Reasons to Exercise
There are plenty of good reasons to exercise, and understanding the benefits of exercise will provide the encouragement you need when you just aren’t in the mood to get up off the couch and get moving!
While all exercise is good for you in one way or another, different types of exercise will have different specific benefits. Let’s look at the three main types:
• Strength Training
• Cardio Training
Strength Training: The various forms of strength training work your muscles to make them stronger. Although some people train specifically for size (i.e. to get bigger), this is not necessary in order to get stronger. Many people do what is called “functional strength training”, that is, training that is designed to help you do the everyday things better, like carrying heavy groceries from the car, or climbing a sleeping child up the stairs.
Increasing your muscular strength and endurance has numerous benefits, including:
• Improves your appearance
• Weight control (strength training is a great fat burner)
• Increases your energy levels
• Improves your bone density
• Greater ease performing everyday tasks (functional strength)
• Fewer muscle and joint injuries
• Reduces your cholesterol levels
Cardio Training: Also known as aerobic training, this is developed by regularly performing activities like running, walking, swimming or cycling. Cardio training works the heart, lungs and circulatory system, helping them to do their job more efficiently. Improving your cardio capacity has various benefits:
• Improves your heart function
• Lowers your blood pressure
• Reduces your risk of heart disease
• Lowers your body fat
• Improves your sleep
• Improves your muscle tone
Flexibility: This is the third component of fitness. Flexibility means your ability to move a joint through its full range of motion – it is developed by regularly stretching, or doing activities like yoga or Pilates. The benefits of improved flexibility include:
• Reduced risk of injury
• Fewer aches and pains
• Greater range of movement – the body can move more freely and easily
Add these together and you have a huge range of reasons to exercise! You will look better, feel better, have more energy, be healthier, sleep better, even have a better sex life!
But the benefits aren't just physical – it can also improve your brain function1, improve memory2, and reduce age related problems3 and Alzheimer’s4!
What that means is that exercise is vital for everyone, no matter what their age – research has shown that strength training is a safe and beneficial activity for adults of all ages, even improving the strength and functioning of people over 805.
The good news is that all sorts of different types of exercise have benefits – from regular walking to weight training, dancing to playing tennis. Guidelines vary, but a good example is the recommendations from ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) and the AHA (American Heart Association)6. They suggest that adults should do:
• Moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week
• Or…Vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week
• And – eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.
By moderate-intensity physical activity they mean working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation.
Regular exercise is the key to these benefits – exercising regularly, you will find that your workouts get easier, allowing you to relax and enjoy them, giving you one more great reason to exercise!
1Jeff W. Lichtman, M.D., Ph.D., at Washington University School of Medicine; Science, October 15, 1999
2Prevention, October 1996
3Archives of Internal Medicine, July 23, 2001
4Genes and Development, March 2001
5Fiatarone et al., 1990; Butts & Price, 1994; Campbell et al., 1994; Pratley et al., 1994; Westcott & Guy, 1996.
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