Exercise Your Way to Better Health

Are you too busy to go to the gym? Don’t have time for your daily walks? For many of us, the answer is yes. Unfortunately it’s not just a lack of time you have to cope with, but also a lack of good health.

Even though Americans are living healthier lifestyles than twenty-five years ago, the National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that heart disease and stroke remain the number one and third leading causes of death in the United States. However, incorporating exercise into your life can help reduce that risk as well as make you a healthier, happier person.

What’s the Best Type of Exercise: Aerobics or Weights?

Aerobic exercise is an excellent way to stay healthy as long as it is brisk, sustained and regular. NIH suggests that the following aerobic activity is extremely helpful in conditioning your heart and lungs: aerobic dancing, bicycling, jogging, jumping rope, swimming, walking briskly, racquetball, soccer, tennis and basketball.

In addition, using weights helps to build muscle strength as well as give the body a toned and tight appearance. It also helps the body to manage and lose weight, decrease injury, and keeps it functional and independent as it ages. For a total body workout and good health, a combination of both aerobic and weight exercise is best.

How Much Should You Exercise?

This depends on your age, your level of physical fitness and the level of intensity of your exercise. If you are not very active now, you may start off slowly with a 10-15 minute walk or other short exercise session three times a week. As you become fit, you can increase your level of exercise with the goal of at least 30 minutes of exercise three to four times a week.

If you are starting with less intense exercise, try something smaller every day. It is also recommended that you spread the exercise throughout the week. An every-other-day schedule is highly suggested. For muscle and weight training, aim to exercise each muscle at least two times a week with rest in between.

There is a top limit to exercise. Very rigorous or moderately rigorous activity beyond 60 minutes daily will add little to the conditioning of your heart and lungs and may increase the risk of injury.

What Are the Benefits of Exercise?

Exercise is one of the few voluntary activities that raises your level of HDL, the type of cholesterol that lowers the risk of heart disease. Some other benefits are as follows:

  • Exercisers go to sleep more quickly, sleep more soundly and wake up more refreshed than their non-exercising counterparts.
  • Exercise helps relieve depression.
  • Exercise can help relieve stress as it lessens the hormones and other chemicals that build up during periods of high stress.
  • Exercise can help prevent certain kinds of cancer.

How Can You Make Exercise Manageable and Fun?

Try some of these simple tips:

  • Park farther from a building and walk.
  • Take short walks on your lunch break.
  • Vary your routine by taking an outdoor hike instead of using treadmill or stair climber. Swim in the ocean or take your dog for a longer walk in the morning.
  • Plan activities that involve walking, like a trip to the zoo or a day at the museum.
  • Try getting an exercise companion to keep you motivated.
  • Try small exercise gadgets such as heart-rate monitors, aquatic toys and safety equipment to make your workout more fun and challenging.

What about Healthy Eating?

A good diet in combination with exercise is the most effective way to stay healthy. Below are a few suggestions for healthy eating:

  • Enjoy all fruits. But eat the following in moderation: apricots, cranberries, currants, dates, figs, grapes, prunes, raisins, bananas and watermelon. These are great fruits but are high in calories.
  • Complex carbohydrates. The most hunger-satisfying and calorie conscious of the complex carbohydrates include: a large boiled or baked potato, two-thirds cup of white or brown rice, four ounces of high-protein or whole-wheat pasta, two-thirds cup oatmeal, two slices of whole wheat bread, a small bran muffin and one ear of corn. Everything above is about 100 calories, except pasta, which is 200 calories.
  • The best proteins to eat include tofu, white-meat chicken and turkey, snapper, sole, low-fat cottage cheese and low-fat plain yogurt.
  • Observe a rough daily calorie limit of 2,000 calories.
  • Have one free eating day a week to enjoy your favorite treats.

Put Exercise into your Schedule Today!

Try integrating one exercise tip today. Park a little further or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Remember that making exercise a regular part of your life will energize you and strengthen you inside and out.

If you want to work toward a healthier lifestyle, you don’t have to do it alone. Simi Valley Hospital can help. Please call our us at (805) 955-6890 to find out about our free and low-cost health classes. We can also help you find a physician; just call Referral Services at (805) 955-6900.

Note: This is for information purposes only and not intended for use in place of the advice of a physician.

(Adapted from Fitness Management, August 1991 by James A. Peterson, Ph.D. and Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D.)