The benefits of a modest exercise program include:
- Weight loss
- Lower blood pressure
- Stronger bones and decreased risk of osteoporosis
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Elevated levels of "good" HDL cholesterol
- Decreased levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol
- Decreased levels of triglycerides----the other fat in the blood
- Increased strength and coordination, which leads to decrease risk of falls
- Improved sensitivity to insulin
- Enhanced immune system
- Overall increase in the sense of well-being
(The Surgeon General of the United States issued a statement in the early 1980’s listing all these major health benefits that result from having a modest exercise program.)
Everyone is aware that moderate, consistent exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle. But how many Americans put this good knowledge to use?
The best type and duration of exercise is always a continual debate among exercise gurus. However, as a physician, I have a different attitude about how one should approach developing an exercise program.
- It is more important to exercise consistently than to worry about how to exercise. Any exercise program is better than none.
- Choose an exercise program in which you can remain consistent. You need to enjoy as much as possible the exercise program so you will stay with it.
- Schedule workouts instead of trying to work an exercise program into your existing schedule. I can testify that this does not work—my schedule always wins out.
- It is very important that you not hurt yourself when starting an exercise program. Don’t overdue it, most of us have not been in good shape for years, if ever.
- Start slowly and gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts. It is not a race. Your strength and endurance will increase.
- If my patients have any joint or musculoskeletal problems, I have them see a physical therapist who can guide their exercise program and help protect them from injury.
- If you have any risk of coronary artery disease or are over 40, you need to see your physician and obtain an exercise stress test by a cardiologist before beginning any exercise program.
There are health benefits to a simple walking program. If my patients want to swim, ride a bike, play racquetball, basketball, or even walk while golfing, it does not matter to me. I have found, however, that a combination of aerobics with strength training is the ideal workout program.
Benefits of Strength/Resistance Training
The benefits of aerobic exercise have been well publicized over the last several decades. But many people still react negatively to strength or resistance training, thinking only of bodybuilding or training just for athletes. What is not widely known is the positive fitness and health benefits of strength or resistance training for ordinary adults of all ages.
In a well-designed program, resistance training can provide increased stress to the long bones of the upper extremities, the spine, pelvis and ribs. This can produce positive results for those who may have, or who are prone to osteoporosis. Generally an aerobics program will only stress the lower extremities.
When losing weight many are not concerned whether they lose muscle mass along with the fat mass; they just want to "lose weight." Resistance training can prevent the loss of muscle mass while aiding in your fat loss effort. Since muscle is the furnace that burns the fuel (glucose), the more muscle mass that you have, the easier it is to maintain your optimal body weight (mass).
Exercise, including strength training, helps to make the body more sensitive to its natural insulin not only during, but following exercise sessions. This is a great benefit to those who have diabetes mellitus or for those who want to avoid becoming diabetic.
It was once believed that the loss of muscle mass, especially in the upper body, was a normal part of the aging process. This is far from the truth. Strength training not only helps prevent the loss of muscle mass associated with aging but can actually increase muscle mass in those even in their 80’s and 90’s. It is a known fact, that we begin losing muscle mass after age 35 unless we are involved in strength training.
Studies also indicate that healthy, elderly individuals who are stronger are less likely to have frequent falls. An appropriately designed resistance program can also help maintain flexibility and balance. The benefits of an exercise program may be enhanced by adding stretching exercises. A well-designed work out can also have significant cardiovascular benefits. Resistance training plays a vital role in preventing heart attacks by conditioning the cardiovascular system to cope more efficiently with sudden changes in blood pressure and heart rate.
Needless to say, it is important to get a balance of aerobics, resistance training and stretching into your exercise program. I recommend modest aerobics at least two to three times a week and strength training two to three times a week. Giving your body a chance to rest is also an essential aspect to health. Our bodies actually become stronger during rest. When you’re tearing down muscle and building up your aerobic capacity, your body needs some time off to rest. You should try to have at least one or two days off each week.