Why and how is exercise important?
“Use it or lose it.” Have you heard this expression before? It is so true! You need to use your body or else you will lose it. Using your body means exercising, and if you don’t, then your body becomes weak and flabby. Body organs like lungs and heart will be unable to function effectively, and your joints will become so stiff they would get injured easily. Inactivity risks your health like smoking does!
1. Controls Weight
Exercise is one of the keys to controlling your weight as it burns calories. It not only helps in losing weight, but it also helps in maintaining the weight loss. You lose weight when you burn more calories than the amount you have taken in. Calories could be burnt by working out daily at home or at the gym. If you find it difficult to take the time for exercise, then try doing things like household chores or taking stairs instead of an elevator.
2. Helps Prevent Diseases
Did you know our bodies crave for exercise? They were meant to move. Exercising regularly is important for good health and physical fitness. It reduces the risk of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other diseases. Exercise can delay the process of aging and can make you look young and healthy.
3. Enhances Flexibility
Stretching exercises are important as they improve your postures. Stretching makes your body limber i.e. twisting, bending, and moving become easier. If you improve your flexibility by exercising, there are fewer chances you’ll injure yourself. It also ameliorates your coordination and balance. Those people, who have tense, stiff areas, like the neck or upper back, they can loosen their muscles by performing stretching exercises, and this will make them feel relaxed.
4. Improves Stamina
When you are exercising, your body is utilizing the energy to keep you going. Aerobic exercise calls for rhythmic and continuous physical motion, like bicycling and walking. It helps in improving your stamina and trains your body in utilizing less energy when working out and makes it more efficient.
5. Strengthens and Tones
Exercising makes your bones and muscles strong. It tones your body and enhances your physical appearance. It makes you feel and look better.
6. Improves the Quality of Life
By exercising regularly, you begin to feel better and more confident. Exercising makes you sleep better and reduces stress. If you make a habit of exercising, the process of aging will be easier for you. You will feel in good health for a longer time.
How often should you exercise?
Exercising daily is a healthy habit, it keeps you fit. A “stop start” routine won’t benefit at all. Consistency is required once you begin to work out. On days when you don’t feel like exercising then do simple stretches or climb the stairs of your house, four to five times a day.
Our bodies release endorphins when we exercise regularly, and this helps in enhancing our moods. When you don’t exercise for days or weeks, you feel low, and there is a decrease in your energy level. When you regularly exercise it makes you feel revived; mentally and physically. With a consistent exercise routine, the muscles develop gradually and mentally you will feel less stressful and more relaxed.
Role of healthy eating
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” – Ann Wigmore
Indeed, our overall health and well-being are determined by the particular types of food we usually consume in our day to day lives. Our diet plays a huge part in allowing us to maintain a healthy immune system to help fight diseases and infection and also in providing us with the strength and energy needed for us to function at our optimum daily.
To maintain optimum nutrition, it is necessary to have a balanced diet – obtaining the right types and proportions of food to help supply the best nutritional value and energy vital for maintaining the cells, tissues, and organs of the body. This will support optimum growth, development, and function.
Maintaining a Well-Balanced Diet
Individuals have varying health needs, and it is advised to seek the advice of a certified health care professional, dietician, or nutritionist regarding what specific types of food will suit your needs most. A healthy and well-balanced diet is composed of the following major food groups:
a) Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies are very important components of our diet since they are among the best sources of the essential vitamins and minerals vital to the optimum functioning of the body. It is advised to consume at least five portions daily, with each portion coming from a different fruit and vegetable to ensure you obtain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Protein is another essential food group which plays a major role in the building, repair, and maintenance of body tissues. Protein may come either from vegetable or animal sources. Vegetable sources include whole grains, nuts, and beans while the best animal sources include fish and poultry.
Dairy is a very rich source of calcium, which is very vital not just in promoting and maintaining strong bones and teeth but also in helping regulate muscle contraction, including the beating of the heart. Basic dairy foods include milk, cheese, and yogurt. For individuals who are lactose intolerant, other calcium sources are dark green leafy vegetables, including spinach and broccoli, almonds, calcium-fortified soya milk, and certain types of fish.
Being the body’s main source of energy, carbohydrates should be a part of each meal in general. However, it is important to keep in mind there are good and bad carbohydrates out there. Bad carbs are those which lack nutrients needed by the body and include several processed foods such as pastries, candies, cookies, and sodas.
