EXERCISE FOR A BETTER YOU – INSIDE AND OUT
Being fit can give you immediate benefit of improved vigour, and it may offer long-term benefits as well.
# Gain More Energy. As you exercise regularly, your entire body becomes more efficient. Your heart begins to pump more blood with each beat and to beat fewer times each minute. Your body develops the ability to make more oxygen available to your cells. That means more energy – greater productivity, more stamina, and less fatigue.
# Feel Good. Exercise makes you feel good, both physically and mentally. It gives you a psychological lift and strengthens your sense of accomplishment. The discipline associated with exercise also makes you feel good about yourself: “I feel good that I walked today,” or “When I run, I feel I have control over one area of my life.”
# Look Good. Regular exercise plays an important role in helping to reduce body fat and weight and to develop muscle. Fitness can give you a better-looking, better-proportioned body: a flatter abdomen, firmer thighs, and slimmer hips.
# Feel Younger. Increasing your activity level can reverse or slow the changes that many people think are simply the unavoidable results of aging. In reality, lack of exercise usually reduces flexibility, strength, blood vessel elasticity, and lung functions; slows reaction time and metabolism; and increases body fat between ages 30 and 60.
# Build A Stronger Heart. Regular exercise may help reduce or modify some of the risk factors associated with heart disease, such as high cholesterol levels, elevated blood pressure, obesity, and stress. A three-year study at the University of Toronto showed that people who exercised regularly after a heart attack had less than a 5 per cent chance of having a second attack, while those who were sedentary had 22 per cent chance.
WHAT IS PHYSICAL FITNESS?
Physical fitness has two extremes: the well-conditioned person at one end and the completely inactive individual at the other. To be well-conditioned, you need to work on the four components of physical fitness: Body Composition, Cardiovascular Fitness, Muscle Fitness, and Flexibility.
# Body Composition: Body composition is the ratio between body fat and muscle. Too much fat and not enough muscle may increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, gout, and arthritis and back problems.
# Cardiovascular Fitness: Cardiovascular fitness is the ability of the heart, blood, and blood vessels to transport oxygen to your muscles. A strong, efficient heart is important for stamina and may lower your risk of heart disease.
# Muscle Fitness: Muscle fitness is the strength, endurance and shape of your muscles. Good muscle fitness helps you maintain good posture; avoid lower back pain; and lift, carry, push, and press any objects. Regular exercise keeps your muscles well developed – an important ingredient in proper body composition. Calisthenic and weight-training exercises improve your muscle fitness. Aerobic exercises also can improve muscle fitness, although to a lesser extent.
# Flexibility: Flexibility is the range of motion possible at the joints of your body. Good flexibility helps you avoid lower back pain, plus joint, neck, shoulder, arm and leg injuries. Calisthenics, stretching exercises and yoga can help maintain or improve flexibility or suppleness.
GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START
Before you begin an exercise programme, discuss what you plan to do with your physician. Most physicians will adjust the programme according to your needs and health status.
HOW FIT ARE YOU NOW?
Evaluate your physical fitness level before you start a fitness programme. Ask yourself the following questions for the evaluation:
Q #1: Do you exert yourself enough to work up a sweat for 20 minutes or more, three to four times a week?
Q #2: Are you physically active on the job? That is, does your work require you to move for at least 40 minutes non-stop, do vigorous physical activity, lift heavy objects?
Q #3: Is your weight appropriate to standard height/weight charts?
Q #4: Are you satisfied with your body’s muscle tone and the way your body looks?
Q #5: Have you been free of lower back pain (backache) during the past 6 months?
Q #6: Have your waistline expanded less than one inch since age 18 (women) or 21 (men)?
Q #7: Can you easily touch your toes without bending your knees?
Q #8: Are you currently free from aches, pains or stiffness in joints such as neck, shoulders, lower back, hips, and knees?
WHAT IS YOUR BODY TYPE?
In addition to your medical and fitness status, consider your weight and body type when starting a fitness programme.
Heavy: Substantial amount of fat with poor muscle development – usually very inactive.
Heavy Muscular: Substantial amount of fat with fair to good muscle development – usually formerly or occasionally active.
Thin: Very lean and very little muscle development – usually very inactive.
Now check the list below for guidelines on the best exercises for particular body types. But remember that there are always exceptions: some aerobic dancers are heavy and muscular, and some swimmers are thin. In general, the list highlights those activities from which you can expect the most success, the least frustration, and the best chance to staying with on the road to fitness. For example, a heavy person may not get the full benefit of jumping rope, running, or aerobics because of the stress that extra body fat puts on the legs.
# Heavy: Bicycling; Swimming; Brisk Walking
# Heavy Muscular: Aerobic Dancing; Bicycling; Racquet Sports; Swimming; Brisk Walking; Weight Training.
# Muscular: Aerobic Dancing; Bicycling; Racquet Sports; Jumping Rope; Running/Jogging; Climbing Stairs; Swimming; Brisk Walking; Weight Training.
# Thin Muscular: Aerobic Dancing; Bicycling; Racquet Sports; Jumping Rope; Running/Jogging; Climbing Stairs; Swimming; Brisk Walking; Weight Training.
