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Exercise: The Fountain of Youth and Health?
Due to the immense number of physical and psychological benefits that are derived from regular, sensible exercise programs exercise can almost be considered a magic elixir of youth and health. We all know from experience, and the mass media that surrounds us, that regular exercise improves health, appearance, mood and quality of life. However, the selection of an exercise program depends purely on the goals of the individual.
In a world where most of us lead sedentary lives, tied to desks and computers during the workday and watching television in the evening it can take a major effort of the will to choose to add an exercise regimen to our lives.
But, the good news is that everyday exercise can come from activities as common and mundane as housework and yard work, walking a dog, climbing stairs, swimming, dancing, bicycling or playing regularly on a sports team. Sometimes all it takes is a few simple lifestyle changes; using stairs rather than taking the elevator, taking a walk to the dog park rather than watching television, walking or bicycling to nearby destinations rather than driving a car, planting and maintaining a flower or vegetable garden or finding a friend to go out dancing with. There are also a plethora of exercise tapes and videos available on the market that can target specific body areas or other appearance or fitness goals and make exercise more varied and fun. For those who are older, or dealing with physical challenges, there are also exercise routines that can be done without leaving a chair.
Exercise programs are planned and performed for varying purposes that run from losing or maintaining body weight to strengthening muscles, improving cardiovascular health, improving athletic skills and improving appearance. Regular exercise programs are well known to improve physical health and well being, improve self-esteem, fight depression and reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
There are three basic types of physical exercise; Flexibility exercises focus on stretching to maintain and improve range of motion of both muscles and joints. Aerobic, aimed at improving cardiovascular health that include exercises that are aimed at elevating heart rate and respiration and Anaerobic, exercises aimed at increasing muscular strength through weight lifting, bench pressing, sprinting (as opposed to distance running), etc.
These styles of exercises, especially when used for the improvement of athletic skills, are then further subdivided into the categories of strength training, agility training, eccentric training, resistance training, interval training and continuous training. These types of training are used, singly or in combination, to improve physical skills such as cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. These types of exercise plans and combinations that have goals beyond basic health and fitness are best planned with the guidance of a coach or fitness trainer.
There are also a huge number of commercial exercise machines and programs available on the market; weight training machines, ski trainers, rowing machines, treadmills, ellipticals, step machines, stationary bicycles, etc. and each of these are aimed at one specific task. Most are available for purchase for home use, but are also available at gyms. Home machines are very convenient, but tend to be expensive and take up space. In addition, unless your fitness goals are very specific, they are limited in their uses. Also, the main problem that people have with home machines is coming up with the motivation to use them regularly. Joining a local gym, especially with a friend or two, has the benefit of having access to multiple machines, as well as being around other people and motivate each other.
Aside from the obvious physical effects of regular exercise there are many additional but not so readily obvious health effects. Regular exercise not only helps to maintain a healthy body weight as well as muscular and joint flexibility, it also contributes to maintaining healthy bone density, reducing surgical risks, and strengthening the immune system. One major, and recently noted, benefit of exercise is the reduction of cortisol production, a stress-related hormone that contributes to the production of body, especially belly, fat as well as many other physical and mental health problems. Even more seriously, regular exercise can help, or even prevent some of the most common “affluency diseases” (or conditions) that plague the modern world; high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, insomnia and depression.
There is practically no end to the benefits to be derived from regular, sensible exercise programs. The types of exercises and the amount needed for the individual, depend on many factors; age, goals, basic health, current fitness level and even gender. For example, weight training works well for men because it complements testosterone production. On the other hand, aerobics programs were designed primarily for use by women to work well with female anatomy. All of these factors will ultimately affect the results of the use of exercise but no matter where a person starts, they improve their fitness and can increase or add to their routines. The bottom line is that everyone, no matter what your circumstances, can benefit from some type of regular exercise program.