Good carbs, on the other hand, are nutrient-filled and provide lots of benefits to the body. These include whole grains, legumes, and fruits and vegetables. Whole grain products are considered to be the best type of carbohydrates since they are known to contain fiber which is beneficial in having a healthy digestive system. They also contain several vitamins and minerals, protein, and even a rich content of antioxidants which could help prevent certain diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Unlike the common notion that fats should be totally avoided, it is very important to keep in mind that fats are also an essential part of any healthy diet. They play an important role in transporting fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, all throughout the body. They also help provide your body with energy, provide insulation to regulate your body temperature, and supply the body with essential fatty acids which play an important role in blood clotting, inflammation management, and even brain development.
As such, fatsmust not be entirely eliminated from our diet. We just have to be able to choose the‘good’ fats from the‘bad’ ones. Some of the healthiest fat choices are: ›
*Monounsaturated Fats – These are fats which are beneficial for the heart and are considered to be good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E. Some sources of this kind of fat are olives, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, avocados, cashews, almonds, olive oils, peanut oils, and canola oils.
*Polyunsaturated Fats – These are fats which help lower the triglyceride levels and blood cholesterol levels of the body. They can be found in walnuts, flaxseed, and Omega-3 fatty acids in certain fatty fish, such as salmon.
Make a Fitness plan
Once you have decided to workout at home, you need to make a proper plan. This plan will include your daily diet and the number of minutes or hours you work out. Once you have a plan, you will feel even more motivated. Note down whatever you eat and the things you do over the day. After a week, assess what your calorie intake, etc. is. This will help you to check and spot where things go wrong.
5 Elements of Fitness
You can do all of the following at home:
- A warm-up.
- A cardiovascular/aerobic workout.
- Strength-building exercises.
- Flexibility moves.
- A cool down
The warm-up can be a simple walk on a treadmill or outside, or riding a bike at a slow pace. If you are doing a cardiovascular workout then, walk/ pedal faster, jump rope or do step aerobics by watching a video – anything you enjoy doing increases your heart rate.
The strength building exercises could be as simple like abdominal crunches, push-ups, and squats. If weight bars, tubing or bands or small dumbbells are available at home, you can work out with them. If these are not available, but you wish to do such a workout then take plastic bottles and fill them with water, they will work like small dumbbells.
You have decided to start exercising. Great! You have taken the first step towards a better and improved mind and body.
Exercise is known to be a magic pill. It can cure heart diseases, and prevent and help in recovering from cancer. It also helps people who have arthritis and prevents and reverses depression.
Any physical activity is an exercise as it allows your body to move and engages your mind. There is absolutely no need for a heavy gym workout. There are numerous exercise options you can do at home, such as:
- Doing household chores
Do what you enjoy the most!
If you are a beginner, then you should do 30 minutes of cardiovascular workout three times every week, and about 20-30 minutes of a strength workout, at least three times in a week. Your strength workouts should involve your upper and lower body, your back, and your abdominal muscles.
No matter what type of workout you are doing, be sure to start slow and then gradually you could increase the intensity and time of a workout. If you start with a high-intensity workout, it can cause cramps and other muscle problems to occur. Always listen to your body. Don’t exhaust yourself.
The important thing to remember is, when you are working on a muscle, you should feel it. When working on your abs, you should feel it in your abs and not in your neck.
Working out at home
Exercising at home has many advantages, sometimes followed by obstacles. Obstacles include distractions from the kids, the phone, the internet, the refrigerator, the dog, etc. To avoid these distractions, experts advise you to exercise early in the morning.
Easy and simple home workouts
Don’t forget to warm up before you start exercising and once you are done don’t forget to cool down.
The workouts given below are quick and simple and can be done at home. They can either be performed once a day, or you can even do them twice or thrice in a single day. They are more or less designed to fit a busy lifestyle. Something is better than nothing at all, so a little exercise is better than not doing it at all. These exercises will assist in muscle building, fat loss, and toning.
Some easy and effective exercises that can be performed at home are:
- Ab crunches
- Press ups
- Knee press ups
- Triceps’ dips
- Knee raises
- Leg raises
- Star jumps
Keep changing your workouts so you don’t get bored. Enjoy every exercise you do, the more you enjoy it, the more effective it will be for you. Concentrate on what you do!
