Regular exercising has numerous benefits on general health and well-being. A recent research studies the impacts of exercising on identical twins and suggests that a human DNA does not dictate his destiny if he exercises on a regular basis. However, you must know why you need to exercise and what kind of exercise method would suit your needs best.
If you want more energy… do any kind of exercise three to four times a week!
Regular exercise increases energy and reduces fatigue in adults of all ages with carious health conditions – even the kinds that cause exhaustion, like fibromyalgia – and in people who are healthy, too, according to a 2006 University of Georgia review of 70 studies. The study authors found that just 20 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity activity (including biking, walking, strength training and stretching) a few times a week improved energy in as little as four weeks. “Exercise evens out your fluid and salt balance, helps your body use sugar [in the bloodstream] and burns fat. Or as I often say, it helps you sweat out mayonnaise,” says Tim Church, a professor at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Centre. “It fundamentally helps you feel better.” What’s more, “physical activity increases the size and number of your mitochondria, which are the cellular powerhouses that helps your body operate efficiently,” notes Stella Volpe, the chair of the department of nutrition sciences at Drexel University.
If you want to limit your doctor’s visits… count your steps with Fitbit!
Sitting is the new smoking. Research shows that the less you move, the higher your risk of, well, just about every health problem. “A hundred years ago, Americans spent their walking hours during physically demanding tasks,” says Steven Blair, an exercise scientists and professor at the University of South Carolina. “Today the average person sits at work all day, then goes home and sits in front of the television.” But you don’t need to join CrossFit to undo the ill effects of an office job and live a longer, healthier life, says Blair. Instead, try to move more. Also, consider using a fitness-tracking device, like a Fitbit or a German watch. The device will give you a reasonably accurate estimate of how active you are by logging your steps as you do activities like gardening, cleaning and taking bathroom breaks. Any number over zero is good, but “7000 steps a day, and you’re vestly improving your health,” says Church.
And yes, all movements count. Accordingly, to 2013 study published in Preventive Medicine, people who did short bursts of physical activity – for example, raking leaves or pacing while talking on the phone – for a total of 150 minutes a week were as healthy as people who logged similar amounts of aerobic exercise (like biking). They had similar blood pressure, cholesterol levels, waist circumference and level of C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker found in the blood that is linked to health problems such as heart disease and arthritis).
If you want to ease a chronic health problem… see a pro and go slow!
Where you’re dealing with an ongoing health issue, it may seem tempting – safer, even – to avoid exercise, but that is exactly the time you can most benefit from movement. Exercise eases the symptoms of many chronic conditions, such as arthritis. And in the case of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, it can even reverse them. It also reduces pain by increasing blood flow and promoting the release of feel-good brain chemicals, like endorphins.
To avoid injury and burnouts, begin slowly. “Start with 10 minutes, or even five, several times a week,” advises Volpe. “You want to build strength and endurance over the course of several months.” Get your doctor’s OK before starting a new exercise program, but keep in mind that many physicians have little or no fitness expertise. A physical therapist or a personal trainer can help you create a personalized plan.
If you’re trying to lose weight (or keep it off)… combine strength and cardio!
Exercise alone usually won’t take the extra-pounds off; you have to curb your calorie intake for that to happen. That’s why a study published this year in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that most sedentary women who did three weekly, high-intensity treadmill workouts for 12 weeks but didn’t change their eating habits were not able to lose weight. Data, however, from the National Weight Control Registry – an ongoing, decades-long study of people who lose a significant amount of weight – shows that those who maintain a large loss do so in part by exercising most days of the week.
“You should be doing a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training.” Says Cedric Bryant, the chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise. Aerobic exercise burns calories that would otherwise be stored as extra pounds. Strength training builds and preserves muscle mass, “which can offset age-related muscle loss, keeping your metabolism revved, even during menopause,” says Bryant.
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week, but if you do high-intensity workouts, like running or spinning, you can cut that amount in half. Do at least two weekly strength training sessions too, by lifting weights or doing Pilates, yoga or resistance exercises (think planks and push-ups).
If you want to be less stressed or depressed… exercise regularly but not too hard!
“The real reason to get excited about exercise is because it makes you feel great,” says Bradley Cardinal, a co-director of the Sport and Exercise Psychology Lab at Oregon State University. Women who engage in regular physical activity tend to have less stress and anxiety and higher self-esteem than those who are inactive, even during tough times.
If you are blue or have been diagnosed with depression, aerobic exercise is an especially effective mood booster. But “other forms of exercise, such as yoga and strength training can help too,” says Jeffrey Katula, an associate professor in the department of health and exercise at Wake Forest University. Perhaps the best example is a now famous Duke University study published in 1999 that found that depressed adults who did 45 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week improved their mood as much as did those who took the prescription anti-depression Zoloft instead of exercising.
“Exercise takes you out of your head; it’s harder to worry when you’re focusing on where you’re walking or whether you can hit the tennis ball,” says Teresa Gevedon, a psychiatrist at the University of Kentucky, who often prescribes exercise to patients with depression and anxiety. It also increases mood-boosting brain chemicals, such as serotonin and endorphins, which ease pain and increase pleasure while lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
But steer clear of any form of exercise that feels difficult or uncomfortable while you’re doing it (such as sprints or a punishing spinning class), advises Katula: “Through a negative experience during exercise is temporary, it may be enough to keep you from going back and doing it again.” Even “light” exercise, like walking will help you feel better, provided you do it most days. “When it comes to mood, the effects of exercise may only last about 24 hours,” says Gevedon.
YWCA Fitness on 25th is a coed facility providing a range of fitness experiences in a welcoming environment to achieve your individual health and fitness goals. Watch for the next YWCA wellness article on our website blog and social media channels.
by Nima Nazemi
Source: Camille Noe Pagan, 2017, TIME Magazine (Special Edition): The Science of Exercise, pg. 18–21