In other words, exercise aims to maintain or enhance our physical fitness and general health. In this article, we will talk about the different sorts of exercise that are available, how they benefit the body, and how to design a fitness regime.
People exercise for many different reasons; these include:
- Strengthening muscles.
- Optimizing the cardiovascular system.
- Practicing specific athletic skills.
- Controlling body weight.
- For fun.
- To win.
- To socialize.
- As a form of escapism.
Here are some key points about exercise. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
Types of exercise
There are three broad intensities of exercise:
- Light exercise - for example, going for a walk.
- Moderate exercise - makes the individual slightly out of breath. Examples include walking briskly, cycling moderately, or walking up a hill.
- Vigorous exercise - pushes the body much nearer to its limit. This could include running, cycling fast, and heavy weight training.
Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division in Berkeley, CA reported in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology that brisk walking is as effective as running in reducing a person's risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Exercise can also be divided into three broad categories: aerobic, anaerobic, and agility training.
Aerobic exercise aims to improve the body's consumption of oxygen. The word aerobic means "with oxygen," it refers to the fact that our bodies use oxygen in metabolism. Most aerobic exercise is done at average levels of intensity for longer periods.
Jogging for 20 minutes is a form of aerobic exercise that can improve the body's consumption of oxygen.
An aerobic exercise session involves warming up, exercising for at least 20 minutes, and then cooling down. Aerobic exercise mostly uses the large muscle groups.
A physical therapist, Col. Pauline Potts, and an exercise physiologist, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, both in the United States Air Force, were the first to use the term aerobic exercise during the 1960s.
Dr. Cooper wanted to find out why some very strong people were poor at long-distance running, swimming, and cycling.
He used a bicycle ergometer, a machine like an exercise bike that registers how much energy is used. He researched people's ability to use oxygen.
In 1968, Dr. Cooper published his book Aerobics. The book included scientific programs using aerobic exercises, such as swimming, running, cycling, and walking. The book became a bestseller. All current aerobic programs use Cooper's data as a baseline.
Aerobic exercise is generally performed at a moderate level of intensity over a long period. Running for 20 minutes is an aerobic exercise while sprinting 200 meters is not. Playing badminton for 30 minutes is an aerobic activity if the movements of the players are fairly continuous. Golf, on the other hand, is not seen as aerobic because the heart rate has not been raised at a sustained level for long enough.
Aerobic exercise is considered to have the following benefits:
- Strengthens the muscles that are involved in respiration (breathing).
- Strengthens and enlarges the heart muscle (lowers the pulse rate at rest).
- Tones muscles throughout most of the body.
- Reduces blood pressure.
- Improves circulation.
- Raises the number of red blood cells, which improves oxygen transportation.
- The sleep quality of insomnia patients can improve with moderate exercise.
- Improves mental health.
- A study found that exercise may reduce migraine symptoms.
- Reduces the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular problems.
- Helps improve survival rates of patients with cardiovascular diseases significantly.
- High impact aerobic exercise stimulates bone growth and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
- Increases stamina or endurance - aerobic activity increases the body's ability to store energy molecules such as fats and carbohydrates within the muscle.
- Increases blood flow through muscles.
People who exercise regularly tend to live longer than those who do not, even if they are overweight and their exercise only includes brisk walks, according to researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD. They wrote: "This finding may help convince currently inactive persons that a modest physical activity program is 'worth it' for health benefits, even if it may not result in weight control."
Anaerobic exercise such as weight lifting can improve strength and muscle.
The aim of anaerobic exercise is to build power, strength, and muscle.
The muscles are exercised at high intensity for short durations - no more than about 2 minutes.
Anaerobic means "without air." Anaerobic exercises improve muscle strength and our ability to move with quick bursts of speed. When thinking of anaerobic exercise, think of short and fast or short and intensive. Anaerobic exercises include:
- weight lifting
- intensive and fast skipping (with a rope)
- interval training
- any rapid burst of hard exercise
Oxygen is not used for energy during anaerobic exercise. During this type of exercise, a byproduct - lactic acid - is produced. Lactic acid is why muscles ache when they have been used intensively; it must be used up during recovery before that muscle can be used again in another anaerobic session.
During the recovery period, oxygen is used to give the muscle a "refill" - to replenish the muscle's energy that was used up during the intensive exercise.
