Most people start an exercise regimen because they are unhappy with the way they look and/or feel. Their primary and immediate goal is to lose weight. The vast majority of people are not aware that they are also reducing their risk of an array of diseases and illnesses. In fact, a regular exercise program provides you with a wealth of benefits.
Before you embark on an exercise routine, remember that physical fitness is defined differently for each person. It is dependent upon your age, health, and lifestyle. You have no control over your age but you have the power to change and improve your health and lifestyle.
If you are considering an exercise routine, your goals should include the following:
*INCREASE STAMINA: Exercise may cause you to feel tired during and immediately following the activity. However, the lasting effects will be increased strength, stamina and reduction of fatigue.
*IMPROVE WELL-BEING: When you exercise, your brain releases a chemical called endorphins, easing the tension and stress associated with anxiety and the despondency of depression.
*REDUCE RISK OF ILLNESS: A regular exercise program reduces your risk for many diseases and conditions including heart disease, stroke, and certain kinds of cancer. It lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol, strengthens your muscles and bones, improves your circulation and keeps your joints flexible.
*DECREASE BODY FAT: Improved oxygen delivery and metabolic processes will force your body to lose weight and build lean muscle, making it much easier to maintain a healthy weight. Your body continues to burn fat even after exercise stops, usually for up to an hour.
WHAT EXERCISES SHOULD I BE DOING?
A balanced exercise program should include exercises in each of the three general categories. These categories are aerobic exercises, flexibility exercises, and strength training.
AEROBIC EXERCISES: Aerobic (also called cardiovascular exercise) exercise requires continuous, smooth, rhythmic movements that strengthen your heart and lungs. This type of movement works large muscle groups and causes you to breathe more deeply.
This forces your heart to work harder to pump blood and emits carbon dioxide and other waste products. The result is your body burns a higher percentage of calories from fat.
Some examples of simple aerobic exercises are walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, skating, cross-country skiing, rowing, and elliptical training. Water aerobics are also an excellent example of aerobic exercising that can be done by older people.
FLEXIBILITY EXERCISES: Flexibility exercises are simply stretching movements that facilitate flexible joints and diminish the risk of injury during other activities. Any sort of gentle stretching for 10 minutes prepares your body for aerobic exercise by warming it up.
STRENGTH TRAINING: This type of exercise, done several times a week, helps build strong bones and muscles. With more muscle, you burn more calories, even at rest.
Examples of strength training are lifting with weights, elastic bands, or plastic tubes. Calisthenics, like push-ups, are strength-training exercises as well.
Before you embark on a regular fitness regimen, make sure you follow some basic rules. These rules protect you from injuring your body needlessly.
*ALWAYS listen to your body. If certain movement causes you pain, stop it. If you experience nausea, dizziness, or chest pain, call your physician immediately.
*ALWAYS warm-up and cool down. To make the transition from rest to activity and back again, you must warm-up before exercising and cool down afterward. This prevents injuries and sore muscles. Warm-up exercises like swinging your arms and brisk walking should be performed for 10 minutes before beginning your regular exercise routine. Stretching movements are appropriate for the cooling down period, but not for warming up because it can injure cold muscles.
*ALWAYS drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your workout.
*NEVER eat within two hours of exercise.
*NEVER exercise if you are ill or exhausted.
Remember, keeping your body physically fit and healthy are the goals of exercise. The key to starting a successful exercise program is patience. If you try to do too much too soon, you will be tempted to quit before you can enjoy the fruits of your labors. Stick with it!
Chris Chenoweth, author of the DO-IT-YOURSELF HOME, HEALTH & MONEY GUIDE, writes articles pertaining to diet, exercise, health, and business.