Exercising for Life: Make It A Habit
Physical activity is any activity that involves major muscle groups, including activities such as shopping or climbing stairs. Exercise includes any activity done with a goal of improving or maintaining physical fitness. The recommended amount of physical activity is at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five or more days per week.
There are three main types of exercise:
Aerobic exercise — Aerobic exercise involves exertion such as walking, running, or swimming, which increases the flow of blood through the heart.
Resistance training — Resistance training is exercise designed to increase muscle strength and includes lifting weights.
Stretching exercise — Stretching exercises are movements designed to improve flexibility and prevent injury so that all joints will maintain function and balance.
BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
- Exercise also helps to lower the risk of death.
- Exercise burns calories and may help to burn calories even while not exercising. Dieting can lead to loss of muscle, but exercise can help maintain muscle mass while dieting.
- Exercise improves blood sugar control in people with diabetes and can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
- Exercise helps decrease blood pressure, even if you already have high blood pressure.
- Exercise lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol levels.
- Most people have less stress, tension, anxiety, and depression after exercising.
- Lifting weights helps to prevent osteoporosis and decrease incidences of fractures.
- Exercise training can improve circulation.
It is best to check with your doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant before starting any exercise program. If you do not get much exercise, start by exercising for a few minutes at a slow pace like walking. Slowly in time you can begin to exercise harder, more often, or for a longer time, with a goal of getting at least 30 minutes of exercise on five days each week. You can even break it up into three or four 10-minute sessions per day. Even exercising only one or two days per week is better than not exercising at all.
Doing too much too fast is not recommended and can cause injuries, try to increase your exercises little by little each week. After reaching 45 to 60 minutes per day, you can increase the intensity of exercise by walking a greater distance in the same time. The goal is to get regular exercise at a level that is comfortable.
An exercise program should include aerobic exercise, resistance training, and stretching.
Warm up — Exercise sessions should begin with a 5- to 10-minute period of warm-up. Start with some low-level aerobic exercises like walking or stationary cycling and then do stretches and flexibility movements. The warm-up period allows for a slow increase in the heart rate and may reduce the risk of injuries.
Workout — It is a good idea to mix up aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretching so as to keep the workout fun and interesting.
Aerobic exercise — Walking is an excellent aerobic activity. Cycling, rowing, stair machine and climbing are also great. Swimming and water aerobics are excellent for people with arthritis. Low-impact activities are recommended because they are less likely to result in injury.
The exercises should be enjoyable and simple to carry out to encourage a long-term commitment. It may be best to vary the exercises you do each week like swimming on three of the days and walk on three of the days to decrease strain to your muscles. If you are breathless, fatigued, and sweating, you have worked hard enough. During moderate-intensity exercise, you should be able to carry on a conversation.
Resistance training — Resistance training can be done with weights, machines, or exercise bands. It should be performed at least twice a week with at least 48 hours of rest between sessions. Resistance training is commonly described in terms of “sets” of “repetitions.”
- A repetition is a single completed back and forth motion of a resistance exercise, such as bending and extending the arm at the elbow while holding a weight in the hand.
- A set is a number of repetitions done without resting.
Most experts recommend at least one set of exercises, including 8 to 12 repetitions, for each of the major muscle groups. Begin with minimal resistance (light weights, resistive bands, or even a can of food) to allow the muscles and other tissues to adapt. It is important to use proper technique. Be sure to breathe normally while lifting weights. Do not hold the breath; instead, exhale with exertion. Do not perform resistance training if you are in pain or have swelling anywhere.
Stretching — Stretching and flexibility exercises hip, back, shoulder, knee, upper trunk, neck. It is best not to stretch “cold” muscles, so a few minutes of low-intensity aerobic exercise first. Movement into a stretch should be slow and the stretch itself should be held for 10 to 30 seconds. Do not bounce while beginning or performing a stretch. Each exercise should be performed several times. Stretch and yoga classes are also a good way to remain flexible. The stretch should not cause pain but only mild discomfort.
Cool down — Cool-down exercises like walking and stretching should be done for approximately five minutes at the end of an exercise session. This allows the blood back into the circulation because less is sent to the muscles. This helps to prevent muscle cramps and sudden drops in blood pressure that can cause lightheadedness. Try to find ways to exercise so that it can remain a part of your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park in a space that is further from the door or take a longer way to walk from one place to another.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP
In order to exercise safely, it’s important to know the warning signs that could show a problem. If any of these problems happen, you should stop the exercise or activity and contact your health care provider immediately:
- Pain or pressure in the chest, arms, throat, jaw or back
- Nausea or vomiting during or after exercise
- Palpitations or heart flutters or a sudden burst of a very fast heart rate
- Inability to catch your breath
- Lightheadedness, dizziness or feeling faint during exercise can mean a longer cool-down is needed
- Feeling very weak or very tired
- Pains in joints, shins, heels or calf muscles should be evaluated if it does not resolve.
- Remember to drink fluids during and after exercise. Being thirsty means you must drink.
- Do not exercise outdoors if the temperature is too hot or too cold. Wear layers in case you get too hot or too cool you can put on or remove as needed.
- Wear supportive, well-fitting running or walking shoes. Replace shoes when signs of cracking, separation of shoe from the sole, imprint of the foot in the insole). The amount of time exercise shoes will last depends upon how often and where the shoes are worn.