Exercise is important for your overall health, and it can also help you reach your specific fitness goals. It can lower your blood pressure, improve your cardiovascular fitness and help you lose weight, among other things.
Your body was designed to be active, so it’s hard for it to function well in a sedentary lifestyle. Regular exercise reduces your risk of many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
If you’re new to exercising, start slow and build up gradually. Break up your exercise time into smaller chunks, so you can fit it into your busy day – even if it’s only ten minutes at a time.
Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, spread throughout the week. Add muscle-strengthening activities (such as resistance training) on at least two days a week.
Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity can improve your cardiorespiratory fitness, which is how effectively your heart pumps oxygenated blood to your organs and muscles. This type of activity can increase your heart rate to about 50% to 70% of its maximum rate, depending on your age and health.
Strength-training exercises (such as lifting weights and using a resistance band) make your muscles stronger, which can protect them from injury. These can also help you keep your weight in check and avoid getting sick or developing other chronic diseases, such as diabetes or arthritis.
Balance-focused activities, such as tai chi or yoga, can help you stay upright while walking on uneven surfaces and may also prevent falls. These can be especially important if you’re older or if you have a history of falling.
It’s important to choose activities that you enjoy doing and that work all parts of your body. This will make the process more enjoyable and easier to stick to.
Try to find ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine – whether it’s by joining a sports club or taking part in organised classes. You could try going to the gym, swimming pool or just walking during your lunch breaks or at weekends.
If you have children, try to fit physical activity into their schedules as well. This might mean fitting a walk into your child’s school run or allowing them to join you in the park for a game of soccer, cricket or tennis.
When your kids do something active, they’ll be less likely to develop depression and will be better able to handle physical and emotional challenges at home or at school. Those benefits can be lifelong.
The American Heart Association recommends a total of 30 minutes or more per day of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. This includes brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming.
For additional benefits, the ACSM recommends adding 20 minutes of high-intensity, or anaerobic, activity three days a week. This can be a brisk walk, a short jog or an interval sprint.
It’s always best to see your doctor before starting an exercise program, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned athlete. You should also ask him or her about how much physical activity you need to maintain your health and fitness level.