Staying Fit: The Benefits of Exercise

The most dramatic benefit of exercise is to the heart and blood vessels. The more active people are the less likely to develop heart disease. Also, exercise requires less pumping from the heart to supply oxygen to those muscles. An exercised body also allows the heart to pump less rapidly while at rest. A body in good shape tells the heart to take it easy when the heart is resting, causing less wear and work on the heart muscle. Exercise also helps cholesterol to move out of the body rather than sticking on the artery walls and tissues. Exercise also tends to make a person more stable mentally, decreasing or eliminating major mood swings and of course exercise reduces body fat and improves the physical appearance of people, which also improves self-confidence and mental attitude.

Non-Exercise Dangers

People who have not maintained physical fitness through a regular vigorous program are more likely to develop certain problems. Their heart and lungs are more prone to disease. Unexercised weak muscles put extra strain on joints and ligaments. Regular exercise will keep joints, ligaments, and muscles flexible and less likely to strain. Vigorous exercise also has been shown to have psychological benefits too. People who exercise regularly usually sleep better, wake up happier and are better able to concentrate and perform. People who don’t exercise and keep themselves physically fit may wake up one day and be very dissatisfied with their life and body. Fortunately, it’s never too late to start with some type of exercise program. Check with your doctor for the correct exercise program to meet your needs.

Dynamic versus Static Exercise

We’re going to increase your vocabulary today by telling your about two types of exercises: dynamic and static. If you swim, jog or take an aerobic dance class, you’re involved in a dynamic exercise. That’s because all those activities involve many muscle groups with different movements and they all strengthen your heart and lungs. Static exercise usually involves staying in a single position and exercising just one group of muscles. Weigh lifting is a good example of static exercise. It helps you build muscle strength and size but it does not do much for your heart and lungs. For the best exercise program, get involved in both dynamic and static exercise. The static portion can help you shape a good looking body and the dynamic part will help you shape a good looking cardiovascular system. Now you have the best of both worlds.

Exercise Sessions

The desire to improve yourself is the first step to physical fitness and the next step is to begin a fitness program. Any fitness program should begin with a trip to the doctor. A doctor will examine your heart and test your fitness level and then recommend an exercise that’s right for you. Once you begin exercising, you should start with 20 minutes at a time, three times a week. After performing at this level for two weeks, increase the workout to four times per week. You’ll need to remember you’ll have to make some changes to your diet. It’s a good idea to increase the amount of protein to help build muscle and increase carbohydrates for energy. You should cut down on fats and sugars as these often do more to hurt than to help. Once you’ve begun your fitness program, stick with it until you see the results you want.

Effects of Stress

Stress is a more important factor in physical well-being than many experts have recognized until now. New research shows that as stress accumulates, an individual becomes increasingly susceptible to physical illness, behavioral and emotional problems and accidental injury. As an example, minor muscular twitches and nervous ticks become more noticeable when one is under stress. A variety of other physical symptoms may be recognized. From the digestive tract to the major organs of the body — all are affected dramatically by stress. While the outward appearance to the body may be physically fit, the inside may be causing problems and treatment is indicated.

Target Heart Rate

Okay, it’s time to get out your calculator, pen and paper. We’re going to figure out your target heart rate. If you’re ready to start an aerobic fitness program, it’s essential to know this rate because the key to getting the most out of aerobic exercise is reaching your target heart rate and holding it here for about 20 to 30 minutes. Are you ready? First, you need to establish your maximum heart rate. If you’re a man, take half of your age and subtract from 205. If you’re a woman, subtract your age from 220. For example: if you’re a 40 year old woman, your maximum heart rate is 180. The next step is to figure out your target heart rate. Just take 80% of your maximum heart rate and bingo. So, if your maximum heart rate was 180, then your target heart rate is 144. Time your heartbeat during your exercise program and when your reach the target rate, keep exercising at that level for about 20 to 30 minutes.

General Guidelines

Should You Consult A Doctor First?

Most people do not need to see a doctor before they start an exercise program since a gradual, sensible exercise program will have minimal health risks. However, there are some people who should seek medical advice. To find out if you should consult a doctor before you start, use the following check list developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – NHLBI. From the following list, take note of those items that apply to you:

1. You have heart trouble, a heart murmur, or you have had a heart attack.

2. You frequently have pains or pressure–in the left or mid-chest area left neck, shoulder, or arm, during or right after you exercise.

