Medical science has found that regular mild exercise has many positive health benefits. Mainstream media has brought this message to the broad public. Yet, exercise need not be hard work. A sedentary individual can benefit even from adding just a few physical activity routines to his or her day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk during your lunch break. Do jumping jacks during work breaks. It is not all that difficult to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Of course, sustained exercise, 10-20 minutes at a time, has greater benefit, but any physical activity helps to burn calories and improves health.
There are two kinds of exercise. One, aerobic exercise, uses muscle working without a resistance and it stimulates the heart, the lungs and increases muscle’s efficiency in extracting oxygen from the blood. The other, anaerobic exercise is the one used for weight building. Anaerobic excercize uses muscles that work against resistance. It is called anaerobic (without using air). When muscles work against resistance they quickly use up the available oxygen and begin to draw on stored energy. Such activity increases strength and strengthens bones.
Physical activity has many benefits:
1. Exercise improves your mood.
Contemporary life is inherently stressful. Physical activity stimulates brain chemicals that leave you feeling happier, more relaxed and feeling more fulfilled. Feeling better boosts self-confidence and improves self-esteem. Studies show that regular physical activity can even help prevent depression.
2. Exercise combats chronic diseases.
As people are living longer, chronic diseases become of greater concern. Regular physical activity prevents, or helps manage high blood pressure better. It lowers cholesterol, boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol, while decreasing triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol. This helps prevent heart disease and stroke. Regular physical activity helps prevent type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and decreases the risk of certain cancer types.
3. Exercise helps you manage your weight.
When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn — and the easier it is to keep your weight under control. Exercise alone is unlikely to help you loose weight: you will simply eat more to compensate. However, a combination of exercise and diet is more effective than diet alone.
4. Exercise increases your endurance.
Physical activity increases your heart rate and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. In fact, regular physical activity helps the entire cardiovascular system — the circulation of blood through your heart and blood vessels — work more efficiently, and muscles become more efficient in extracting oxygen as well. When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you’ll have more energy to do the things you enjoy and more patience for the tings that you must do but may not enjoy.
5. Exercise promotes better sleep.
A good night’s sleep can improve your concentration, productivity and efficiency. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. One should, though, put some time between exercise and sleep. The wisest of all men, Shlomo Hamelech said: “Sweet is the sleep of a working man (Koheles 5:11).” However, if you exercise too close to bedtime, you may be too energized to fall asleep.
6. How much should you do?
According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you need to do two types of physical activity each week to improve your health–aerobic and muscle-strengthening anaerobic activity. These guidelines recommend 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities, such as weight lifting or rowing on 2 or more days a week. Anaerobic activities should work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
From pushing a lawn mower, to taking a dance class, to biking to the store – all types of activities count, as long as you’re doing them at a moderate or vigorous intensity for at least 10 minutes at a time.
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell is that you’ll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song. Here are some examples of activities that require moderate effort:
- Walking fast
- Doing water aerobics
- Riding a bike on level ground or with few hills
- Playing doubles tennis
- Pushing a lawn mower
Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity means you’re breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Here are some examples of activities that require vigorous effort:
- Jogging or running
- Swimming laps
- Riding a bike fast or on hills
- Playing singles tennis
- Playing basketball
You can do moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or a mix of the two each week. A rule of thumb is that 1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity is about the same as 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.
Exercise has many health benefits and should be engaged in and enjoyed.