Health Topics

Exercise Basics

Exercise Basics

Why Should I Exercise?

Exercise has many benefits. Exercise can help you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight or help you reach your weight loss goals
  • Reduce the likelihood of gaining weight as you age
  • Maintain bone mass
  • Lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • Reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis
  • Reduce stress and improve the quality of sleep
  • Maintain a higher level of cardiovascular fitness, mobility, strength, flexibility, and improves the stereotypical image of aging

What is the Difference Between Activities of Daily Living and Structured Exercise?

Activities of daily living (ADLs) are the activities you do on a regular basis that can help to burn calories, maintain strength and agility and keep active. Examples of these include washing the car, gardening, raking leaves, washing dishes, vacuuming, etc. These activities do not necessarily count as exercise. Be sure to note the distinction in these ADLs as compared to structured exercises. You need both types of movement in order to maintain an optimal level of physical activity.

Structured exercise includes activities specifically geared toward a purpose, usually to improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility or balance and agility. There are specific definitions as to what constitutes exercise. Some activities may fit into both categories (exercise and ADLs) based on the intensity and duration. One example of an activity fitting both categories would be walking while mowing the lawn.

How Do I Get Started?

Before starting an exercise program, it is important to talk with your doctor to determine any limitations you may have with regard to exercise. Certain limitations may be placed on individuals who suffer from chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and certain pulmonary conditions.

Building an exercise routine takes time. Slowly incorporate exercise into your weekly routine, starting with a reasonable amount you can build on. Eventually, you should be able to incorporate some type of physical activity into every day.

Determine what activities you enjoy. Exercise should not be looked at primarily as a chore. Changing your routine and trying new things can help prevent boredom.

You should plan for consistency. Exercise benefits are best seen if the routine is maintained with minimal disruption.

Components of an Exercise Program

There are four main components of a well-rounded exercise program. These are:

  • Cardiovascular Exercises (or Aerobic Exercises): these exercises improve heart and lung function. Some examples of cardiovascular exercises are walking, swimming, running or biking.
  • Strengthening Exercises: these exercises help maintain strong bones and increase metabolism. They’re a great way to maintain a higher level of functionality as you age.
  • Flexibility Exercises: these exercises assist in keeping you pain-free while moving. Activities like stretching help cool the muscles down after a difficult exercise.
  • Balance and Agility Exercises: balance exercises help keep up athletic performance. These exercises are good for general fitness and to help older individuals maintain alertness around the house.