Overall, anaerobic exercise uses up fewer calories than aerobic exercise. The cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercises are greater than the cardiovascular benefits of anaerobic exercises. However, anaerobic exercise is better at building strength and muscle mass, while still benefitting the heart and lungs.
As more muscle is built, more fat is burned, even at rest. Muscles burn more calories per unit volume than any other tissue in the body. A muscular person burns more calories than a non-muscular person, even if while they are resting.
How does anaerobic exercise work?
After a short, intensive burst of activity, there is a temporary shortage of oxygen being delivered to the working muscles at first. The production of anaerobic energy creates a byproduct - lactic acid. As mentioned above, lactic acid causes muscle fatigue, which is the reason the session cannot last long. However, after regular training, the body becomes better equipped to handle lactic acid.
After several practice sessions, the body becomes better at getting rid of lactic acid - it also learns how to produce less of it. At the same time, the body produces buffers that postpone fatigue during an anaerobic session.
Anaerobic exercises offer the following benefits:
- The individual gets stronger.
- They experience growth in muscle mass.
- Strengthens bones.
- Strengthens and protects the joints.
- Helps control body weight.
- The person can withstand a greater buildup of lactic acid and other waste substances, and their body can eliminate them quicker.
Agility training aims to improve a person's ability to speed up and slow down and change directions while maintaining balance and control.
In tennis, for example, agility training helps the player maintain control over their court positioning through good recovery after each shot.
A crucial skill in tennis is to be able to position yourself in the court so that you can hit the ball to maximum effect. Agility does not only help the tennis player get to the ball more effectively and set up for a better shot; it also gives them better balance when hitting the ball.
Agility training is essential to sports such as tennis, soccer, and hockey.
Agility training is practiced extensively by people who do certain sports where positioning, coordination, balance, and the ability to suddenly change posture and speeds are essential.
Agility and coordination are two key attributes for a successful soccer player. Such compound movements as dribbling, turning, passing, and intercepting require a wide assortment of balance, coordination, and other skills, such as the ability to accelerate and decelerate quickly. A good soccer player also needs excellent special awareness and accurate timing.
Soccer players often practice improving their ability to change the direction of the body abruptly or shift stance without losing balance.
Agility includes speed, strength, balance, and coordination. The following sports (among many others) require agility:
- American football
- basket ball
- martial arts
Yoga and pilates
Some exercises include a combination of stretching, muscle strengthening, and balance. A good example is yoga.
Many experts say stretching is an exercise in itself. Yoga exercises, or movements, improve your balance, flexibility, posture, and circulation. Yoga originated in India a long time ago and aims to unify the mind, body, and spirit. Modern yoga - the type of yoga practiced by most people in Western countries - uses a combination of meditation, posture, and breathing exercises.
Lack of exercise
Most people know that exercise is beneficial for health. However, less people know about the dangers of being unfit. In Western Europe, North America, Japan, Australasia, and much of the rest of the world, the number of overweight and obese people is growing alarmingly fast.
- According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in 2013-2014, more than 1 in 3 adults in America are obese.
- Around 1 in 13 adults are considered to have extreme obesity.
- Vigorous exercise can help older adults avoid disability.
- Women who do not exercise regularly have more complications during and after pregnancy. This article explains why women should be encouraged to exercise during pregnancy.
Physically active people have a much lower risk of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and many types of cancer. Cancer patients who do regular exercise after chemotherapy treatment have a much lower chance of cancer recurrence, compared with those who are physically inactive, according to researchers from the University of Nebraska.
The scientists say their findings may help investigators understand why exercise may greatly reduce the risk of secondary cancer in survivors. They added that exercise can also lower the chances of ever developing cancer among those who have never had the disease.
Finding time to exercise
Many people who do not exercise say they do not have the time. However, it is possible to increase the amount of time you are physically active, even if you are extremely busy.
See how many trips you take by car and decide which ones could be replaced by walking or cycling. This does not have to be a black or white measure. It could include parking your car half a mile from your destination and walking the rest of the way. Traffic experts throughout most of the world say that the majority of car trips are very short.
If you are using public transport, try getting off at an earlier stop and walking the rest of the way. When you are in a building and want to go upstairs, try walking it, rather than taking the elevator or escalators.
A study found that interactive video games - such those played on the Nintendo Wii - may raise heart rate and provide exercise intensity levels high enough to meet federal physical activity guidelines.
