When faced with a slightly expanding waistline, most of us immediately resolve to exercise “to work it off”! Well, there’s more to exercise than losing weight. While burning unwanted calories is a very common reason for exercising, vigorous physical activity has more benefits than managing the waistline. People exercise for various reasons – to relieve stress, to focus and concentrate, to recover from life-altering illness (heart attacks, strokes), to train for competitive sport…and much more.
Let’s explore what exercise means, what benefits it can provide, and how much of it is good for us. More importantly, we’ll tell you how you can personalize an exercise regimen that’s right for you.
Aerobic vs Anaerobic – What’s better?
Exercises come in two main categories – Aerobic and Anaerobic. The term “aerobic” means “with air” (or oxygen), while anaerobic refers to activity “without air” (or with comparatively less oxygen). These terms define how the cells in our body produce energy. Aerobic exercises help the body produce energy, to sustain the exercise, by using oxygen. An example of aerobic exercise would be a jog around the park.
Anaerobic activity helps the body act by producing energy without (or comparatively less0 oxygen. These are typically exercise’s that entail higher-intensity activities. A good example of anaerobic exercise might be a brisk sprint (versus a casual jog). So, which of these two types of exercises is better for you?
Well, the answer is: It depends on what your goals and objectives are; what your existing state of fitness is; and what lifestyle you live. For example, if weight loss is your goal, then – if you can safely manage it – embracing either type of exercise might accomplish your objective.
Generally, aerobic exercises are a great way to build endurance and give your cardiovascular system a boost. These exercises improve the performance of your heart and lungs, which helps with long-term fitness over time. A 30-minute jog would be a great aerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercises involve harder intensity activity and might push your endurance to the maximum heart rate – 80% to 90% endurance. These exercises are intense, short-duration activity, and can’t be sustained for prolonged durations at any single session (a 5-minute sprint).
Benefits of Exercising
There are many benefits of following a well-planned exercise regimen, especially if you do so regularly:
- It helps with weight control
- Reducing the risk of coronary (heart) diseases
- Regulates your insulin and blood sugar levels
- Improves mental health and alertness
- Bone and muscle strength and agility
- Improves sleep patterns
So, how does exercising deliver these benefits? Well, it all depends on the type of exercises you do. For instance, you’ll gain weight if you take in more calories than you expend. And the best way to burn calories is through exercise. Exercise strengthens the heart muscles and improves blood flow to the heart. The strenuous activity also helps lower blood pressure and triglyceride – all of which keep heart disease at bay.
A good fitness program helps lower blood sugar by keeping insulin levels in check, both of which can prevent metabolic syndrome and Type-2 diabetes. Individuals already suffering from either of those conditions may use exercise to keep their side effects in check. And, because rigorous activity pumps more blood to the brain, helps feed brain cells much-needed chemicals and other proteins, it keeps you active and alert – even in your advanced ages.
A long-standing exercise regimen helps build strong bones and muscle tissue. As you advance in age, the exercise you invested in many years prior helps to slow down the loss of bone density. It also preserves muscle strength in older exercise-loving individuals.
So, exercise is truly a good thing!
How Much of a Good Thing Is Good for You?
A general rule is to indulge in at least 30-minutes of exercise a day. Every week, the best practice is to aim for about 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75-minutes of vigorous activity a week. A good exercise program should also include twice-weekly strength training involving all major muscle groups. Between 12 to 15 repetitions of each routine should be a good benchmark to aim for.
If you can sustain a “good thing” without risking your health, then increasing your exercise duration and intensity isn’t a bad thing. The more frequent and prolonged your exercise routine – even up to 300 minutes a week – the better it can be for your overall health. However, there is such a thing as “too much” of a good thing – even for a healthy activity like exercise. If you feel you are tired, exhausted, and left without “life and vigor” after your exercise sessions, that may be a sign to tone it down a bit.
How to Make It Work for You?
Let’s face it: Exercise is hard work! But the beauty of personalized exercise is that you don’t really have to hit the gym 7-days a week or pump 200-lbs of iron to make exercising work for you. Here’s how you can do it:
- Consider making small changes in your routine: Take the stairs instead of riding the elevator. Walk, instead of driving or hailing an Uber.
- Make it a team event: Get friends, colleagues, and family members to join in – even if it is for a remote session, or while you are speaking with them during a jog or a session on the treadmill.
- Track your progress: Keeping tabs on how much, how long, and how frequently you’ve exercised, not only helps you stay motivated, but it also helps you manage your personal fitness goals.
- Make it fun: Don’t just stare at the wall while doing your aerobic routine – watch your favorite TV show, or listen to your favorite YouTube album or Spotify playlist.
- Have a fallback plan: What if snow or rain interrupts your scheduled walking or jogging plans? Well, perhaps you can do an extra-long session on the treadmill? Or add an extra routine to your regular indoor yoga session.
By simply tweaking your daily routine, you can establish a personalized exercise plan that works for you. In doing so, you’ll not only enjoy exercising, but you’ll also enjoy all the benefits – both long and short-term – that physical activity promises.