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Exercise and Fitness

Updated on September 28, 2010

Exercise and Fitness

One of the most important things you can do for your physical and
emotional well-being is to develop an exercise routine that will help you
stay fit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous
exercise on most days of the week and that children get 60 minutes.
Developing a fitness routine can be a challenge if you have a busy
schedule or haven’t exercised in a while. But there are many ways to
increase your fitness level no matter what kind of schedule you have or
how much you’ve exercised in the past. 
Benefits of physical activity
People of all ages benefit from developing a steady exercise routine. Regular
physical activity helps 
-  build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints
-  increase strength and endurance
-  manage weight
-  control blood pressure
-  promote self-esteem and psychological well-being
-  relieve feelings of stress
-  build confidence
-  reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
-  lower the risk of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer
The CDC says that in older adults exercise can also reduce the number of falls
and ease the pain of arthritis.
Two types of physical activity provide these benefits.
•  Aerobic activities, which speed up your heart rate and breathing, such as jogging,
riding a bike, or participating in an aerobics class. These kinds of activities help
build cardiovascular fitness.
•  Strength and flexibility activities. Strength activities, such as lifting weights, build
muscle and maintain healthy bones. Activities such as stretching or yoga increase
flexibility and can help you avoid injuries or soreness.
Ways to build exercise
into your daily life and
increase fitness.
• Benefits of physical activity
• Fitting exercise into
everyday life
• Staying active 2  z  Exercise and Fitness
Fitting exercise into everyday life
It’s never too early or too late to start making exercise part of your everyday life.
If you’re young, a regular exercise routine can help you find the energy you need
to keep up with young children or a stressful job. If you’re older, or even thinking
about retirement, you can increase your enjoyment of your later years by getting
or staying fit. “No one is too old to enjoy the benefits of regular physical
activity,” the CDC says. Research shows that as you get older, muscle-
strengthening exercises can reduce the risk of falling and fracturing bones and
can even improve the ability to live independently.
But it’s important to take a few precautions if you aren’t used to exercising
regularly. Talk with your health care provider if you’re over 35 and haven’t
exercised in a few years, or if you have a chronic health condition such as
hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, or obesity. It’s also important to talk with a
doctor if you’re at high risk for heart disease. Your health care provider may want
to test your fitness level to see what’s safe for you.
Most people get exercise either through structured programs or by leading an
active life that includes built-in physical activity. You’ll have a better chance of
becoming or staying fit if you do both -- for example, by combining jogging,
swimming, or bike riding with leading a more active life. This will help to ensure
that if you have to miss an exercise class or your regular tennis or basketball game
occasionally, you’ll still get some exercise. 
Many things you do every day may provide exercise -- mowing the lawn, pushing
a stroller, doing chores such as vacuuming or washing windows. Adding more of
these can increase your fitness level. Here are some ways to do that.
•  Take a walk on your lunch break or at the end of the day.
•  Exercise while you’re watching television or talking on the phone.
•  Put away the remote so that you’ll have to get up to change channels.
• Walk to a co-worker’s desk or workstation instead of sending an e-mail.
•  Take a five-minute break at work and do some stretching.
•  Get into the habit of parking a few blocks from your destination and walking the
rest of the way.
•  Use the stairs instead of an elevator as often as you can.
•  Build physical activity into the time you spend with family or friends -- for
example, go for a walk instead of meeting for coffee.
•  Take up a new activity, such as gardening or dancing, that involves exercise.
 3  z  Exercise and Fitness
One great way to challenge yourself to build more exercise into your day is to get
a pedometer, a small device you wear that counts the number of steps you take.
Experts recommend aiming for 10,000 steps a day. Wear a pedometer for a few
days to see how many steps you take, then look for ways to increase that number
until you reach 10,000.
Staying active
Once you’ve decided to become more active, sticking with your routine may at
times be challenging. Here are some ways to motivate yourself to stay active.
•  Do a variety of activities. If you jog every day, you may get bored. But if you mix in
a walk, a bike ride, or a class at a local gym or health club, it may be easier to stick
with your routine.
•  Find other people to exercise with you. Ride a bike with your child, go for a
lunchtime walk with a co-worker, or take a line-dancing class with a friend. Many
people find it easier to stick with an exercise program when they have a “buddy.”
If you can’t exercise daily with a friend, call the friend each evening to report
your exercise accomplishments. This makes you accountable, and you will be
more likely to stick to your goal of regular exercise.
•  Set daily or weekly goals. If you want to exercise four times a week, write that down
and track your progress. If you didn’t reach a goal, figure out what went wrong
and how you can change it. If you did meet your goal, reward yourself with a
massage, some new workout gear, or something else that will inspire you to
continue exercising. 
•  Remember that small bits of exercise still count. So if you can do 10 minutes of
strength training in the morning, take a 10-minute walk at lunch, and mow the
lawn for 30 minutes in the evening you’ll get a total of 50 minutes of exercise. 
•  Look into new activities. This can be especially helpful if boredom or scheduling
problems have kept you from sticking with an exercise routine in the past. Look
into offerings at your local Y or adult education program. Try a new class at the
gym or find a new route for your regular walk or jog. 
•  Plan ahead for exercise. You may find it harder to get exercise during an especially
busy week or season. But if you plan ahead for it and block out time for an
activity you enjoy, you may be less tempted to forgo it when you’re busy.
You can learn more about how to exercise safely at any age by going to the
“Physical Activity” pages of the Web site for the American Academy of Family
Physicians at The program that provided this publication
can give you additional information on exercise and physical fitness.
 4  z  Exercise and Fitness
It can take some planning to start a regular exercise routine, but the benefits are
worth the effort. Try to start slowly, by making your life more active, and then
keep increasing the amount of physical activity you get each day.


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