What kinds of exercise should I do to improve my health?
People should build two primary types of exercise into their lives – aerobic and strength exercise.
- Prolongs life
- Prevents heart disease
- Improves quality of life
- Prevents obesity
- Prevents Type II diabetes
- Lowers blood pressure
- Raises “good” cholesterol
- May lower cancer rates
Strength exercise results in:
- Increased strength and endurance
- Increased muscle mass
- Increased resting metabolic rate (burn more calories at rest)
- Preventing disability as you age
How much exercise do I need to get the benefits?
Moderate intensity exercise, such as walking or gardening can make a big difference. As long as you’re increasing your breathing and heart rate for 30 minutes, five days a week, you’re doing enough to get the benefits. For more vigorous exercise, such as running or cycling, 20 minutes at least three times a week will improve your health.
Isn’t strength exercise for young people?
No, in fact, weight training is most important for people as they age. Muscle mass begins to decrease in your 40’s, is measurably decreased in your 60’s, and even more so into your 80’s. This means greater risk for injury and disability. Be sure to start gradually, and seek advice on proper form.
What is your response to people who say they don’t have time to exercise?
I have a favorite cartoon that I like to show people who say that to me. The caption reads: “What fits your busy schedule better, exercising one hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?”
In all seriousness, the reality is we’re all busy, and it isn’t easy to stick to an exercise routine. But the President of the United States finds time in his schedule for exercise, so chances are, you probably can too. The bottom line is if you make exercise a high priority, you’ll find the time.
What tips do you have for sticking to an exercise program?
- Find activities you like (or dislike the least)
- Keep at it, it will feel better in 2-4 weeks
- Convenience is key
- Weather happens. Plan an indoor alternative
- Use gadgets and gizmos (pedometers/step counter)
- Reward yourself (not with food)
- Exercise with a friend (or your dog)
- Record your progress. Mark the calendar on days you’ve exercised so you see what you’ve accomplished.
Any parting thoughts?
Remember that you only have to exercise on the days that you eat!
Philip A. Ades, MD, is Medical Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at the University of Vermont Medical Center and a Professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.