Health & Wellness
Exercise & Fitness
Regular exercise has many benefits that may help you live a longer, healthier life. People who engage in moderately intense physical activity may reduce their risks of developing heart disease and other serious illnesses. Regular physical activity can improve health and lengthen life expectancy by:
- Lowering the risk of developing coronary heart disease
- Reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack
- Lowering cholesterol and increasing HDL or “good” cholesterol
- Strengthening the heart and cardiovascular system and improving circulation to use oxygen better
- Lowering blood pressure
- Lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Reducing the risk of colon cancer
- Helping to maintain a healthy weight
- Reducing feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress
- Helping to build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints
- Boosting self-image and self-esteem
How do I Get Started?
The hardest part of exercising is getting started. While you may be thinking about starting an exercise program, there might be some obstacles holding you back. These may include:
- Not having the time
- Not knowing how to exercise properly
- Finding physical activity too boring
- Having aches and pains, preventing you from engaging in physical activity
Overcoming these obstacles starts with finding the time. Clearing out 30 minutes a day for 4-5 days a week from your busy schedule is a great start. If exercise bores you, it might help to find an activity that can be fun, such as bicycling, swimming, or other active sports. Exercising with a friend may also make physical activity more fun. Friends can also provide the support and motivation to keep you going.
Every person is different, so an exercise plan that works well for one person may not work well for another. You should consult your doctor so that you can develop a safe and effective exercise regimen that caters to your specific needs.
What are the Types of Exercise?
There are three basic types of exercise:
- Cardiovascular or Aaerobic Exercise – Sometimes referred to as cardio, this type of exercise involves steady physical activity using large muscle groups. Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and lungs, improving the body’s ability to use oxygen. Over time, aerobic exercise can help decrease heart rate and blood pressure and improve breathing. Aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, jumping rope, bicycling (stationary or outdoor), cross-country skiing, rowing, and swimming.
- Strengthening Exercise – This type of exercise involves repeated muscle contractions until the muscle becomes tired. Strengthening exercises include weight lifting, crunches, and lunges.
- Stretching – Stretching before and after you exercise can help prepare your muscles for activity and may help prevent injury and muscle strain. Regular stretching also increases range of motion and flexibility.
What Should I Include in an Exercise Program?
A healthy and effective exercise session should include a warm-up, conditioning phase, and a cool-down.
- Warm-up – The best warm-up includes stretching and beginning an activity at a low intensity level. This helps your body adjust slowly from rest to exercise. A warm-up reduces the stress on your heart and muscles by slowly increasing your breathing, circulation, and body temperature. It also helps by improving flexibility and reducing muscle soreness.
- Conditioning – The conditioning phase is where the main benefits of exercise are gained and calories are burned. Conditioning should last at least 20 minutes.
- Cool-down – The last phase of a healthy exercise session allows your body to gradually recover from the conditioning phase as your heart rate and blood pressure return to near resting levels. The best way to cool-down is to slowly decrease the intensity of your activity. Stretching again may also help. It is not good to simply sit or lie down after a conditioning session because it may cause dizziness, lightheadedness, and/or heart palpitations.
In general, in order to achieve a healthy body, you should gradually work up to an aerobic session lasting 20 to 30 minutes, most days of the week, with time before and after for a warm-up and cool-down.
Exercising should not be boring, so try choosing activities that you enjoy. You are more likely to stay with an exercise program if you enjoy the activity. Mix it up! You can add a variety of exercises to your routine so that you do not get bored too quickly.