In medicine, there’s no magical cure-all. But if there were one, exercising would be it. No other therapy provides as many health benefits! But you should always speak to your doctor before you start, change, or stop any physical activity or exercise.
Regular exercise has amazing benefits, as it helps you live longer and prevent many chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and some colon and breast cancers. It does this by:
- Improving cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
- Increasing your metabolism and helps you lose weight more easily (or eat more without gaining weight)
- Helping reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and will improve your mood
- Helping maintain brain function in older adults
- Helping with digestion and promotes regular bowel movements
- Increasing bone density
- Helping you age more gracefully by maintaining your looks and your agility
- Improving sleep quality
- Improving your overall quality of life
No matter which type of exercise you do, there are certain factors to consider each and every time you exercise. Most are important for your safety:
- Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- Set aside a specific time each day to make physical activity and exercise part of your routine. For example, exercising in the morning may help you make sure a conflict doesn’t come up in the day to make you skip it.
- When needed, break up your daily activity goal into smaller sessions. For example, to get the recommended amount of moderate intensity activity—30 minutes a day, five days of the week—you could go for a 10-minute walk three times a day or a 15-minute walk two times a day. Just make sure the shorter sessions are at least 10 minutes long.
- Have a friend or family member join you. Exercising with others is both safer and it will make your physical activity more enjoyable and help you encourage each other.
- Warm up and cool down is important to reduce your risk of injury and improve your athletic performance. warming Always warm up for at least five to 10 minutes (or longer if you have special considerations) before any physical activity and cool down at least five to 10 minutes at the end of your activity.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water before, during, and after exercise.
- Maintain proper form during exercise. It’s essential for safety and effectiveness. Seek the help of a physical therapist or certified personal trainer if needed. Start with light activities and light weights as you improve your form and get accustomed to the exercises you’re doing. Start slowly and work your way up to more physically challenging activities. For many people, walking is a particularly good place to begin.
- Vary your exercise program. Your body becomes efficient at performing activities when do them repeatedly. Plus, you may get bored. Change up your routine every six to eight weeks to keep your body constantly adapting. When you do, your muscles will have to work harder, you’ll burn more calories, and you’ll be challenged. For example, if you walk the same mile daily at the same intensity in the same amount of time, your body becomes used to the routine. To challenge yourself, you could walk the mile more quickly or find a hilly street to increase the intensity. You could also alternate walking with another more challenging physical activity. The point is to keep adjusting to improve your fitness.
- Monitor your heartrate. Figure out your target heart rate and take the talk test to make sure you are not working harder than you’re able to as you begin your exercise plan.
- Try balance techniques. Along with cardio, strength training, and stretching exercises, consider trying balance exercises to help prevent falls and injuries. Simple but effective balancing exercises including walking heal to toe, standing on one foot, or standing up and sitting down without using your hands (using support as needed for safety).
- If at any time you feel lightheadedness, dizziness, or chest discomfort during exercise, call your doctor or dial 911 in the case of an emergency.