• Abdominal crunch:
First of all, lie down on your back (keep the back flattened). Knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle and feet should be flat on the floor. Then place the hands behind your head. (Starting position, which is also used for abdominal crunch twist) Keep your head in line with the body and avoid pushing your head forward. Now you will have to slowly and steadily lift up the shoulders and head to perform this crunch. Instantly you will feel your abdominals are being worked out, and then slowly start lowering yourself. Do it in 4 steps and repeat it 20 times.
Abdominal crunch twist:
The twisting motion in these crunches will target your oblique and the muscles at the side of abdominal.
Get in the same position as you do for a normal crunch (mentioned above). Once you have taken the position, place your left fingers on the left side of your head (temple area), then slowly lift your shoulders and your head up and twist while pointing your left elbow to your right knee and then slowly lower down. On the same side repeat for at least 10 times and then switch sides.
• Bicycle crunch
Take the same position as you do for a normal crunch. Twist your body. Move your left elbow towards your right knee, extend and then straighten the other leg while keeping it a few inches off the ground. You will feel your oblique and abdominals being worked out as you do this exercise. If you don’t feel it, you are not doing it right. Repeat this with the other side as well.
• Knee press ups
Get down on your knees and palms. Your knees should be bent at about a 90 degrees angle. Support the weight of your lower body, your arms should be straight and thighs to be vertical. Lower your body slowly till your chest is almost touching the floor, then push your body back up again. For increasing the body weight resistance, lean forward on the arms. This is great for beginners as it requires less of your body weight.
• Triceps’ dips (arm exercise)
This exercise can also easily be performed at home, all you require is a bench, bed, or chair to do this exercise. Triceps dip/dip is an exercise which develops and works multiple muscles such as shoulders, triceps, and chest. If you are doing it with a bench;
Hands should be behind your body (shoulder width apart) and use your knuckles to hold onto the bench. Keep your face straight and look forward, your legs should be straight in front of you, together. Arms should be slightly bent with straight legs.
Now lower your body slowly and bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Your upper arms should be almost parallel to the ground. Control your body and slowly return to the start position.
• Leg raises and knee raises (abdominal exercise)
Knee and leg raises are effective for training your abdominals, especially the hip flexor and the lower abdominal. The best thing about this exercise is it can be performed at home as well as on a flat surface.
Leg raises – raising your legs fully
Knee raises – raising your knees only
Strong abdominals will help you in doing your daily activities. Your abs are the core muscles and are extremely important for basic physical movements, such as walking.
• Pull ups (upper back exercise)
“Pull ups” is a fantastic workout for working the “Latissimus Dorsi” (Lats) (this muscle gives you your back width). It also is great for the biceps. For performing this exercise, you need to have a stronger upper body, however, with repetition and time, your strength will get better.
Normally, pull ups require proper machines. But those who wish to perform this at home can instead place a bench, table, or a chair beneath them, and then they can push up with their legs. Tip You can use assistance as you are a beginner, with time you will gain strength to perform this exercise without any assistance.
• Star Jump
A star jump is an outstanding exercise. It tones your butt, your legs and turns your heart rate up. Put your hands on your feet. Now all you have to do is to “explode” up like a star. It’s very simple yet an intense exercise. Squat down, then explode up into a star and then get back down. Keep your hands on the toes, the head should be up, and your back should be straight. Keep everything tight and nice. Explode up and then get back down to the start position. Repeat it at least 10 times.
• Rocket jumps
Stand with your feet wide apart, bend your legs and keep your hands on your thighs. Jump! Your hands should be straight above the head while you jump. Repeat it. To challenge yourself more, start with a lower squat position and hold a water bottle or a weight, in both your hands at the middle of your chest.
Tips Do two sets each of 15 repetitions. After doing this cardio exercise, jog or walk for 15 – 40 seconds.
• One leg kickbacks (for lower back and buttocks)
Put your body weight on your knees and hands. Your hands should be under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Keep your left leg bent at a 90 degrees angle and then raise your knee high (as much you can) while squeezing your butt. Lower back to the start position and then with each leg repeat for 8 to 10 times.
Tips to remember: Keep your shoulders back and neck long. As you raise the leg, do not arch the back
Jumping jack is known to be a classic exercise which helps work out and stimulate every muscle in the body. It is known to increase heart rate and in turn, significantly help enhance blood flow to the different muscle groups. To perform jumping jacks, simply stand straight with your feet together and your hands placed on your side. Then, in a single motion, jump your feet out to your sides and raise both your arms above your head. Reverse this motion by jumping back to the original position.