with a rolled ankle or broken bone or, worse, benched with a concussion. When you’re trying to be active, injuries can be discouraging and frustrating! Fortunately, you can do many things to help yourself bounce back faster and without breaking the bank. Injury rehabilitation can be as simple as stretching the right muscles, performing home exercises or even doing meditation.
Knowing where to start when you’ve sustained an injury can be overwhelming, so follow these fitness principles to help navigate the rehab process:
- Implement the ‘RICE’ method (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) for the first 5-7 days after the injury occurs
- Immediately consult your doctor or emergency if you suspect breaks, tears or anything that produces unusual or excruciating pain
- Consider consulting a physiotherapist if you’ve ruled out broken bones or are familiar with the injury
- Heal completely before resuming exercise, as re-injury will delay recovery
- Don’t assume that an absence of pain means you’re ready to return to your previous activity/sport. Make sure you check with your doctor, as well as perform conditioning exercises to prepare
Learn more about injury recovery by exploring some of our resources on this topic.
Prevention: The secret first step of your fitness plan
One of the most important parts of living an active lifestyle is being aware that prevention and protection should always come before participation.
Exercise is essentially the practice of placing your body through intentional, repetitive stress and strain with the goal of increasing its resiliency, strength and functionality. To adequately prepare your body to endure that strain, start by working with your physiotherapist and heeding the follow tips:.
- Stretch daily to help safeguard the flexibility of your joints and promotes their ability to maintain a full range of motion
- Increase your activity levels gradually, especially when starting a new type of activity that your body may be unaccustomed to
- Perform regular warm-ups and cool downs as a part of your structured daily workout routine
You may also want to book a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) with your Copeman Healthcare kinesiologist or physiotherapist. Designed as a screening tool, the FMS consists of seven tests, grading movement quality to create a functional baseline and set realistic goals. It also identifies dangerous patterns and helps you to determine your risk factors for future injury and readiness for activity.
Don’t rush back into it!
Some injuries can take weeks (or longer) to heal. You might be feeling disappointed or upset because you’re falling behind in your workout routine, losing hard-earned progress or missing out on an event you’ve trained for. Yes, sometimes professional athletes are back in the game after a week—or even just days—but rest assured, there is no substitute for consulting your physician, working with your physiotherapist and/or kinesiologist and giving yourself adequate time to heal.
Do yourself a favour and don’t rush it. You can always rebuild strength, make up for lost time and train for next year’s event. Most important is your long-term health; take the time you need to heal because pushing through injuries can result in permanent damage.
We promise—when you give yourself the time, tools and the professional support you need to get better, you will get back to doing what you love sooner than you think!
If you’re living with chronic pain or repeatedly being sidelined by the same nagging injuries, chances are there’s something you could be doing differently in your exercise routine.
Most nagging pains or injuries are the result of overuse, repetitive stress or a minor accident to muscles or tendons. They result in pain due to swelling and inflammation and shouldn’t be ignored—even if it’s only mild pain—as continuing to perform the activities causing it can lead to more problematic injuries down the line.
At the Copeman Healthcare Movement & Strength Lab, some of the most common exercise-related injuries that we address include:
- Lower back-pain—the most common injury experienced at least once by most North Americans within their lifetime, lower back pain can range in causes from strains, slipped discs and disc injury, sprains, diseases like spinal stenosis, and simple lack of activity.
- Knee pain—one of the most complex joints in your body, mild to severe injury can occur here in a variety of ways from dislocation and fractures to ligament tears and sprains.
- Shoulder pain—shoulder impingement and rotator cuff injuries are often caused by repetitive stress or overhead activities (such as painting, tennis or lifting).
- Chronic pain— whether acute or chronic, pain is incredibly taxing on your mind and body; chronic pain management often includes stress-management techniques like targeted exercise, meditation, deep breathing and therapy.
We highly recommend taking a collaborative approach to address chronic pain, repetitive stress or recurrent injuries. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a weekend warrior, working with a kinesiologist, physiotherapist and/or personal trainer can make all the difference—and our multidisciplinary team of experts provides an array of services for injury rehabilitation.
A professional can design a fitness program to help you rehabilitate and strengthen your injury and show you how to prevent future problems. Contact us today to book your consultation and free fitness assessment.
Concussions have been the buzz word in athletics for a while now, and for good reason, but they can happen to anyone, not just football and hockey players. A concussion is an injury to the brain that affects its function; it can cause headaches, memory issues, balance and coordination troubles and difficulties in concentration.
A common misconception is that a loss of consciousness from the injury must have occurred for it to be classified as a concussion. This is not true! It’s entirely possible to have a concussion and not know. You can sustain a head injury from a tumble to the ground, from whiplash during a car accident and even from a cycling collision.
If you suspect a concussion, it is imperative to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis. Having had a concussion predisposes you to getting another one more easily. Additionally, for each successive concussion, your risk of permanent brain damage or cognitive challenges increases.
Strict guidelines exist for return to activity after a concussion, so one must be careful of the frequency, intensity, type and time of exercise you engage in after head injuries.
Watch our webinar on concussion prevention; while it’s targeted at children, many of the lessons can apply to someone of any age.
Many of us love exercise. For others, being moved to move is more of a challenge. If motivation is an on-going issue, the following sections may help you understand why and offer suggestions to change your approach and your mindset.
Finding your motivation
Wish you could stay more motivated and make your daily exercise routine more fun? You’re not alone.
