The benefits of a workout are well and clear. Everybody knows that exercise is necessary to stay fit and healthy for all ages. But probably many are still pondering how do I start? What kind of exercise can I do? Can I start walking or jogging an hour a day? How long should I exercise and how many times a week?
Working out to maintain health, to lose weight or to compete in a marathon, whatever your purpose is, there are three components that are necessary for it to be beneficial. These three components are intensity, duration and frequency. Our body will adjust to the strain placed upon it. This eventually leads to fitness. It is only when an exercise is of adequate intensity, duration and frequency, the body will get the message to change its physiology so that it could accommodate and sustain a higher level of activity for a longer duration of time.
A regular exercise will cause the heart muscle to grow thicker so that it can pump more blood to the other muscles and organs. The lungs will expand more efficiently to get more oxygen into the blood which then gets pumped to the other parts of the body. The body will then be considered physically fit when this level has been attained.
Before starting an exercise program, it is best to consult a doctor and get the appropriate advice. This is especially important if you are above 40 and have risk factors for a heart attack.
A good start would be doing light intensity exercises and gradually build the intensity up to an acceptable level as you go along over a period of 10 to 12 weeks.
The idea is don’t rush. It is always prudent to start slow.
We can make little efforts to increase our physical activity every day. Instead of using the lift, use the stairs to go up. Park the car further away and walk to your office. Instead of using the phone, walk around the office to talk to your colleagues. There are numerous other ways that can help burn more calories in our daily activities. Remember any form of exercise is always beneficial. And small things do add up.
One of the easiest and most economical exercise to start with is brisk walk or a light jog. Do this on a regular basis. As you get fitter, you may find yourself exercising at a higher intensity and longer duration for the same amount of effort. You may find yourself comfortable doing the exercises regularly after some time.
Another important consideration is to mix your exercises. Apart from the aerobic component, sessions to increase muscle strength and endurance need to be included in the workout regime. Calisthenics is one of the easiest forms of exercise for this purpose. This technique uses the weight of one’s own body for the required resistance. Examples are push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, pull-ups and etc.
If you have access to facilities in your home or a gym, you can do some light weightlifting. Similarly, build the intensity over a period of time.
There are a few more considerations when doing your exercises:
• Always warm up before exercise and cool down following the completion of your exercise.
• Ensure you are adequately hydrated. Drink one or two glasses of water before you start and three to five glasses within two hours after an exercise, but these are not absolute.
• Wear proper clothes.
• Wear proper, well cushioned footwear to prevent long-term injury to your ankles, knees and back.
• Ensure your safety at all times. When doing outdoor exercises, if possible exercise in small groups and in visible and well-lighted places.
Another important thing is to get adequate rest in between the exercise sessions as this is necessary for recuperation and the adaptation of your body to the exercise. But don’t rest for too long as the body will adapt again to the sedentary pace. Exercise sessions should not be more than four days apart, and fitness levels generally start to fall significantly within 10-14 days of cessation of exercise.