The Benefits Of Exercise

In discussing the benefits of exercise, it's important to remember that the term 'exercise' covers more than one type of activity. Exercise comes in many forms, but there are only three types that you need to include in your weekly routine. Ron Swerdfiger explains in his article titled The Importance Of An Active Lifestyle:

Over the past 15 years or so, we have been told that a healthy, active lifestyle is important. Scientists recommend we should be accumulating on average 60 minutes of exercise a day in order to maintain healthy levels. What exactly does that number mean? Over the course of a regular day, we should be doing some sort of physical activity that adds up to approximately 60 minutes. Whether it is in the gym on the treadmill or just in the garden for the afternoon, adding physical activity is vital.

First we need to know what actually constitutes exercise. The term healthy activity can be broken down in to three categories: cardiovascular, resistance, and flexibility.

  1. Cardiovascular Training
    It is recommended to do cardio 2 or 3 times a week. Depending on your fitness level, cardio can consist of a nice walk with your dog or a vigorous run on the treadmill. Ideally you are trying to increase your cardio capacity, which has many health benefits.

  2. Resistance Training
    Part of living an active lifestyle is doing some sort of resistance training at least 2 times a week. That doesn't mean you have to go to the gym and lift weights; you can easily do it at home by doing movements as simple as pushups and sit-ups, or by using something like resistance bands. Resistance training is just as important as cardiovascular activity and adds to your overall physical health.

  3. Flexibility (Stretching)
    After you exercise, it is recommended you stretch for roughly 10 minutes, holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds. Stretching is crucial to maintain flexibility and reduce the chance of injury from exercise.

Benefits Of Exercise

So now we know that working out is important, but what are the actual benefits of living an active lifestyle? Below are just 5 of the countless benefits of being active:
  1. Reduces the risk of dying prematurely
    Those living a healthy active lifestyle live longer compared those who are more sedentary.

  2. Lowers the risk of developing diabetes
    Exercise keeps body fat under control and helps regulate sugar levels.

  3. Increases muscular strength
    Having an increase in strength helps make daily activities less difficult.

  4. Helps reduce the risk of heart disease
    Regular exercise strengthens the heart, respiratory system, and lungs, which aids in reducing the risk of heart disease.

  5. Decreases body fat
    Exercise, along with a balanced diet, will reduce body fat significantly.
As you can see, there are many excellent benefits to living an active lifestyle. By adding a small amount of cardio, resistance training and some stretching to your daily routine, the overall benefits are almost endless. Essentially, being healthy is about adding balance to your life. You don't have to be a Lance Armstrong or a Venus Williams to be considered active. You just have to add some extra activities to your daily routine.

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The benefits of exercise in each of these categories are cumulative. By working your body in each of these ways you are building strength, endurance and flexibility, not to mention the increase in your self-confidence. But, as always, to start enjoying the benefits of exercise you need to take things one step at a time:
  • Start small, perhaps with 5 minutes of stretching before and after a weekly 15-minute walk.

  • After a week or two, increase the walk to twice a week and extend your stretching time to 10 minutes.

  • Increase the walk to 3 times a week if practical.

  • After you've established your walking routine (by Week 3 or 4), add in one session of resistance or weight training.

  • After 2 weeks, increase your resistance training to twice a week.
Walking twice a week and doing resistance training twice a week is more than enough for the average person to start experiencing the benefits of exercise. Of course, if you're more physically inclined, you can increase this, but studies have shown that there's not much difference in results between performing an exercise twice a week versus 3 times a week. You'll reap the benefits of exercise whichever schedule you use, but the bottom line is, if you're not exercising on a regular basis, you need to make a start.

For more ideas on how to incorporate exercise into your life, click on Benefits of Exercise.

It's important that you consult with a qualified health professional before embarking on any new dietary or exercise regimen.

Gathering information online is fine for research purposes, but you need a real live professional to monitor your progress if you attempt to make drastic changes to your lifestyle. Unless you're a health professional yourself, you aren't equipped to objectively observe your body's responses to a new diet or exercise program. So whatever your chosen course of action, please be sure you enlist the support of a qualified professional.

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