Exercise for Life

We all know it’s important to get regular physical activity.  Being physically active will improve your life in many ways.  It is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy.

Let’s talk about the benefits of exercise, revisit body composition, different ways to measure progress and talk about ways to make exercise a part of your life…

~BENEFITS~

Prolongs life – studies have shown that regular exercise prolongs life.  People who regularly engage in physical activity live longer, healthier lives.

Improves Mood – you just feel better!  It can’t get better than that.

Achieves metabolic balance – exercise helps achieve and maintain metabolic balance by the way it balances blood sugar and insulin.  It helps you lose weight and keep it off!

Promotes sustainable weight loss

Strengthens heart and blood vessels – our heart and blood vessels feed our bodies with oxygen and nutrients.  We want them strong.

Increases bone density

Decreases risk for chronic conditions – such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and obesity.

~BODY COMPOSITION~

Body composition is a simple way to describe the structure of the body.  3 compartments of  body composition are lean body mass, body fat and water.  As we age we tend to lose lean muscle and gain body fat (our weight may stay the same but our composition is shifting) more body fat leads to increase in aging and disease.  Exercise is the best way to prevent the age-associated decline of lean muscle and increase of body fat, a great reason for staying active throughout your life!  Accompanied by a healthy diet, one can expect a long full healthy life.  For more information on body composition see my post here.

~WAYS TO MEASURE PROGRESS~

Weight for Height

Body Mass Index

Waist/Hip or Waist Circumference

Bioelectric Impedance or Skinfold

These are all useful in measure our physical activity, but all tell different stories.  Do your due diligence when seeking to measure your progress.  I personally love to just get out my measuring tape, measuring my upper arm, waist, hip, butt, upper thigh and calf and go by how I feel.  I like to just get out, be active how I like to be active and feel good.

~WAYS TO MAKE EXERCISE A PART OF YOUR LIFE~

To truly be fit you need to incorporate 3 components of fitness: aerobic (aka “cardio), strength or resistance training and flexibility training.  I also would add in balance and agility training, but it’s not in the textbooks as a component of fitness, but has become increasingly popular.

Aerobic Exercise: When our heart rate is within 60-70% of our max heart rate, we are in and aerobic state.  In this state our heart and blood vessels get some good conditioning.  A simple way to figure your max heart rate is to subtract your age from 220.  Examples of aerobic exercises are walking, hiking, swimming, cycling, rowing, running or jogging.  Suggested frequency and duration is 30-60 min most days of the week.

Strength Training: increases lean body mass and improves basal metabolic rate.  The idea is to stress your muscles by fatiguing them.  Strength training usually involves weights, but can also be incorporated into your aerobic program.  Suggested frequency depends on your goals.  If your goal is to lose fat and/or maintain lean body mass 2 times per week is suggested.  If  your goal is to increase muscle mass 3-4 times per week is suggested.  In order to build muscle, you also need to provide adequate calories and protein in your diet.

Flexibility training:  another aspect of aging is loss of flexibility, which can lead to injury and lots of unnecessary aches and pains.  As we get older muscle fibers shorten and connective tissue between tendons  and ligaments get weaker.  We feel stiffer and less agile.  Stretching improves flexibility luckily!  Stretching before and after exercise or anytime you feel like it warms up ligaments and tendons and prepares them for exercise or simply, movement.  Stretching can also be very mentally relaxing.  Make sure to stretch properly, go slow, don’t bounce, keep spine in line and hold a stretch for 5-30 sec.

Balance and Agility Training:  balance is the first thing to go as we age, but we can retrain it.  It’s easy to incorporate into aerobic and strength training routines.  Balance and Agility training will integrate the full body and enable you to efficiently coordinate constant changes in body position allowing for injury prevention, performance enhancement for athletes and simply to combat aging.   You can find some good balance and agility training equipment here.  Agility training takes a little more focus then balance training and doesn’t need to use much equipment, it involves the use of  plyometrics.

Hopefully, what I’ve shared with you today will keep you active throughout your life or jump start you if you struggle in this area.

Next week I’ll share with you my “favorite fitness” things and exercises.

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