Exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your health – especially after you have been hunched, sedentary over your books during exams.
Regular exercise has been shown to significantly improve your health:
- Its greatest benefits include helping you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, maintain muscle mass and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
- Additionally, research has shown that exercise can lift your mood, boost your mental health, help you sleep better and even enhance your sex life.
- And that's not all — it can also help you maintain good energy levels.
In short, exercise is powerful and can change your life.
Common Types of Exercise
There are various types of exercise, including:
- Aerobic: Usually the core of any fitness program, it includes periods of continuous movement. Examples include swimming, running and dancing.
- Strength: Helps increase muscle power and strength. Examples include resistance training, plyometrics, weight lifting and sprinting.
- Calisthenics: Basic body movements done without gym equipment and at a medium aerobic pace. Examples include lunges, sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups.
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT): Includes repetitions of short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by low-intensity exercises or rest periods.
- Boot camps: Timed-based, high-intensity circuits that combine aerobic and resistance exercises.
- Balance or stability: Strengthens muscles and improves body coordination. Examples include Pilates, tai chi poses and core-strengthening exercises.
- Flexibility: Aides muscle recovery, maintains range of motion and prevents injuries. Examples include yoga or individual muscle-stretch movements.
The activities above can be done individually or combined. The important thing is to do what suits you best and to have fun with it.
How to Get Started
It's important to consider a few things before you start an exercise routine.
- Check Your Health
It's important to consult your doctor and get a physical medical examination before starting an exercise routine. (This is particularly important for those who are not used to strenuous physical activities.)
An early check-up can detect any health problems or conditions that could put you at risk of an injury during exercise.
It can also help you optimise your workout, making it easier for you and your personal trainer to understand your limitations and create an exercise plan tailored to your needs.
- Make a Plan and Set Realistic Goals
Once you decide to start exercising regularly, try to create a plan that includes attainable steps and goals.
One way to do this is to start with a plan of easy steps to follow. Then you can continue building on it as your fitness level improves.
For example, if your goal is to finish a five-kilometre run, you can start by building a plan that includes shorter runs.
Once you can finish those short runs, increase the distance until you can run the whole five kilometres continuously.
Starting with small goals will not only increase your chances of success, it will also keep you motivated every step of the way.
- Make It a Habit
Another key component of exercise success is to stick to your routine.
It seems to be easier for people to maintain an exercise routine in the long term if they make it a habit and do it regularly.
A review of studies concluded that replacing an unhealthy behaviour with a new healthy habit is a great approach to maintaining it in the long term.
Furthermore, making a schedule or exercising at the same time every day are good ways to sustain your routine and make it last.
How Much Exercise Should You Do?
The American College of Sports Medicine's recommendation for exercise is at least 150 minutes per week. These 150 minutes can be configured any way you want. For example, you can do a 30-minute workout five times a week, a 35 to 40-minute workout every other day, or even packing this minimum requirement into one or two training sessions per week. However, it is important to start slowly and let your body rest from time to time.
Not letting your body recover from the stress of exercise increases the risk of injuries, such as muscle strains and stress fractures, and can result in overtraining syndrome (OTS).
Exercising too much can also weaken your immune system and increase your risk of infection, hormonal imbalances, depressed mood, and chronic fatigue.
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“Dux /dʌks/ noun
The top pupil in a school or class.”
This article is adapted from one published online in March 2017.