September 30, 2013
If there’s one lifestyle habit that pays off with big returns – it’s exercise. Exercise improves cardiovascular health and reduces the risk for health problems ranging from type 2 diabetes to certain types of cancer. It also helps to preserve lean body mass and bone health as you age. Plus, it makes it easier to avoid another growing health problem – obesity. So why aren’t more people exercising? Sometimes the toughest part of an exercise program is simply starting, but once you start you’ll feel and see the difference. Are you ready to enjoy the health benefits of an active lifestyle?
First, it’s important to consider your fitness goals and what you’re trying to achieve. A balanced fitness program should include some form of cardiovascular exercise that increases your heart rate and resistance training to help build and preserve strength and lean body mass. If you plan on exercising on a daily basis, devote one day to cardiovascular exercise and the next to resistance training, alternating back and forth, so you can focus your attention on a single activity, especially if you’re just starting out.
Choose activities you enjoy, and add variety to make your workouts more interesting. There are so many ways to get a cardiovascular workout – cycling, running, jogging, brisk walking, swimming, jumping rope, climbing stairs, and using an elliptical machine all qualify. Switch it around so you’re doing something different each day. You can get cardiovascular benefits from as little as 20 minutes of exercise and even less if you work out at a high intensity.
Think you need to join a gym? Not so. Your daily workout can be as close as your computer screen. Online, you can find lots of free, full-length workouts on channels such as YouTube as well as apps that guide you through a workout. If you enjoy the camaraderie and support of others, sign up for an exercise class. Choose a class you’ll enjoy. With options like boot camp, kickboxing, spin classes, Zumba and power yoga, there’s sure to be something you’ll enjoy. Start out slowly until your fitness level improves – even if you can only go for ten minutes. You’ll gradually build up stamina and endurance. You’ll be surprised at what you’re able to do three months later.
For resistance training, you don’t need a gym. Invest in a few pairs of resistance bands. Research shows they’re as effective as weights and you can use them to get a total body workout at home. You can also find free resistance band training videos online.
Don’t forget about the importance of warming up. Warming up before exercise helps to prevent injury – but don’t do static stretches before a workout. Research shows stretching a cold muscle can actually reduce its power output. Instead, do five minutes of light cardiovascular exercise like jogging in place, light rope skipping or jumping jacks. Follow up with arm swings and kicks to increase your core body temperature and warm up your muscles. The time for stretching is after a workout when your muscles are warm.
Stay more active in your daily life too. Little things like parking far away from a building, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking to destinations all have fitness benefits. Break up time at the office by taking a short, brisk walk during lunch. Take advantage of the exercise time you have and put it to good use. Look for fun ways to stay active on the weekend – hiking, bowling, riding a bicycle and even gardening all count as exercise. Even housework counts if you pick up the pace. Become more conscious of opportunities to burn some additional calories and improve your fitness level. It’ll pay off with better health.
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