By Nolan J Fisher
The news is filled with scientific studies about the benefits of exercise. Television channels advertise exercise equipment, diet pills, celebrity diets and fitness regimes aimed at losing fat and gaining muscle in 10 weeks or less. With all of this blatant propaganda, it can be hard to see the simplest and most heart felt benefits of regular exercise. Exercise provides higher levels of health for the body. It improves the body's function and ability to fight new disease and the progression of disease. Simply put, exercise is an essential part of our daily lives and has nothing to do with propaganda.
To better understand the benefits of exercise, one must first examine the true definition of exercise. Defining exercise is dependent upon the level of current fitness the body has achieved. For a sedentary individual, exercise may mean walking to and from the grocery store instead of parking right next to the front door. It can be taking those extra steps to pick up the mail on foot, or walking to the bus stop to retrieve the kids after school. On the other hand, for the more physically fit person, more activity is needed to grasp the real and noticeable benefits from exercise on a regular basis.
At the heart of an exercise program is the heart. The heart needs to be worked consistently in order for an activity to be termed as exercise and thus for that activity to change the way the body looks, acts and feels. In general, exercise needs to raise the heart rate to a level that is literally an exercise for the heart. Knowing the level of heart rate one should aim for is the first aspect of reaching the core potential for the body.
Knowing Your Target Heart Rate
Your target heart rate is the rate that the heart should be raised to during exercise and the level it should remain at during the exercise program in order for the activity to truly be termed exercise. The target heart rate for an individual is computed with the help of the age and current physical fitness level. Computing the target heart rate means first computing the maximum heart rate and the resting heart rate. These two figures come into play heavily when computing the target heart rate for physical activity.
The maximum heart rate can be figured by taking the number 220 and subtracting your age from that number. While this is the most common method for figuring the maximum heart rate, the only true measurement is the one taken after rigorous exercise. In order to find this clinical version of your maximum heart rate, your doctor or the physical trainers at a local gym can help guide you through the process of maximizing your heart rate and then measuring the results.
The resting heart rate is the heart rate you exhibit upon waking in the morning. As soon as you awaken, place your fingers on the neck just below the left curved jaw line. Press in with the fingers and count the number of beats you feel within a minute's time. This is your resting heart rate.
Once you have noted your maximum heart rate and your resting heart rate you will be able to figure out your target heart rate for physical fitness. The target heart rates are figured on a sliding scale based upon intensity. The intensity levels used range from 50% to 85%, with 50% being the minimum target heart rate for physical fitness and the 85% being the maximum target heart rate for physical fitness. The method for calculating the target heart rate is as follows:
* ((Maximum Heart Rate - Resting Heart Rate) X Intensity %) + Resting Heart Rate
To further understand the calculation of the target heart rate an example could be:
* A 30 year old woman who has a maximum heart rate of 190 beats per minutes (220-30) and a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute. This woman would have a minimum target heart rate for physical fitness of 125 beats per minute (190-60 = 130 X 50% = 65 + 60 = 125) and a maximum target heart rate for physical fitness of 170.5 beats per minute (190-60 = 130 X 85% = 110.5 + 60 = 170.5). Thus the target heart range for this woman would be 125 to 170.5 beats per minute.
Working the Target Heart Rate Levels
In the beginning of a physical fitness program, the individual will need to aim for the lower end of the target heart rate range. This is not only good for the body, but for the heart, as well. When beginning a physical fitness program aimed at reaping the benefits of exercise, a doctor or a physician should be consulted in order to make sure your body is ready for higher levels of physical fitness. This is especially important for people who have been living a sedentary lifestyle, or who are currently being treated for any physical illness, disease or limitation.
From the beginning days of your new physical fitness program, the aim of that activity will be to achieve the lower end of the target heart rate range and keep the heart rate within that range for the duration of the exercise. But, this does not mean 5 or 10 minutes. In order to achieve the benefits of exercise, a longer commitment is needed.
Optimizing Your Workout Goals
The most promising effects of physical fitness and exercise can be achieved through 30-45 minutes of sustained heart rate increase, 3-5 days a week. At first, this amount of commitment may seem overwhelming, but no one will ask a first timer to reach these levels within a few days of starting an exercise program. Starting out slowly by working out for 10 minutes, three times a day can be a goal more easily conquered. Over time, as the physical fitness levels increase, the time of each workout will increase, as well. Knowing how long to exercise and how high your heart rate should stay is only the first step in achieving the optimal benefits of exercise. Knowing which exercises to do is the next.
The Best Actions to Ensure the Benefits of Exercise
Your entire body needs to be a part of the physical fitness regime you are about to undertake. While the majority of first time exercisers choose aerobic exercise in the form of walking, jogging, treadmill work or elliptical work or their daily heart rate rise, this can be worth less benefit to the body over time.
Take the case, for instance, of the retail manager. He may walk 35,000 steps a day while on the job, but that does not constitute exercise. The body eventually gets used to this form of movement and predicts that it is an every day occurrence. The heart rate does not rise and the benefits of exercise are lost. The same goes for daily exercise regimes. The activities you choose need to shock the body and keep those muscles guessing from day to day.
The best exercises to choose for the beginner would follow a weekly plan that works the entire body within the 5 days of exercise. An example week may include:
Monday - Briskly walking for 35 minutes.
Tuesday - Sit-ups, push-ups and general calisthenics
Wednesday - Dancing for 35 minutes to your favorite music.