3. You experience extreme breathlessness after mild exertion.

4. Your blood pressure is too high, and/or it is not under control. Or you don’t know whether or not your blood pressure is normal.

5. You have bone or joint problems such as arthritis.

6. You are over age 60 and not used to vigorous exercise.

7. Your father, mother, brother, or sister had a heart attack before age 50.

8. You have a medical condition not mentioned here which might need special attention in an exercise program. If you’ve noted one or more items, talk to your doctor before you start. If you’ve noted none of the items, the NHLBI suggests you can started on a gradual, sensible exercise program tailored to your needs.

Keys to Fitness Success

The key to a successful exercise program is choosing an activity that you will enjoy. To determine what type of exercise is right for you, consider the following: How physically fit are you and what activities will help you achieve the level of fitness you are after? Do you like to exercise alone or with other people and do you like to exercise indoors, outdoors or in your home? How much money are you willing to spend for equipment or facilities, and when can you best fit the activity into your schedule? By choosing activities you like, you can afford and can fit into your schedule, you’ll be more likely to exercise regularly, keep on exercising, and enjoy its many benefits. To help keep you going once you get started, here are a few tips: Choose activities that you enjoy and make exercise part of your daily routine. Also be sure to set realistic goals. Exercise with a group for social interaction as well as physical fitness and keep a written record of your progress. Exercise to music. Select loose, comfortable clothes for your chosen activity and wear appropriate shoes. Pay attention to your body and stop if you feel pain. Increase your daily activities and park away from a building and walk; take the stairs instead of the elevator. Exercise indoors when temperatures outside are extremely hot or cold. Find a fitness buddy” so you can help each other stay motivated.

Choosing Exercises and Activities

If you want to condition your heart and lungs, you’ll need to choose exercises which raise your heart and breathing rates and are done for a duration of at least 15 to 30 minutes without interruption. You must also do these exercises a minimum of three times per week. There are three different types of activities that will give you various levels of conditioning: very vigorous, moderately vigorous and not vigorous. Some very vigorous activities include: cross-country skiing, uphill hiking, ice hockey, jogging, jumping rope, rowing, running in place and stationary cycling. Some moderately vigorous activities include: bicycling, downhill skiing, basketball, calisthenics, field hockey, handball, racquetball, squash, swimming, singles tennis and walking. Lastly, there are some activities that are not vigorous and DO NOT condition your heart and lungs. Some of those activities include: baseball, bowling, football, golf, softball and volleyball. These activities however, can be enjoyable, help to improve coordination and muscle tone and relieve tension.

Pace Yourself

The key is to build up slowly. No matter where you begin, you will be able to build up your exercise time or pace as your body becomes more fit. You can find out how hard to exercise by keeping track of your heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is the fastest your heart can beat. The best activity level is 60 percent to 75 percent of this maximum rate. This 60 percent to 75 percent range is called your heart rate Target Zone. When you begin your exercise program, aim for the lower part of your heart rate Target Zone — 60 percent, during the first few months. As you get into better shape, gradually build up to the higher part of your Target Zone – 75 percent. After six months or more of regular exercise, you can exercise at up to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. However, you do not have to exercise that hard to stay in good shape. Each exercise session should last from about 25 minutes to 40 minutes and should include the following: Five minutes of warm up exercises; 15 minutes to 30 minutes of exercising in your heart rate target zone; five minutes of cool down exercises.

Heart Rate Target Zone

The goal of exercising to strengthen your hearts and lungs is to raise the heart rate to a certain level and keep it there for 20 minutes. Find your target heart or pulse rate by subtracting your age from 220, and then multiplying the result by 70 percent. For example, for a 60-year-old person, the target rate would be (220-60) x 70 percent or 112. Remember, go slowly. For a person who has not exercised regularly, it may take several months to raise the rate to 70 percent.

President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Guidelines

The following guidelines, prepared by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, are intended for the average healthy adult. If you’re just beginning a physical fitness program, keep in mind that success requires commitment and patience is essential. Don’t be tempted to do to much too soon because you’ll end up quitting before you’ve given yourself the opportunity to feel the benefits. Constantly remind yourself about the benefits and what your personal fitness goals are. If you’re under 35 years of age and in good health, you probably do not need to call or see a doctor before beginning an exercise program. But, if you’re over 35 years of age and have been inactive for several years, you should consult your physician before starting an exercise program. If you currently have, or have ever had, any of the following medical conditions, you should consult with a physician prior to beginning an exercise program, according to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports: High blood pressure; heart trouble; family history of stroke or heart attacks; frequent dizzy spells; extreme breathlessness after mild exertion; arthritis or other bone problems; severe muscular, ligament or tendon problems; other known or suspected diseases or medical conditions, including back problems. Vigorous exercise involves minimal health risks for persons in good health or those following a doctor’s advice. Far greater risks are presented by habitual inactivity.