If you do not have time to exercise but have time to watch TV, think about how much of that TV time could be replaced by some physical activity. Even short 30-second bursts of exercise may improve metabolism. There are several gentle exercises you can do while watching TV.
Tips on adding exercise to your routine
Walking a dog is a form of exercise that benefits both pet and owner.
Experts say that for a physically inactive person to become active and remain active for the long-term, the activity needs to be convenient and enjoyable.
The activity needs to be something you can easily fit into your routine for several days each week. Even adding just 30 minutes of physical activity to your day, will be beneficial.
Some of the examples below are the easiest to fit into a daily routine:
- Go for a brisk 30-minute walk five times each week. Ideally, it should be done in one session. If you can't, two 15-minute sessions would also be good.
- Walk your dog more often. If you do not have a dog but know a nearby friend who has one, offer to walk it for them.
- Find out whether there are any swimming pools nearby. Try to add some swimming to your weekly routine. This does not have to be every day.
- During your lunch break at work, go for a walk.
- Join some exercise classes.
- Join a martial arts club. Beginner's sessions can be gentle and fun.
- If you do housework, do it a bit more vigorously and turn it into an exercise session.
Beginners must remember that the secret is "little and often." A little bit every day is great - one big session once a week is not. Make sure your progress is gradual. Make sure you drink plenty of water during and after you exercise. Check with your doctor if you are not sure about your health.
Experts say an exercise program should include both aerobic and anaerobic activities. This is true. However, if you are currently inactive, anything is better than nothing.
Advice for starting an exercise program
When people start an exercise program, they may experience various emotions, from elation to anxiety about not being able to keep it up. Remember the following tips to achieve long-term success:
Remember why you started: people start exercising for many reasons - weight loss, health, vanity, the doctor told them to, or to recover from an illness. Keep remembering why you started as this will help keep you motivated.
Do everything at your own pace: humans tend to be competitive animals; however, being competitive in the wrong way can kill motivation. If you have to compete, compete with your past self. Compare your performance today with your performance in 2 weeks' time. Check your weight, heart rate, and blood pressure - then take it again in about 3 weeks and see the difference.
Enjoy yourself: for long-term success, the activity has to be something you enjoy. There are so many activities to choose from. Perhaps there is an activity you really enjoyed when you were a child.
Join a club with a friend: if you join a fitness club with a friend, or exercise with a friend, you may enjoy the sessions more. Some people prefer not to have the stress of someone else around. This depends on you.
Experts can be very useful: a study found that exercise and behavioral intervention improves fitness and lowers systolic blood pressure.
Vary your exercises: every few weeks, change your exercise program. This is important for your motivation and also for best results. The body improves faster if you change your program now and again. This does not mean you have to change walking or running to something else. It could mean changing your speed and distance, and pacing yourself in a different way, perhaps altering your route.
Be realistic about your goals: some people are motivated by goals, others find them stressful. If you need goals, make sure they are realistic - and work towards them.
The longer you keep it up, the longer you will continue to do it: after a few weeks, your exercise routine starts to become a habit. Even if you find it a bit of a chore at first, remember that after a few weeks, it will really become a habit.
Intense exercise and calorie consumption
A study found that you can burn an extra 200 calories within 2 or 3 minutes if you incorporate sprint interval training in your exercise routine, this can considerably reduce the time you need for a workout.
The sports scientists compared how much energy volunteers disbursed on two separate days. They concluded that there was a slight increase in the number of calories burned when intense exercise was incorporated into their routine.
Study leader, Kyle Sevits said that when people work out, they spend a long time at it. Exercise is time-consuming, a fact that puts many people off ever starting, as well as a common reason for individuals to drop out of exercise programs. Sevits said:
"Research shows that many people start an exercise program but just can't keep it up. The biggest factor people quote is that they don't have the time to fit in exercise. We hope if exercise can be fit into a smaller period of time, then they may give exercise a go and stick with it."
Exercise, every minute counts - in the war against weight gain, every minute of high-intensity exercise counts, researchers from the University of Utah reported in the American Journal of Health Promotion. The team found that a brief spurt of intense training that works the lungs and heart has the same effect on preventing weight gain as 10 minutes or more of normal exercise.
To conclude: exercise may seem like a drag, but the more you do, the easier it will become. The benefits of regular physical activity are wide-reaching and well worth making an effort for.