Mention exercise to some people—particularly devoted couch potatoes—and you’ll receive looks of horror, disbelief, and the always dependable, “deer in the headlights.” Those to whom the thought of exercise conjures disturbing images of overweight or muscle-bound people, sweating profusely, and pumping heavy iron, need to take a deep breath and just calm down.
While you can certainly choose to spend your off-hours at a state-of-the-art gym working on your abs, arms, legs, etc., to create a sculptured body, it is not a necessity to feel healthier. You can even exercise with your baby or young child, implanting wonderful, healthy habits at their young age.
Types of Exercise
- Flexibility. Stretching and range of motion exercises help everyone and can be done daily without consuming large blocks of time or risking injury. If you have arthritis or worry about getting “long in the tooth,” stretching will help you loosen up those annoying stiff joints upon rising in the morning. Among the more effective flexibility exercises are yoga and tai chi, but just stretching your arms (biceps and triceps) and legs (quads, calves, and hamstrings) are wonderful to keep you healthy and trim.
- Strengthening. Even if you have no desire to look like a professional wrestler or football player, you will benefit from stronger muscles. At a minimum, toned muscles reduce joint stress, helping prevent injury. Should you already experience such stress from age or arthritis, the shock absorbing ability you create will enrich your quality of life for the long-term. These exercises involve some form of resistance, using weights, pulleys, or everyday objects, to strengthen specific body areas. The best results occur from doing strengthening exercises every other day for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Aerobic (Cardiovascular). Strengthening your cardiovascular system, exercising your heart muscle and others, through continuous motion helps you live longer and healthier. Aerobic exercise, like soccer, jogging, and swimming, helps you lower your target heart rate for every 30-minute session you enjoy. You can start with only five minutes, working up to 30 minutes, three to four times per week.
Don’t make yourself crazy (unless you’d like to) with your exercise regimen. Even a casual stroll after dinner with a friend or your faithful canine delivers healthy, weight loss, and quality of life benefits. Enjoy your daily exercise, however modest or intense it may be.