# Thin: Aerobic Dancing; Jumping Rope; Running/Jogging; Climbing Stairs; Brisk Walking
ASSESS YOUR PERSONALITY
Your personality is basic to success in selecting the right fitness programme. If you are introverted, you will probably like activities that you can do alone such as bicycling, running, and swimming. If you like to do things with other people, an aerobics class, racquet sports, walking with a friend or perhaps weight training at a gym may be best. If you are competitive, one of the racquet sports may be a consideration. As an outdoor person, brisk walking, jogging, or roller skating might be one of your options.
CHOOSE A FITNESS ACTIVITY
There are many activities that help you get into shape. Brisk walking, running/jogging, swimming, bicycling, aerobics, jumping rope, climbing stairs, weight training, and racquet sports will all help you develop physical fitness. These activities very, however, in how effectively they help you develop the four fitness components.
To make the most of the activity you choose, it’s important to consider how often, how vigorously, and how long you exercise.
FREQUENCY, INTENSITY AND TIME
You need to exercise three to four days each week. While some people exercise every day, it’s good idea to take a day or two of rest, especially if you have been inactive for some time. If you are past age 40, exercising every other day gives your body time to recover.
You have an efficient, built-in computer for determining how hard to exercise: your heart or pulse rate. To count your pulse rate, place your first and second fingers of one hand along the thumb side of your other wrist to feel for the pulse. Count pulse for 10 seconds, then multiply by 6 to find out how many times your heart beats per minute.
Your ideal exercise level is determined by your “training heart rate.” Your training heart is approximately 60 to 85 per cent of your maximum heart rate. To make sure you are exercising vigorously enough; check your pulse occasionally to see if your heart rate falls within the training zone.
In addition to taking your pulse rate, you can determine whether you are exercising too hard by listening to your body. For example, if your breathing is laboured, slow down. A good guide is that you should be able to hold a conversation while exercising.
The list below shows average ranges; you should check with your doctor if you have a condition that would not allow you to safely reach these levels.
TRAINING HEART RATE:
Age || Beats per Min.
When considering the intensity of exercise, remember your fitness level and age. If you are just beginning a programme, exercise on the low side of your training heart rate. This is, do not exceed 10 beats above your lower reading. For a 40-year-old, for example, a pulse rate of 105-115 could be appropriate.
A warning: trying to beat the clock can defeat an otherwise good exercise programme. Thinking that if two miles in 17 minutes is good, then two miles in 15 minutes is better can be inefficient. When you run, bike, swim, or walk against the clock as if trying to excel in competition, you have moved from fitness to sport.
Ultimately you should aim for an exercise period of 30 minutes, enough to train your heart and reduce body fat. If you are just beginning an exercise programme after a period of inactivity, you will want to take it slowly, gradually building up to 30 minutes.
# Aerobic Dancing: Good for Cardiovascular fitness and Body Composition. Works most of the body.
# Bicycling: Excellent for Cardiovascular fitness and Body Composition. Strengthens leg muscles with little trauma
# Racquet Sports: Fair for Cardiovascular fitness. Good if both players are skilled and time outs minimal.
# Climbing Stairs: Excellent for Cardiovascular fitness and Body Composition.
# Weight Training: Excellent for Muscle Fitness. If done correctly, may improve Flexibility too.
# Yoga/Stretching: Excellent for improving Flexibility. No equipment necessary.
# Jumping Rope: Fair to good for Cardiovascular fitness. If skill level is adequate, you may get a good workout.
# Running: Excellent for Cardiovascular fitness and Body Composition.
# Swimming: Excellent for Cardiovascular fitness. Low injury rate. Excellent for heavier person or person with joint or arthritic problems.
# Walking: Excellent for Cardiovascular fitness and Body Composition. Easily built into the day. Low injury rate and very safe.
WARM-UP AND COOL-DOWN
You should spend 5 to 10 minutes warming up before each exercise session and 7 to 10 minutes cooling down afterward. This will help prevent injuries and sore muscles as well as promote flexibility. Walking vigorously and then walking while swinging your arms, twisting your upper body, hand shaking your hands and arms is a good warm-up. To cool down, spend a couple of minutes walking slowly and then do some exercises that stretch the upper, middle and lower third of your body.
Aerobic exercises are very effective in strengthening the heart and lungs, and are a good aid to weight loss. As beneficial as aerobic exercise is, however, it is not enough to add muscle and shape to your body.
The best activities for developing muscle fitness are calisthenics and training with weights (dumbbells or barbells, for example). These type of exercises allow you to place greater-than-normal resistance on your muscles, which result in improved muscle strength and endurance. But it is essential that you know how to perform the types of exercises correctly and safely.
CROSS-TRAIN FOR LONG-TERM FITNESS
Cross-training – complimenting the activity you have chosen with other forms of exercise – is an excellent way to maintain your interest in a long-term fitness programme and to make sure you develop all four fitness components. It also helps prevent injuries that might be caused by overstressing certain muscles and joints. Runners, for example, should consider doing other exercises to develop the upper body. Cross-training also allows you to target a particular area to improve your overall body proportions.