What Is “Physical Fitness”

Physical fitness is a condition that helps us look, feel and do our best. More specifically, it’s the ability to perform daily tasks vigorously and alertly, with energy left over for enjoying leisure-time activities and meeting emergency demands. It’s the ability to endure, to bear up, to withstand stress, to carry on in circumstances where an unfit person could not continue, and is a major basis for good health and well-being. Physical fitness involves the performance of the heart and lungs, and the muscles of the body. And, since what is done with the body can affect what is done with the mind, fitness influences to some degree qualities such as mental alertness and emotional stability, according to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Fitness is an individual quality that varies from person to person. It is influenced by age, sex, heredity, personal habits, exercise and eating practices. You can’t do anything about the first three factors. However, it is within your power to change and improve the others where needed.

The Four Components of Physical Fitness

Physical fitness is most easily understood by examining its components. According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, there is widespread agreement that these four components are the basics. Cardiorespiratory endurance or the body’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues, and to remove wastes, over sustained periods of time. Long runs and swims are among the methods used to assess cardiorespiratory endurance. Muscular strength is the ability of a muscle to exert force for a brief period of time. Upper-body strength, for example, can be measured by various weight-lifting exercises. Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle, or a group of muscles, to sustain repeated contractions or to continue applying force against a fixed object. Pushups are often used to test endurance of arm and shoulder muscles. And flexibility is the ability to move joints and use muscles through their full range of motion. The sit-and-reach test is a good measure of flexibility of the lower back and backs of the upper legs.

Your Workout Schedule

How often, how long and how hard you exercise, and what kinds of exercises you do need to be determined by what you are trying to accomplish for yourself and not others. Your fitness goals, present fitness level, age, health, skills, interest and convenience are among the factors you should consider. For example, an athlete training for high-level competition would follow a different program than a person whose goals are good health and the ability to meet work and recreational needs. Here are the amounts of activity needed for the average, healthy person to maintain a minimum level of overall fitness. Included are some of the popular exercises for each category. The warmup which should be five to ten minutes of exercise such as walking, slow jogging, knee lifts, arm circles or trunk rotations. Low intensity movements that simulate movements to be used in the activity can also be included in the warmup. To build muscular strength, you’ll need a minimum of two 20-minute sessions per week that include exercises for all the major muscle groups. Weight training is the most effective, but not the only, way to increase strength. Muscular endurance can be achieved with at least three 30-minute sessions each week that include exercises such as calisthenics, pushups, situps, pullups, and weight training for all the major muscle groups and cardiorespiratory endurance can be achieved with at least three 20 minute bouts of continuous aerobic exercise each week. Popular aerobic conditioning activities include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, rope-jumping, rowing, cross-country skiing, and some continuous action games like racquetball and handball. To gain flexibility, you’ll need ten to twelve minutes of daily stretching exercises performed slowly, without a bouncing motion. These stretching exercises can be included after a warmup or during a cool down. Finish your workout with a cool down. A minimum of five to ten minutes of slow walking, low-level exercise, combined with stretching is a good cool down.

Weight Control vs Fat Control

The key to weight control is keeping food consumption and physical activity in balance. When you consume only as many calories as your body needs, your weight will usually remain constant. If you take in more calories than your body needs, you will put on excess fat. If you expend more energy than you take in, you will burn excess fat. Exercise plays an important role in weight control by increasing energy output, calling on stored calories for extra fuel. Recent studies show that not only does exercise increase metabolism during a workout, but it causes your metabolism to stay increased for a period of time after exercising, allowing you to burn more calories. How much exercise is needed to make a difference in your weight depends on the amount and type of activity, and on how much you eat. A medium-sized adult would have to walk more than 30 miles to burn up 3,500 calories, the equivalent of one pound of fat. Although that may seem like a lot, you don’t have to walk the 30 miles all at once. Walking a mile a day for 30 days will achieve the same result, providing you don’t increase your food intake to negate the effects of walking. If you consume 100 calories a day more than your body needs, you will gain approximately 10 pounds in a year. You could take that weight off, or keep it off, by doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily. The combination of exercise and diet offers the most flexible and effective approach to weight control.

