Choosing to exercise is a lifelong commitment. Unless you are convinced of the benefits of fitness and the risk of not exercising, you are unlikely to succeed. Even though exercise focuses on the body, it is very much a matter of mindset and willpower.
Establishing healthy habits, with exercise as foundation, will reduce most of the risk factors that lead to major diseases and conditions. If you are one of millions of people who come up with excuses to avoid exercise, you have some serious facts to consider.
The benefits of regular exercise
Exercise reduces your risk of heart disease, heart attack, osteoporosis, diabetes and stroke. It plays a huge role in raising “good” blood cholesterol levels (HDL) and reducing “bad” blood cholesterol levels (LDL), which builds up in arteries and blocks the flow of blood to the heart, causing heart attack. It also prevents or reduces high blood pressure and strengthens the heart, lungs and muscles while helping to increase bone density.
Exercise helps fight obesity, which is one of the biggest causes of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and many other ailments. Other benefits include the reduction in stress and anxiety levels, increased stamina, energy levels and self-esteem and an overall feeling of well-being.
That being said, think of the risks of not exercising. Can any excuse really measure up?
What kind of exercise is best for you?
It is important to make sure you choose the type of exercise that will suit you. The activity you choose must be something you enjoy, that is not too strenuous and that you can do in the time slot you have set for yourself. Exercise will only become a habit if it is fun.
How much exercise is needed?
For maximum benefits, the recommended amount of exercise is three to six times per week for approximately 30 to 60 minutes at a time. This is an ultimate goal to strive for, but it is important to start with 10-minute sessions at a time and gradually work your way up at a pace that is comfortable for you.
How to get started
- Always consult your doctor, especially if you have been inactive for a while or suffer from health problems.
- Be honest with yourself about what you realistically think you are capable of doing.
- Sneak exercise into your daily routine by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, doing housework at a fast pace or walking during your lunch or coffee break.
- Remember that you must be committed to change – exercise is a way of life, not just another activity on your list of things to do.
How to stick to your routine
Choose a comfortable time of the day to do the activity. Always take your schedule into account and choose the most appropriate slot. If you’re a morning person, choose an early morning walk. If you’re addicted to the snooze button, it might be better to exercise after work or during lunch breaks.
Try roping in a partner to join your activity. Exercising with a friend can be more fun and will be more motivational than exercising alone.
What is the best exercise?
The best exercise is the kind that you feel comfortable with, that can be done at a suitable time and that you will enjoy. Weight-bearing exercises work against gravity and are good for your heart and help prevent osteoporosis.
Examples of weight-bearing exercises include dancing, jogging, walking, hiking, climbing stairs and weight training.
Aerobic or cardiovascular exercises make you breathe more deeply and your heart work harder to pump blood. These exercises help improve the health of your heart and lungs. Examples of cardiovascular exercise include walking, dancing, rowing, swimming, bicycling and running.
The hardest part of any exercise programme is getting started. Once you have established a routine that works for you, you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier to follow.
Make sure you exercise intelligently. Always be cautious and weary of injury. Exercise should always improve your health, not risk it.
Source: The Heart Foundation of South Africa, March 2007