Exercise Basics and Benefits

The definition of exercise is bodily exertion for the sake of training or improvement of health. At the very least, we should all try to be active in some form or another every day, such as walking, housework, gardening, dancing, yard work, climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator or playing with the kids or the dog. For best results, an organized exercise routine will yield more health benefits.

The world of exercise can be confusing because there are so many options out there. And, everyone says ‘their’ exercise plan is ‘best’. However, the best exercise plan is one you enjoy and will stick with for the long haul. The components of any good plan should include cardio, strength training and flexibility exercises. In this article we are going to start with beginner plans.

How to Begin
Anyone beginning an exercise program should consult their health professional first and then begin slowly. As you adjust to physical activity, you can increase the duration and intensity of your program. Always begin with a “warm-up” session. Stretch muscles slowly to avoid injury during the actual exercise. The warm-up should last about three to five minutes and get your respiration, circulation and body temperature to increase slowly. Your actual exercise should start out at low intensity, and then as you become accustomed to it, increase to moderate then high-intensity over a period of time. You should feel your heart beating faster, breathing more rapidly and deeply, and sweating yet still be able to carry on a conversation. This is a normal response to exercise. Always end with a “cool-down” session by walking slowly for about 5 minutes.

Cardio exercise is any rhythmic activity performed continuously, such as walking, running, aerobics, cycling, swimming and dancing. Cardio increases endurance and burns calories which helps you lose weight, and strengthens the heart and lungs. Choose any of the cardio exercises and do it for around 20 minutes, 3-5 days a week, or break up that 20 minutes into a couple of sessions during the day.

Strength training works the body in a different way than cardio. You can lift weights (dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, machines, etc.) to strengthen the muscles, bones and connective tissues. Strength training helps in weight loss and helps make your bones stronger. Target all the muscle groups (lower body, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps and abs), although not all in the same exercise session. Do different muscle groups on different days, and give yourself a day of rest between strength training sessions. To learn what to do and how to do it, check out the many websites that feature strength training workouts, join a gym, or choose a DVD for beginners. These
sessions should not be done on the days you do cardio.

Flexibility exercises are basically stretching your muscles to make them stronger and more agile. It feels good and is relaxing. Stretch your muscles only after they’re warm – after your warm-up or after your other workouts.

Yoga workouts are a great way to both stretch your body at the same time you build endurance and promote relaxation and stress-reduction. Yoga is a group of ancient spiritual practices originating in India. Hatha Yoga is just one system among many, but in its many modern variations it is the style that most people actually associate with the word “Yoga” today. Its emphasis is on the physical health and vitality of the body, but most consider it good for mental relaxation as well.

Pilates also promotes flexibility along with core strength and stability. The principles are about centering, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow. Pilates exercises are done as whole body/mind events. Pilates is a beginner-friendly fitness program. The individual exercises can be adapted for every body-type and fitness level. If you can take a class to learn the principles, it would be beneficial; however, there are many instructional DVDs and books to choose from, as well as information online.

No matter what exercise you decide to invite into your life, know that you are doing something wonderful for your health and good health makes a happier life!