Our day to day lives almost certainly require a lot less physical activity than was true of our grandparents’. Many people these days have a sedentary lifestyle, taking the car or the train to work, sitting at a desk all day, before returning home to sit in front of the television all evening. Common sense tells us that this kind of lifestyle can’t be good for us.
Humans evolved on the open grasslands where they walked long distances to seek out and gather food in the first instance. When tools and weapons were discovered man took to hunting animals, and then, as animal numbers dwindled and man began to settle in one place and farm, he would till the soil and harvest the fruits of his endeavours.
Our agricultural life has largely been replaced by an urban one, as agricultural machinery released men from the fields, to take up other, less physically demanding jobs. Because these changes have taken place fairly quickly and recently, we have not managed to evolve or adapt to our new way of life. Our bodies are built for moving around, and if we don’t, we compromise our health.
There is strong evidence that, if you don’t do any exercise then you dramatically increase your risk of dying from a heart attack. Regular exercise helps protect against this by reducing blood pressure and the tendency for plaque formation in the arteries. Regular exercise also helps keep your weight down and makes you feel better too.
Keeping active is probably even more important as you get older, and there is no need to give up a sport that you enjoy just because of age. If you are not particularly keen on sports, there are plenty of other activities you can do to maintain your health or even get fitter:
Walking is a good way to start increasing your exercise levels as you can do it anywhere, at no cost, and you can set the pace to suit yourself. If you have access to countryside you have the added advantage of being able to enjoy the scenery at the same time.
If not you may want to listen to music as you walk, or perhaps an audio-book, now available for portable listening devices. Walking improves the condition of your heart and lungs, as well as working the muscles of the lower body. It’s a weight bearing activity, so may improve bone density, but it’s also low impact, so not unduly stressful on joints.
Running at a slow speed is often called jogging, and provided you have some decent running shoes, is a good way of increasing fitness. Whether jogging or actually running it is best to start out slowly and warm up your muscles and joints. Your first runs could be only ten minutes or so , and then you build up gradually the length of time and the distance. You may need to vary your route to prevent becoming bored.
Swimming is another popular way to increase fitness as most towns have a swimming pool and it’s not an expensive sport. Swimming is ideal to tone up all the muscles of the body, and to burn calories reducing fat. As the water supports you there is little or no chance of stress on joints. It is another activity that allows you to proceed at your own pace and build up stamina gradually.
Cycling is an activity with benefits for heart and lungs, and also for reducing or controlling weight.
Dancing is largely an aerobic activity that improves heart and lung condition, and also balance. Dancing for any length of time improves muscular strength of the legs and stamina. Dancing of one kind or another is suitable or people of all ages.
Most boys played some football when young, but often let it go as they grew up and had less spare time. If you have time at weekends though it is a great sport for getting and keeping you fit. Slow running interspersed with sprinting, is ideal cardiovascular exercise.
Your local gym can be a good place to increase aerobic fitness with running, rowing, or skiing equipment, as well as muscular strength with resistance equipment and weights. All ages and fitness levels are usually catered for, and improvements can be measured and exercise programs tailored to individual needs.
8. Racket games
Tennis, squash, and badminton are enjoyable games and quite taxing of all the body systems, so you need to be reasonably fit before starting. Warming up and stretching are important to avoid injury and strain.
If you find a type of exercise that suits you, be it any of the above, and you exercise regularly, then you will reap benefits in heath and well being. Remember, we are meant to move about and not sit down all day.
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