The news is always full of facts and figures telling us that exercise is essential for a long and healthy life. But what exactly does that mean? What kind of exercise is recommended?
Anything you do which makes you breath deeper is aerobic exercise. The literal translation of aerobics means ‘with air’. Walking briskly, dancing in front of the mirror, bouncing on a trampoline or running on a treadmill are all forms of aerobic exercise. The key to keeping it up is finding something you enjoy doing, and making sure you can do it for 20 minutes at a time, three times a week. Other things you can do are jogging, pushing a buggy up hill, skipping and attending classes such as Zumba. Aerobics burns calories, so it helps with weight loss, and it also increases lung strength. While you exercise, the heart pumps harder too, and this keeps it strong and fit.
Making a muscle contract because it is working against a force is resistance training. The force could be your own body weight, like when you do a push up, pull up and lunge. The resistance could also be weights of some description. Dumbbells can be used, as can exercise bands or machines at a gym. These exercises build muscle so strengthen your limbs and help with balance. Muscles also burn more calories than fat, so the more muscular you are, the quicker excess weight drops off. Building muscle in the abdomen can also help ease some back pain, because posture is corrected and the general core strength improved.
Gently stretching the muscles helps with with flexibility. You can do this after exercising, when the muscles are warm and pliable. Yoga and Pilates are classes which dedicate a whole session to stretching, if you feel your body needs this. Taking time to stretch can also help with certain aches and pains or stiffness.
Which is best to do?
A combination of all of these kinds of exercise is the best way forward. They can be done in one session, or they can be done on alternate days if that is easier. It is also important to have rest time, so that the body can repair itself, so don’t overdo things especially at the beginning.