Exercise Tips

Young girl eating apple and carrying set of scalesThere are many reasons why you might be interested in starting a personal exercise program. You might want to lose those extra winter pounds, tone your muscles, or perhaps you just want to get healthier. There are a lot of benefits to being physically active:

Besides improving physical strength and fitness, regular exercise:

  • Improves brain function: Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain and increases important cognition hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.  As we age, exercise can increase the production of neurons in the brain, prevent loss of tissue, improve memory, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Decreases your risk of osteoporosis by helping to maintain bone mass: The best way to prevent osteoporosis through exercise is to incorporate both weight-bearing, high-impact exercises, such as running, yoga, or step aerobics, and strength training exercises into your workout.
  • Increases energy: Although you may be tired immediately after you workout, your body adjusts to exercising and you have more energy overall throughout the day.
  • Boosts your metabolism: Your metabolism slows as you age, making it harder to lose weight and stay fit, but exercise can help combat this.  Doing aerobic exercise makes your heart pump faster and your metabolism increase.  Building muscle will also help you burn more calories throughout the day.
  • Helps you maintain a healthy body weight: When you try to lose weight by restricting calories alone, your metabolism slows down.  Exercise helps combat this by increasing your metabolism, helping you to shed those extra unwanted pounds.
  • Makes you feel good about yourself: Exercise releases endorphins, boosts your motivation in all walks of life, and makes you feel more confident about your self image.
  • Helps you sleep better: Exercise helps regulates your body’s Circadian rhythms and reduces stress hormones, allowing you to sleep deeper and longer.
  • Keeps your heart healthy: By helping lower cholesterol, preventing inflammation in the arteries, and lowering blood pressure, exercise helps reduce the risk of heart disease and your body functioning like a well-oiled machine.

Now that you know about so many benefits from being physically fit, you may be wondering how to get started.  The first step is to create a fitness plan.  Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What are your fitness goals?  Do you want to lose weight? Run a 5K? Tone your muscles?
  • What activities do you like to do? Do you like to be outside? Go to the gym? Play sports? Use exercise machines?
  • What resources do you have around you?  Can you join a gym or recreation center? Do you have parks or sidewalks in your area you can utilize?

You might think about enlisting support from a friend, family member, or partner in getting in shape.  Studies have shown that people who work out with others are more successful in achieving their fitness goals than those who workout solo.  When you have a fitness partner, you hold each other accountable for showing up for workouts and you can motivate each other.

If you can, it’s a good idea to talk to fitness expert before starting a workout regime, especially if you haven’t been physically active in a long time.  Many gyms have personal trainers on staff that can meet with you to discuss good ways to start becoming physically fit without overdoing it and injuring yourself.

A commitment to being physically fit requires exercising on a regular basis.  The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise five days per week and 8-10 strength-training exercises two days per week.  Your fitness routine should also include regular stretching.

Below are some ways to accomplish each piece of your fitness routine:

  • Aerobic exercise: Walking, jogging or running, using the elliptical trainer, biking or spinning, swimming, rowing, step aerobics, and jumping rope.
  • Strength training: weight machines, free weights, resistance bands, yoga, aerobics, push ups, and crunches.

There are many others beyond what’s listed above.  Get creative!

Being physically fit, along with a healthy diet, is one of the best ways to achieve and maintain lifelong health.  If you are not currently physically active, remember to take small steps towards physical fitness to avoid injury and setbacks and not to get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results.

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