Let’s face it—exercise is hard work, and sometimes the hardest part is finding the motivation to do it.
No matter your fitness goals, motivation is key to reaching them, this worksheet might help you line up your goals and motivation to ensure they are realistic and able to work together.
Our kinesiology team has also compiled a list of exercise and training principles to help you get your head in the game and kick-start your motivation! No need to wait for New Year’s to roll around to make exercise resolutions to support your long-term goals.
Tips for staying motivated
- Bring a buddy (or three)—The buddy system is one of the most successfully proven methods for ensuring accountability. Working out with friends, joining a running group and taking fitness classes can help motivate, inspire and push you to perform. (Friendly competition, anyone?) Beyond that, incorporating a social aspect in your workout can make it that much more enjoyable.
- Raise the stakes—If you need something to really kick your motivation into high gear, try getting competitive. Set a new fitness challenge or sign up for an event that interests you—a cycling race, a 5K run, a marathon or triathlon, a power-lifting competition—whatever gets your heart racing and inspires you to push and challenge yourself. Then get training!
- Change up your routine—It doesn’t matter how much you love your workout or how perfect your regime is for your lifestyle, you’ll eventually get bored. If that’s the case, mix it up, adjust and re-calibrate your goals, experiment with new exercises/locations/activities and make it fun! Here are some great ideas on how to reboot your routine.
- Create rituals that reinforce your habit—Prep your protein shake and coffee maker, fill your water bottles and lay out your workout clothes the night before, so you can slip right into them. Planning ahead, setting your intentions and removing obstacles beforehand can be a powerful motivator!
- Exercise early— Psychology supports the theory that our willpower depletes throughout the day; people who get their workouts out of the way first thing in the morning tend to be more successful at sticking to their routines. Plus, they get the added benefit of endorphins, increased mood and energy and a bit of pep in their step to tackle the day. Go set that alarm!
- Rely on Fido —Make your dog your new workout partner! Experts agree that our canine friends need between 30 minutes to 2 hours of physical activity a day, depending on their age, breed and health. Get your exercise while they get theirs, be it walking, jogging or playing Frisbee.
- Add incentives—Add some appeal to your regime by treating yourself to workout-exclusive indulgences, such as binging your favourite Netflix series, jamming to custom playlists that pump you up, listening to a riveting audiobook or favourite podcast. And train like the pros do: consider upgrading your fitness tech to boost your workout benefits and maximize your success!
- Just do it — Still feeling unmotivated? Many professionals believe that Nike’s famous slogan is a great way to cut to the chase and silence your excuses.
Exercise psychology & the science of procrastination
Here’s an interesting thought. What if the reason you haven’t met that annual weight-loss New Year’s resolution has nothing to do with laziness and everything to do with how you set your goals?
Most of the time when we procrastinate, it comes from our innate fear of failure. How will we feel or cope if we don’t achieve that goal we set for ourselves? (Will it mean I’m not a good person or worthy of the outcome? How will others think of me?) Sometimes our fear of failure stops us from ever getting started.
By giving power to these thoughts and assumptions we can unconsciously cause our brain to rewire and work differently, which only exacerbates our tendencies to procrastinate. Recent studies have identified two areas of the brain that are the neurological underpinnings of procrastination. The good news is our brain can learn things incredibly quickly but needs the practice and right motivation. Often the problem to goal achievement lies in the way we set our goals: we don’t take time to be real with ourselves and assess our priorities.
If you procrastinate, incorporate the following suggestions:
- Set S.M.A.R.T goals—Choose your S.M.A.R.T goals and ensure they’re something you like. If you need help with goal setting or want some ideas for routines that fit into yours, consider involving professionals to help formulate your plan.
- Break long-term (or larger) goals into smaller milestones— To conquer a large goal, set small step-by-step goals to make it seem less daunting. You’ll find that achieving these mini-milestones gets addictive (scientifically, the New York Times reports that smashing our goals gives us a hit of dopamine, the feel-good hormone)—helping you stay motivated and confident and getting you one step closer to your goal each time!
- Call on reinforcements—Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Whether it’s your first or five hundredth time going to the gym, working with qualified fitness professionals can help you avoid injuries and common mistakes, maximize your productivity and achieve the results you want!
- Just get started—The longer you wait, the worse you’ll feel. Summon your courage, dismiss your excuses and get out there. Check out this fast and easy workout for beginners to give you a jump start!
If you’re interested in further exploring this topic, be sure to check out our in-depth webinar on Exercise & Motivation.
Health Canada recommends 150+ minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity per week… yet Statistics Canada reports that most Canadian adults are sedentary, sitting for over 9.5 hours every single day.
So, what’s stopping us?
A lot of things—but for most people, it’s typically a lack of time, a lack of motivation, not knowing where to start or a combination of the three. The truth is, exercise doesn’t need to be complicated or intense. You can enjoy a walk around the block with your spouse, a slow stretch at lunch or an exercise class with friends or colleagues and still see benefits to your physical and mental health, as long as you’re breaking a sweat and elevating your heart-rate.
Work with one of our personal trainers to find activities that you really love. Get active and enjoy the benefits of better sleep, increased energy and better mental health. We’re willing to bet, you’ll start maintaining a healthy weight and see some steady improvements in your fitness level, too!
We hope you’ve found this guide helpful and that you’ll put some of these exercise and fitness principles to good use in your quest to move more, find your best workout and stay fit for life!
Ready, set, let’s move!