Exercise is any physical activity that gets your body moving, and when it comes to exercise any exercise is better than no exercise.

The latest publication on this topic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans that states that a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of combined moderate-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities done every week, and spread out over at least 2 days a week (i.e. 75 minutes x 2 days, or 50 minutes x 3 days, etc.), are needed to maintain your health. Add to this a simple stretch routine and you have a workable formula for protecting your health in the present and preventing disease in the future.

There are 3 categories of exercise:

  • Cardiovascular Exercises
  • Weight or Strength Training
  • Stretching Routines

Participation in all 3 categories is essential to fitness and good health.

Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercises

Cardiovascular relates to the heart and blood vessels and is often referred to as aerobic exercise because it denotes exercise that improves the efficiency of the body's cardiovascular system in absorbing and transporting oxygen. Aerobic means requiring the presence of air or oxygen. Aerobic exercise improves the condition of your heart which is a muscle like any other and in order for it to be strong and efficient it must be worked regularly. An inefficient cardiovascular system deprives all the cells of the body of an adequate supply of essential oxygen which over time can cause a variety of negative health effects.

Aerobic activity or "cardio" gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster. Walking is the simplest, fastest way to accomplish this; just open the door and take the first step. No training is necessary and no special equipment is required except perhaps a good pair of tennis shoes. Pushing a lawn mower, swimming, and cycling are other examples of cardio exercise, but are somewhat weather dependent. Others are treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes, but these require special equipment or a gym membership. There are many, many others.

Whatever activity you choose simply start off slowly and gradually build up. For most, ordinary activities such as shopping, cooking, and other routine household duties won't count toward the guidelines. Why? Because your body isn't working hard enough to get your heart rate up. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you're working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. The easiest way to tell that you're achieving a cardio benefit is that you'll be able to talk during the work out, but not in complete sentences; you won't be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. A more scientific way is to calculate your target heart rate which for most people is not necessary. 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 for a total of 150 minutes a week.

Benefits of Weight or Strength Training

Many individuals who are new to the world of fitness are of the opinion that strength training is only associated with serious "athletes". Although very few of my patients are interested in bench pressing their body weight, virtually all of them are interested in maintaining the ability to climb a flight of stairs or carry in a bag of groceries. Strength training does this. While aerobic exercise has many excellent health benefits - it maintains the heart and lungs and increases cardiovascular fitness and endurance - it does not necessarily make muscles strong. Studies have shown that lifting weights two or three times a week targeting the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms improves health by building muscle mass and bone density. These exercises can slow the physiological aging clock by lessening the so-called "normal" effects of aging including osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

Research has shown that strengthening exercises are both safe and effective for both women and men of all ages, including those who are in less than perfect health. In fact, those with health concerns - including heart disease or arthritis - often benefit the most from an exercise program that includes lifting weights a few times each week. When done properly and increased gradually strength training results in joints and muscles working more efficiently together to increase ability including balance, flexibility, and stamina which improves the ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL's). Health professionals routinely refer to the ability or inability to perform ADLs as a measurement of the functional status of a person, particularly in regards to those with disabilities and the elderly. Strength training programs can also have a profound effect on decreasing the likelihood and severity of falls, which translates to fewer injuries, a serious risk for the less than fit population.

Benefits of Stretching

The American College of Sports Medicine says regular flexibility exercises are crucial to maintaining joint range of motion. Muscles gradually become shorter and tighter if not regularly stretched which reduces overall flexibility. This restriction makes the muscle and tendon, and associated joints and ligaments, more susceptible to strain and sprain injuries in the event of an unexpected or unusual stress. Such a stress might be a stumble on the stairs or up a curb, or a sudden lunge to catch a grandchild about to fall off a chair. Stretching is primarily responsible for increasing flexibility and reduces these risks. Increased flexibility also allows you to do other exercises more easily.

Stretching exercises place slow and controlled stress upon muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments. The body's response to this stress is to increase the blood flow and thereby the supply of nutrients resulting in a gradual strengthening of these tissues. Stretching has been shown to effectively increase range of motion and flexibility in joints. Better range of motion enables you to keep better balance. Better balance means you are less susceptible to falls, and better flexibility means you are less susceptible to the impact of sudden stresses, and the resulting injuries.

Participation in all 3 categories of exercise is a critical part of staying healthy.

People who are active live longer and feel better.

Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight.

Author's Bio: 


Dr. Michael L. Hall, D.C. practices at Triangle Disc Care in Raleigh, North Carolina specializing in Spinal Decompression for the treatment of acute and chronic neck pain and back pain due to herniated, degenerated discs. This is a conservative procedure for patients suffering with bulging or herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, posterior facet syndrome, sciatica, failed back surgery syndrome, and non-specified mechanical low back or neck pain.

For more information call 919-571-2515, click on www.triangledisc.com or email office@triangledisc.com. Type "Free eBook - 101 Things I Need to Know about my Bad Back" into the subject line.