A Basic Guide to Working Out and Why It Matters

We all know exercise keeps us healthy. It provides numerous health benefits and is probably one of the best tools to fight obesity, certain types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic illnesses. Even knowing this, it can still be hard to put into practice. There is so much information on what types of activities to do and the optimal frequency to do them that we often feel overwhelmed.  The most important thing to remember is that any exercise is better than no exercise. 

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What’s important to keep in mind are all the wonderful things exercise can do for your body, both physically and mentally. It’s motivating, and it helps you stay committed to a routine.  The best thing about exercise is that you will reap benefits by adding in a small amount into your day. Just a few minutes a day is guaranteed to improve your health and well-being. Here are a few of the benefits of exercise

  • It’s a natural mood booster
  • It gives you more energy
  • You will sleep better
  • Exercise increases bone density, which is especially important as we age
  • It’s a confidence booster
  • It improves your quality of life
  • It can help you lose or maintain weight, depending on your goals
  • It’s effective at relieving stress
  • It reduces your risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer
  • It relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • It strengthens your cardiovascular system

Exercise is the one thing you can do every single day that you won’t regret doing. Even if it’s just for 5-minutes, you’ll improve your overall wellness and your physical and mental state.

There are different philosophies surrounding exercise.  The following are just a few of them.  The FITT principle says that there are some basic principles around exercise, and knowing what these principles are can help you adjust your fitness routine.  FITT is an acronym:

F-frequency of exercise

I-intensity of exercise

T-time duration of exercise

T-type of exercise you choose to do

The FITT principle explains that you will see improvements in your endurance and strength when you exercise with enough frequency, intensity, and time. When your body gets used to your fitness level, it is time to change up your routine.  Changing any of these variables at an interval of 4-6 weeks will help you to continue progressing towards your fitness goals.

The Overload Principle states that to improve your strength, endurance, and fitness, you must also constantly increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of the exercise.  Put simply; you will see more change in your body if you put your body through more change.

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Specificity means the exercise you choose should be tailored to help you meet your goals. If you’re training to run a marathon, you should probably work on your long runs.  If like most people, you want to improve your general health and wellness, you should focus on getting 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day.  Mix this with occasional strength training and a healthy diet, and you’re on your way.  

These exercise principles give you a general idea of what a good fitness routine should look like, but let’s look at each type of exercise more specifically.

Cardio exercise is defined as any activity performed continuously.  This includes activities such as walking, running, aerobics, cycling, swimming, and dancing. Cardio strengthens the heart and lungs (the cardiovascular system) and burns calories.  To gain the benefits of cardio exercise, you should exercise at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes per day.

Strength training is equally as important as cardio for your overall health.  But it doesn’t just mean weightlifting.  Bodyweight exercises and resistance bands can also be a fantastic way to strengthen the muscles and bones.  Two to three days a week is usually sufficient for strength training, keeping in mind not to train the same muscle groups on back-to-back days.

While we often focus on getting enough exercise, rest is also very important for your health.  While you can safely do cardio every day, according to your fitness level, some recovery days should be built into your routine, especially days off from strength training. 

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While it’s important to know basic exercise guidelines and principles, the most important step in starting an exercise routine is actually doing it. If you can’t get motivated to exercise, all the advice in the world won’t help.  Motivation doesn’t just happen. It’s something you make happen. If you have a reason to exercise, you’ll have something to get you moving, even on the days when motivation is hard to come by. The hardest part of the exercise is getting started. If you can get up and move, you’ve almost won the battle. Here are some ideas to help you get motivated:

  • Consider how much energy you’ll have when you’re done.
  • Imagine how much better you’ll feel after some exercise.
  • Give yourself a reward.
  • Remember why you started.
  • Remind yourself of your goals.
  • Focus just on today, without worrying about tomorrow or the next day.
  • Think of your exercise time as your “me” time where no one else will bother you.
  • Remember all the diseases exercising can protect you from.

The best way to begin exercising is to start with something simple and to start small.   You just have to start.  Walking a few days a week is a great way to start incorporating exercise you’re your daily routine.  Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from the door, go for a walk on your lunch break, or start biking to work if it’s close enough.  Remember, any exercise at all will help your mental and physical health.  So just get moving!

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