Four Top Exercises for Health
Some great activities for your body don’t require a gym trip or the fitness to run a half-marathon.
Today we turn to four top exercises for health. Are there exercises you can do if you are not extraordinarily fit, or find the gym scene intimidating? Fortunately, some of the most valuable physical activities don’t require heavy weights or fitness to run a half-marathon. Today, we explore some activities that are among the best exercises to get you in shape and achieve better mental and physical health.
We begin with this straightforward approach to physical activity. Did you know that walking can improve your:
- cholesterol levels
- blood pressure
- diabetes risk
- cancer risk
- psychological well-being
Here’s what you need to do:
- Find a supportive, well-fitting pair of shoes.
- Begin walking for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. Advance up to 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week, aiming for a minimum of 150 minutes weekly.
Learn more about the upsides of walking in my previous writing:
Walk! You May Save Your Life
Brisk walking can improve physical and psychological well-being. Six reasons why you should consider regular walking.
Swimming or water aerobics can improve your psychological state of being. Given the water supports your body, there is less strain on joints. Swimming thus can be a particularly excellent choice for those with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, for example. Also, because swimming works your entire body, it can:
- tone your muscles
- build strength
- build endurance
- raise your heart rate, without too much stress on your body
Swimming burns calories
Swimming may also improve your mood. It also burns calories. Ten minutes of swimming can burn 60 calories with the breaststroke, 80 calories with backstroke, 100 calories by doing freestyle, and 150 calories if you choose the butterfly stroke. In comparison, running a 10-minute mile chews up about 100 calories.
Before you swim:
- Know how to swim, to state the obvious.
- Choose a safe environment.
- Warm-up and stretch before entering the water.
- Start slowly and build up over time.
- Please see your doctor if you haven’t exercised for a long time.
Unlike many sports, swimming is often suitable for virtually every fitness level and age. It can be ideal for selected individuals with injuries and works well for many with disabilities. I also like that you get to go at your own pace.
3. Try tai chi
Some refer to this Chinese practice as meditation in motion. Tai chi is composed of a series of graceful movements. This gentle martial art uses circular, flowing, and non-forced motions.
Let’s turn to some of the health-promoting properties of this gentle martial art. I love that you can get started, even if your health is suboptimal.
Tai chi can help with some critical components of fitness.
- Strength: The movements can serve as resistance training.
- Flexibility: Tai chi can improve both upper and lower body flexibility.
- Balance: With this slow martial art practice, some studies indicate that you reduce your chances of falling. Proprioception — our ability to sense the position of our body in space — gets worse with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, the product of sensory nerves in your inner ear, and stretch receptors in your muscles and ligaments.
The tai chi benefits are best-achieved if you begin before you develop chronic illness. Most tai chi interventions evaluated in research last at least 12 weeks, with instruction once or twice a week and practice at home.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Please check-in with a valued health professional before you begin.
- Try a class to help you get started and to learn proper form. You may be able to find a course on-line.
- Don’t be intimidated by the language. There are many forms of Tai Chi.
Do scientific studies support the use of tai chi? Let’s look at using the practice for managing chronic pain, as assessed in a systematic review of 18 randomized clinical trials. The combined results suggested tai chi is associated with immediate relief of chronic pain from osteoarthritis. The researchers found a possible benefit for low back pain and osteoporosis, respectively.
4. Strength train
Strength training is not limited to weight lifting. If you do not do some form of strength training, you will lose significant strength over time. Also, we often forget that anaerobic activity can lead to a substantial burn of calories. Besides, strength training can help with brain function.
We know that aerobic exercise can improve memory and reasoning among those with mild cognitive impairment. Australian researchers showed that resistance training acts similarly. Here’s what the scientists did:
The scientists recruited 68 women and 32 men, ages 55 through 86. The subjects all had mild cognitive impairment. They randomly assigned the participants to either 1) weight training twice weekly, for six months, lifting 80 percent of their maximum weightlifting capacity; and 2) stretching exercises. The subjects took cognitive tests at the study start and 12 months after they completed the program. The results are provocative:
Those who did weight training scored higher on cognitive tests at the end of the study than at the beginning.
Subjects retained the test score gain for at least 12 months. The test score gains appeared proportional to strength gains. Those who performed stretching exercises had a decline in cognitive functioning.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Please check-in with a valued health care professional.
- Learn proper form, ideally from a professional.
- Start with very light weights, perhaps a pound or two. Try ten repetitions or reps. After 2 to 3 weeks, you may raise the weight by a couple of pounds.
You know the bottom line: Move! Thank you for joining me today. I hope you have a joy-filled day.