Exercise is key to good health and an essential feature we need to integrate into our daily life. Four types of exercise: strength training, aerobic training, balancing and stretching are necessary ingredients keeping us active, mobile, and feeling great 1. They do this by helping us achieve a good level of health-related fitness components, namely body composition, cardio-respiratory endurance, flexibility, muscular endurance, strength and power.
Aerobic exercise speeds up our heart rate and breathing, increases our endurance, and is important for many body functions. Regular moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking, swimming, jogging, cycling, dancing, or step aerobics will, over the long term, reduce our risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression, and falls 1.
Strength training (re)builds our muscle mass; especially important as we age and our muscle mass diminishes. Regular strength training (2x to 3x a week) helps us walk up the stairs, get up off a floor or a chair, carry groceries and heavier objects around the house. Strengthening our muscles makes us stronger, it stimulates bone growth and density, lowers blood sugar, assists with weight control, improves balance and posture, and reduces stress and pain in the lower back and joints 1. Squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and exercises using weights are some examples of strength training.
Stretching our muscles routinely makes them longer and more flexible, thereby increasing our range of motion and reducing our risk for injury. Aging leads to a loss of flexibility in muscles and tendons. Stretching three or four times a week is especially important as we grow older.
Balance exercises are especially important as we age when our vision, our inner ear, and our leg muscles and joints tend to break down. Training our balance (three times a week) can help prevent and reverse these losses. Balance focused exercise include tai chi and yoga.
Exercise is beneficial for physical and mental health. Current recommendations is to reach a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week for seniors and a minimum of 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week for children and young adults. For starters a gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended 1. We are more likely to stay on track and avoid injury if we start gently. If we cannot reach these minimum targets, we can still beneft from some activity.
Regular exercise improves our health in various ways:
a. It lowers our risk of developing various chronic diseases including cardiovascular, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers.
b. We develop stronger bones, muscles and joints and have less risk of osteoporosis and falls.
c. Above all, it makes us feel more energetic, less stressed and we sleep better.
d. It boosts our immune system. We recover better from periods of hospitalization or bedrest.
Making Exercise part of our daily life
Integrating exercise into our daily life needs the right mindset and a SMARRT approach. Check first with your doctor before starting out on any program. If you get the all clear, start gradually increasing frequency, time and intensity over time. SMARRT stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic (available resources), relevant (fits within the bigger picture), and time-bound.
Journalling about our exercise schedule, listening to our body carefully and noting how we fare on our exercise schedule help us tailor out adjustments and keeping ourselves accountable. Consult your doctor if in doubt. Looking at past mistakes and learning from them help us grow 2. Journalling also helps us reflect on easy ways to get more steps into our day – like ditching the car or the bus for short distances and going for a walk during our lunch break.
For most of us, moderate intensity exercise is sufficient to improve our overall health. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – alternating low intensity (can easily talk in full sentences) activity with high intensity activity (too breathless to speak in full sentences) will help us squeeze a better workout into a shorter period of time. As long as your doctor has cleared you to safely exercise this way, it can help you lower your blood pressure, lose weight around the middle and maintain muscle mass.
For more information regarding recommendations on physical activity kindly visit the World Health Organisation links:
Sports and Leisure Opportunities
Here are some clubs and groups in Marsaskala and elsewhere that can help us in our exercise regimes
Marsaskala Netball team Tel : 21633547
Outdoor Sports Association Tel: 21637428
1. “The Four most important types of exercise”: Harvard Health Letter January 2017 https://www.health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/the-4-most-important-types-of-exercise
2. How to start Exercising and stick to it: Making exercise part of your everyday life”; Helpguide.org: Trusted guided to Mental, emotional and social health. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/how-to-start-exercising-and-stick-to-it.htm/
3. Corbin, C. B. (2016). Concepts of fitness and wellness: A comprehensive lifestyle approach. McGraw Hill.