You need to exercise every day. This does not mean that you have to join a gym. You can walk to work or park further from work and walk a few blocks each morning and evening. You can choose to walk up the stairs instead of using the elevator or escalator. Or you can run up the stairs. You can spend some time each morning stretching or doing simple yoga exercises. Try to plan daily walks each day. Take bike rides. People who exercise daily are less likely to get sick. A guide to the amount of exercise is to try to boost your heart rate for at least 30 minutes 5 times per week.
Adding more exercise into your life will reduce your stress. The more stress you are experiencing, the more you need to exercise. Exercise also improves your mood. Exercise that increases your heart rate also causes the release of endorphins into your system. Endorphins are the body's natural feel-good chemicals, an internal, natural opiate. The release of endorphins results in a calming, positive mood-enhancing effect. Pay attention. When you exercise, notice when you experience an increase in positive feelings and a sense of well-being. Exercise also results in reduced heart disease, healthier joints, increased flexibility, maintenance of your bone mass, and improved memory.
Other advantages of exercise include:
- Decrease in stress hormones - Cortisol is called the stress hormone because it is secreted at high levels when you experience stress. Cortisol provides a burst of energy, increases memory functions and immunity, and lessens sensitivity to pain, and helps the body stay in balance. However, if it remains in the body too long, for example, when you experience chronic ongoing stress, it causes damage.Excess cortisol can suppress thyroid funtion, cause blood sugar imbalance, decrease bone density and muscle tissue, raise blood pressure, and lower immunity. Exercise is effective in lowering levels of cortisol.
- Distraction - Exercise gets your mind off your troubles. It relieves you of the continuous mental pondering of problems and decisions and allows you a mental and emotional break. Exercise can silence the internal dialogue and bring you into the present, the here and now. Your mind can focus on your physical body and on the change of activities. Usually exercise also involves a different setting, whether the park, a gym, a bike trail - if you practice mindfulness, you will increase the benefit of the exercise.
- Self-esteem boost - Regular exercise results in positive increases in your self-esteem. Your sense of competence will increase as you choose to take care of your body and your emotions through exercise. You may also experience increases in self-esteem related to your weight and appearance.
- Social support - Many types of exercise involve other people. You may participate in sports, go to the gym, walk with a friend or partner, go to a yoga class, and get to know other people. Some of these may become good friends and become positive supports in your life.
If you are planning to incorporate exercise in your life and have not been exercising recently, gradually increase the amount of time and allow your body to adjust. If you have health problems, be sure to check with your physician. If you are over 50 years old, you also need to check with your physician before adding a new, vigorous type of exercise into your lifestyle.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports other benefits of regular exercise.
- Lowers anxiety and depression and improves mood and feelings of well-being.
- Increases energy.
- Tones your muscles and maintains bone, muscle, and joint health.
- Burns calories so you lose excess pounds and maintain optimal weight.
- Helps control your appetite.
- Relieves stress.
- Improves self-image.
- Increases resistance to fatigue.
- Helps you relax, feel less tense, and sleep better.
- A positive social event that can be shared with family and friends.
- Increases work productivity.
- Builds stamina.
- Improves efficiency of heart and lungs.
- Reduces risk of coronary disease, cancer, and diabetes.
- Improves bone density after menopause.
- Reduces blood pressure in women with hypertension.
A comprehensive exercise plan includes three types of exercises:
- Aerobic exercise - Increases your heart rate, breathing rate, and works your muscles. Aiming for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of aerobic exercise is a healthy goal for most people. However, start at a reduced time of 5-10 minutes a day and then gradually increase. You could also exercise at two different times during the day. If your goal is to lose weight, you will want to increase your exercise time. Examples of aerobic exercise include dancing, swimming, tennis, bike-riding, running.
- Strength training - Helps build strong bones and increases muscle strength and tone. With more muscle mass, you will burn more calories. Strength training usually involves weights.
- Flexibility exercises - Stretching exercises help keep your joints flexible. Prior to aerobic exercising, do stretching exercises to prepare your body. Stretching in the mornings helps you wake up your mind and body.
Other sites with helpful information:
WebMD: Health and Fitness