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Working out is often difficult to fit into a hectic lifestyle but it can have a huge impact on everything from how you feel to how you sleep and how long you might live. The power of exercise really can’t be underestimated. Our bodies didn’t evolve to sit at desks looking at screens, they evolved to run after mammoths!
New scientific studies are always coming out detailing new benefits of exercise but the factor you will probably consider most important is how you will feel. Different exercises have different effects and we can’t all like everything. Finding out what you enjoy doing will be the first reason to start exercising regularly.
Whether you prefer to workout outside and top up your Vitamin D at the same time, or you would rather go to one of the quality fitness centers in your area, making exercise a regular part of your week will certainly benefit your wellbeing in every sense.
But if you haven’t been persuaded yet, here are a few more reasons that should make you sit up and take notice!
Why You Should Workout Regularly
While the occasional long walk will certainly have a beneficial effect, working out regularly is the best way to get the most from your efforts. Building up your stamina and strength takes time and commitment – it doesn’t happen on its own!
What physical health means to you will be slightly different to what it means to others. However, in a very general sense, physical health is usually about having good strength and stamina. Your weight is also an important factor but this doesn’t mean being skinny.
A healthy weight can be quite difficult to calculate because muscle mass is obviously heavier than fat. The BMI scale should, therefore, be taken with a pinch of salt as a bodybuilder would likely rank as obese! However, if you don’t work out regularly (yet), the BMI scale can be useful for seeing what sort of weight you should be aiming for.
Please remember that being underweight is just as dangerous as being overweight. Your goal should never be to lose weight just to be skinny, it should always be to help build a more athletic, healthy body and to improve your lifestyle. If you are underweight now, you should consult with a doctor to ensure that any exercise you do will not compromise your health and to discuss ways to gain weight in a healthy way.
Physical health is also about creating a body that functions as well as it can. This means having a healthy heart and strong bones as well as giving yourself the best chance of warding off potentially devastating diseases like cancer and diabetes. Though you can never guarantee a long life, having good physical health is the best possible way to put the odds in your favour.
Everything in our bodies is interconnected but we tend to think of ourselves as being made up of two parts: mind and body. While this theory has served us relatively well over the years, recent research is showing that the way we think and what we do are closely affected by one another. In other words, we aren’t made up of mind and body at all – we’re just one complex being!
The good news here is that your bodily health can help your mental strength and stability over the years. Those who exercise regularly tend to show fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as helping to reduce the symptoms of dementia. In fact, it is becoming clear that exercise is essential for your mental health and wellbeing.
Even if you aren’t feeling up to doing a crazy workout session, calmer exercises like yoga or tai chi can have a similar effect on your brain. The whole point is that you are increasing the blood flow to your hippocampus (which is where you process memory and emotion) and giving yourself a nice boost of serotonin too.
You can workout on your own if you feel like it but working in a sports team is a good way to make new friends and ensure that you get some social time too. In fact, in the UK, doctors will soon be prescribing activities like walking clubs to help combat loneliness which is a growing problem. This is how important exercise is.
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Which Exercises Could be Right for You?
Choosing the right exercise for you is crucial if you want to integrate this activity into your regular week. It makes no sense to schedule yourself in for a bi-weekly run if you hate running or to join a sports team where you clearly don’t fit in.
Finding the right sport might require a little trial and error but do give yourself time to decide. Ask your friends what sort of activities they get up to and see if you can go along. A personal trainer might also be able to help you out by giving you practical demonstrations of different bits of kit in the gym.
The Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is good for everyone and you don’t have to be very flexible to start out with – that will come with practise! The main aim of yoga is to create the different positions to stretch and strengthen your muscles. Don’t worry too much about living the yoga lifestyle just yet, just give yourself some time to get used to the basic positions like cobra, tree and childs pose for now.
Yoga is really good for increasing your flexibility. For older people, this is essential as the more flexible you are and the stronger your bones are, the less likely it is that you will fall with serious consequences. As you get better at yoga, you will find that you can stretch and perfect the positions more easily, giving you a good sense of progress.
Your mental health also forms a significant part of yoga as you are encouraged to be mindful throughout the practise. Learning to control your breathing is important for learning to clear your mind, giving yourself a chance to press pause on the whirlwind of thought going on up there. Yoga is ideal for carving out a specific time to destress in a hectic week and it is gentle enough to do a little every day.
Learning to Run
We may not need to run after mammoths anymore (assuming we ever did need to do that!) but running still has a great impact on our lives. Running has been shown to make us happier, help to strengthen joints and bones and could even add years to your life expectancy.
As a kid, you probably ran around all the time but as we grow up, we grow out of our impatience to get places and many adults simply don’t have the stamina to run anymore. The good news is that you can learn to run at any time, just don’t expect to be running a marathon within a couple of weeks!
Learning to run might sound silly but essentially, all you are doing is gradually increasing your stamina through practise. The world’s simplest learn to run programme is a really good place to start as this programme doesn’t force you to do particular intervals or expect a certain level of progress. You will struggle at times and there will be days where you just don’t want to hit the treadmill/ sidewalk but stick with it. The best kept secret about running is that it quickly becomes addictive.
Power-up with Weights
If running and other aerobic activities just aren’t for you, then weights are where you will get the most bang for your buck. Your heart rate will still increase and you will still feel all the benefits, plus as your muscles grow, they will burn through your excess fat faster than ever.
There are a range of different weights and programme types you might like to go for so asking a personal trainer at your local gym for some guidance is a good way to start out. Of course, once you have your routine nailed, there is no reason that you couldn’t get some weights to use at home or in the garden.
The key thing with weight training is that you don’t have to grow to the size of a 4×4 for it to be effective. In fact, bodybuilding is an entirely different thing. Toning and strengthening your muscles is just as worthwhile and you will certainly feel the difference within a few weeks of starting. Many more women are getting into using weights now too, so don’t feel intimidated if your gym is full of beefy dudes.
However you choose to get back into fitness, you should always keep in mind the difference that even a small amount of activity can make. Exercising could literally be the thing that saves your life, whether by helping you drop the weight putting pressure on your heart or by elongating your life.
This is your chance to take control of your future. Let’s make it a bright one.
*This is a contributed post.