Thursday - Rest
Friday - Jumping rope for 35 minutes.
Saturday - Sit-ups, push-ups and general calisthenics
Sunday - Rest
As you can see from this example week, the body muscles being used are different with each day of the program. The aerobic exercise days alternate with the anaerobic or muscle building days. This keeps the body guessing and helps to build muscle which can burn more resting calories over time. This is simply an example program. Depending on the exercise equipment you currently own or plan to buy, the actual activities could change dramatically.
Choosing Your Exercise Equipment
In order to create the best exercising environment at home, the home fitness equipment market offers just about every specific piece of gym equipment for home use. These additions to the home gym can be expensive and should be researched fully before choosing which pieces to buy. Some of the equipment available for home purchase includes:
• Elliptical Machines
• Weight Benches
• Smith Machines
• Exercise Bikes
• Recumbent Exercise Bikes
When choosing one of these exercise machines, it is important to find out all you can about the machine, how it works and the overall helpfulness to those who have used the machine at home. The exercise bike, for example, offers the home gym user the chance to ride a bike without going out of the home. This can be beneficial during the colder months of the year and for those beginning exercise regimes in the obese stages of weight loss. In order to choose the best exercise bike, exercise bike reviews and recumbent exercise bike reviews can be found all over the Internet. These exercise bike reviews are written by people who have already purchased the exercise bike or have used the bike on varying occasions. The reviews will help you to choose from the hundreds of models of exercise bikes available for home purchase.
So, you have put in the research, the time and the money and now you want to know the benefits of exercise. Exercise is not only great for the body, but the mind as well. A regular exercise program can help ease the effects of stress, strengthen the heart, body and immune system, as well as the self image of the person exercising.
Reaping the Benefits of Exercise
The measurable benefits of exercise will be different for each generational age. From birth to the senior years of life, exercise provides the body with positive health effects and a sense of betterment, calmness and well being. No matter the reason for beginning a physical fitness program, the results will ultimately be the same, a better you.
Exercise and Babies
From the day a baby is born, exercise can be a part of every day life. Parental massages and fluid leg and arm movements can help to keep baby calm and stress free. Some parents even notice that over time the baby becomes used to these small bits of baby exercise and uses them to fall asleep at night and recover after a hearty baby cry.
Exercise and Kids
Once kids reach the rolling stage, there will be no stopping the exercise. The levels of energy a child exhibits each and every day not only need to be used to play and run rampant, but in a focused manner. When a parent engages in exercise fun with kids, they learn that exercise activities can be a healthy part of everyday life. This is especially important in the process of making exercise a normal part of every day life in later years.
Exercise and Teens
As kids grow from being kids and into being teens, they may find themselves less likely to exercise on a daily basis. This, unfortunately, is a great precursor for the activity level the child will have later in life. Making exercise a part of family fun and family outdoor activities, again teaches that exercise does not have to be a job it can be a part of life every day. The more exercise is ingrained in everyday activities; the more apt the teen is to continue exercising later in life.
Exercise and the Adult
As teens move into adulthood, the metabolism of the body begins to slow. This slowing can cause adult weight gain which can then lead to more serious conditions such as Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes and cardiovascular problems, among others. In order to prevent these disease and conditions, daily exercise is needed to keep the body moving and refreshing on a daily basis.
Some of the many benefits of exercise include:
• An increase in circulation.
• An increase in metabolism or calorie burning.
• A decrease in depression, stress and anxiety.
• A better sense of well being and self esteem.
• A decreased chance of depression, heart disease, diabetes and other weight related disorders.
Adults who exercise 3 to 5 days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes are just plain healthier than those who do not exercise. One study recently compared sets of twins and measured their cellular age. One of the twins was active and exercised on a regular basis; the other twin did not exercise and lived a more sedentary lifestyle. The twin who exercised exhibited a cellular age 10 years younger than the twin. Exercise keeps you healthy and young.
Exercise and Seniors
Just because age has gotten the best of your bones, joints and mind, does not have to mean you should stop exercising. With age comes health issues that may impede normal levels of activity, but low impact, low heart effecting workouts are still very important well into the latest years of life. These exercises can include:
• Tai Chi
While this list is certainly not all inclusive, seniors can choose from any of these exercises and find a level that suits their physical fitness levels.
Exercise Has a Beginning and an End
It is important to note that the human body needs to be warmed up and cooled down when exercising. Warm ups need to last 10 to 15 minutes before the beginning of an exercise routine and cool downs need to last 5 to 10 minutes after the completion of the exercise routine. The warm up helps to prevent tears to the muscles that can occur if the muscles are cold and thus shorter than when warm. The cool down will help to distribute the lactic acid throughout the muscle. Lactic acid is a byproduct of exercise and is the main reason for pain and soreness in muscles the day after exercising.
Warm ups and cool downs can involve stretching, walking slower than exercising pace and heavy breathing exercises. Any activity that warms up the muscles can be involved in a warm up activity. The activity will need to warm up the same muscles that will be used during the exercise routine. Cooling down after an exercise routine should focus on the muscles that were just worked out in the exercise routine.
The benefits of exercise are rooted in a life of physical activity. The body needs to move, the heart needs to pump, and the muscles and mind need to be able to release some of that built up stress that living places upon us all. Through weekly exercise regimes, the human body can change, mold and prevent illness. No matter how you twist and turn it, the body is a machine that needs to stay well oiled and the perfect oil is exercise.
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