Getting into healthier physical condition isn’t about running five miles every day. It’s about taking one step today then another tomorrow.
OK. We’ve all heard that exercise is beneficial to your health. Quickly, let’s review. Like any muscle, your heart needs regular exercise to maintain its strength. Thus, the more you exercise, the stronger your heart becomes, even to the point of reducing several heart-disease risk factors. In short, aerobic exercise conditions the heart and lungs by increasing the oxygen available to the body and by enabling the heart to use oxygen more efficiently. Got that?
For sure, exercise alone cannot prevent or cure heart disease, but it helps. And you can gain control of body fat, tone muscles, improve sleep, lesson stress and generally feel better. For starters.
So, the question is: If exercise is that beneficial, why don’t more people do it?
Myth No. 1 is that exercise requires too much work. Not exactly. Exercise, in fact, doesn’t have to be strenuous or require lots of time to be effective. Moderate-level activities also may help ward off heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.
Another leading myth is that exercise requires equipment and/or a gym membership. Hardly. Walking is one of the simplest and most available aerobic exercises. You can vary the intensity to match your fitness level. And, other than walking shoes, it doesn’t require any special equipment. You can walk almost anywhere: outdoors or indoors (malls, indoor tracks or a treadmill).
Walking, alone, can lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol); raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol); lower blood pressure; reduce risk of, or manage, type 2 diabetes; manage weight; improve your mood; and build strength.
Tip: Walking is a good choice for starting an exercise program.
The key is to choose an activity, or activities, that get your body moving and raise your heart rate for an extended period of time. Aside from walking, there’s dancing, cycling and swimming—as well as using machines like a treadmill and elliptical. Oh, and there’s gardening and household chores, too.
Here’s the point: Do something.
If you’ve been inactive for a long time or if you have a chronic health condition, just remember to start with small steps and get your doctor’s go-ahead before beginning. Maybe walk five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. The next day, add a few minutes to each walking session. Gradually pick up the pace and, ideally, extend to at least 30 minutes a day.
After six to 10 weeks of aerobic workouts (30 nonstop minutes, minimum three times weekly), your heart muscle will strengthen, pumping more oxygen-rich blood with each beat. More oxygen leads to more health benefits. But, remember, if you’re put off by 30 nonstop minutes of exercise, any increase in physical activity can bring benefits.
10 REASONS WHY AEROBIC ACTIVITY CAN HELP YOU
- Keep excess pounds at bay. Combined with a healthy diet, aerobic exercise helps you lose weight—and keep it off.
- Increase your stamina. Aerobic exercise may make you tired in the short term. But over the long term, you’ll enjoy increased stamina and reduced fatigue.
- Ward off viral illnesses. Aerobic exercise activates your immune system. This leaves you less susceptible to minor viral illnesses, such as colds and flu.
- Reduce your health risks. Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer. Weight-bearing aerobic exercises, such as walking, reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Manage chronic conditions. Aerobic exercise helps lower high blood pressure and control blood sugar. If you’ve had a heart attack, aerobic exercise helps prevent subsequent attacks.
- Strengthen your heart. A stronger heart doesn’t need to beat as fast. A stronger heart also pumps blood more efficiently, which improves blood flow to all parts of your body.
- Keep your arteries clear. Aerobic exercise boosts your high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol and lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol. The potential result? Less buildup of plaques in your arteries.
- Boost your mood. Aerobic exercise can ease the gloominess of depression, reduce the tension associated with anxiety and promote relaxation.
- Stay active and independent as you age. Aerobic exercise keeps your muscles strong, which can help you maintain mobility as you get older. Aerobic exercise also keeps your mind sharp. At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week seems to reduce cognitive decline in older adults.
- Live longer. Studies show that people who participate in regular aerobic exercise live longer than those who don’t exercise regularly.
DID YOU KNOW?
Aerobic or Anaerobic?
We often hear the terms. What’s the difference? Aerobics involve using the same large muscle group, rhythmically, for a period of 15 to 20 minutes or longer while maintaining 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. Aerobic activities include walking, biking, jogging, swimming, aerobic classes and cross-country skiing.
By contrast, anaerobic activity is short in duration and high in intensity. Anaerobic activities include racquetball, downhill skiing, weight lifting, sprinting, softball, soccer and football.
So, the difference between aerobic and anaerobic lies in duration of exercise and intensity.
Aerobic means with air or oxygen. You should be able to carry on a short conversation while doing aerobic exercise. If you are gasping for air while talking, you are probably working anaerobically. When you work anaerobically, you will tire faster and are more likely to experience sore muscles after exercise is over.