Exercise Equipment

What to Look for in Exercise Equipment

While looking at exercise equipment, keep in mind you need equipment that is not only durable and well designed, but that fits your physical needs and lifestyle. By thinking ahead, you can get equipment which will last for years and is comfortable and easy to use. Exercise equipment varies in price. Remember, you get what you pay for. The low end of the price scale may not perform satisfactorily or last over time. There probably will not be service or replacement parts available. If you purchase quality equipment, it will cost more, but it is usually a one time investment. Be sure to test any equipment in the store before purchasing it. Look for comfort, quality, design, and noise level. Ask about warranty information and find a knowledgeable salesperson who can explain how the equipment works. The better equipment with a variety of features, comfort, and quality will keep you interested longer with less down time and stress and strain on your body. For more information consult an exercise equipment authority.

Types of Exercise Equipment

If you’re searching for exercise equipment, the most favored aerobic types are exercise bikes, stair masters, treadmills, and cross country ski machines. To tone muscles and body strength, you should look into free weights, home gyms, and rowing machines. There are a variety of designs within each type of equipment. For example, treadmills can be either motorized or manual. A motorized treadmill can be set for speed and incline so you can walk or jog. A treadmill utilizes a natural form of exercise with little stress to the body and are relatively quiet. An incline will help burn more calories and also used different muscle groups. Bikes can be upright stationary, dual action, fan type, or computerized motorized body bikes. Be sure a bike is comfortable and can be moderated to fit your needs. Stair masters can have dependent or independent climbing and also include programs which keep you interested. You should be in pretty good shape to use to a stair climber. If you are thinking of purchasing any of the types of equipment, don’t forego quality and durability based on price alone. Home gyms are offered with a variety of features, benefits, components, and also sizes. Customary weight systems are preferred over rubber bands, shocks, or other types because they feel better and let you know exactly how much weight you are working with. Also consider the range of motion available, how many muscle groups will be used and how smoothly it functions. When purchasing exercise equipment, be sure to get the best quality with durable construction. Better equipment will last a lifetime with little service or down time. To find out more about exercise equipment, contact an exercise equipment specialist.

Special Exercise Needs

People with special needs, such as health problems, injuries, obesity, or a heart or back problem should consult their physician before purchasing any exercise equipment. A physician can guide you to the equipment which will benefit you most. For example, if you had a knee injury, a stationary bike could help your recovery. For a back injury, walking on a motorized treadmill is usually recommended. Rehabilitation centers usually incorporate the use of free weights as well as multi-station gyms. This can enhance range of motion, muscle tone and strength. When purchasing equipment, the exercise equipment dealer should be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about helping you. Heart patients or persons charting results should think about investing in a chest style heart monitor. For better results, it should not be hooked up to the equipment. Work with your special needs to get the safest and most effective workout your body needs. For further information, see an exercise equipment professional.

Benefits of Using Exercise Equipment

There are many benefits associated with owning your own exercise equipment. Privacy and convenience are some examples. You can use your equipment any time of the day or night, whenever is it best for you. There’s no driving to the club, waiting for you turn on the equipment, or concern about cleanliness. By purchasing the equipment in lieu of a membership, you will have something tangible for your money. You must weigh the alternative of owning your own equipment and joining a health club and make the right decision for yourself. For more information, see your local exercise equipment professional.

What to Buy

Buying exercise equipment for the home is a smart idea for busy people who want to squeeze regular exercise into an already hectic schedule. But, before you purchase a piece of equipment, there are a number of things to consider. First – what are your fitness goals? If you’re looking to improve your aerobic fitness, you might consider a treadmill, a stair climber, a ski machine or a stationary bike. If muscular strength is your goal – consider purchasing a home gym. A home gym should be easy to use and provide proper body positioning. Whatever your goals, be sure to choose an activity that you enjoy. Make sure you have enough space to use the equipment properly. Also, be aware of any past orthopedic problems that could be aggravated by inappropriate exercises. Here are some things to remember when purchasing home exercise equipment: Try out the equipment yourself. Shop around and compare prices. Look at various models and manufacturers. Check the warranty. And be sure to find out what assembly, service and maintenance will be required.

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