Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Basic Characteristics of Exercise
By:  Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)

Regular exercise has long been identified as an essential element of good health.  Below is a brief summary regarding some of the basic characteristics of a balanced exercise program.

Aerobic or endurance exercise improves the body’s capacity to deliver oxygen to working muscles and organs.  Swimming, cycling, jogging, and power walking are a few examples.  It is recommended that an individual engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of endurance exercise at least three times per week.  Aerobic and endurance exercise benefits the cardiovascular system.  It is also a great way to help lose weight and control blood sugar levels.

Resistance or strengthening exercise enhances a muscle’s ability to contract and do work.  Strengthening exercises can vary from using fitness machines, simple dumbbells at home, rubber bands, or your own body weight.  Improving or maintaining strength is important for preserving and building bone density.  This can assist in preventing osteoporosis and the risk of fracture from falls.  Strengthening exercises can also boost metabolism and help keep a healthy body weight.

Flexibility exercises help maintain a joint’s complete movement or range of motion.  Stretching is the most familiar form of this type of exercise but it can also include activities such as Tai Chi, Pilates, and Yoga.  Holding a sustained stretch for 15 to 30 seconds can provide modest flexibility gains.  This type of exercise becomes especially important when preparing the body for any physical activity to help minimize the risk of injury.  Individuals with arthritic conditions can find this type of exercise extremely beneficial in helping them cope with stiff and painful joints.

The exercise components of intensity, duration, and frequency will influence how one progresses through an exercise program.  For example, someone performing the endurance portion of their exercise program of walking will find that after a short while they are able to walk quicker (intensity), longer (duration), and 5 days a week instead of 3 (frequency).  This same person also finds that they are progressing in their resistance program because they can now lift a heavier dumbbell (intensity), 8 times instead of 5 (duration), and 4 times a week instead of 2 (frequency).  A simple explanation for all of this is that your body is learning through exercise how to adapt to these positive stresses being placed upon it.  In order to keep progressing, the body must have a new stimulus placed on it every once in a while.  Of course there are limits to this, and sometimes switching the nature of the exercise you perform can be an adequate change in stimulus, resulting in continued health benefits from exercise.

A lifetime of regular aerobic, resistance, and flexibility exercise is ideal, but it is never too late to start!  If you are over 35, have been sedentary for some time, or have a specific health condition or limitation, consult with a knowledgeable personal trainer or health care provider before beginning any new exercise program.

This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.