Participating in regular physical activities is a must for all individuals, of all ages. Unfortunately, approximately 60% of all North Americans fail to meet their recommended levels of physical activity. Worse yet, 25% of Americans fail to participate in any sort of physical activity. Many studies have shown exercise can significantly increase energy levels. Ironically, the number one excuse for not exercising is a lack of energy or the person being too tired.
"Resistance training" involves the use of resistance, such as through the use of free weights or nautilus equipment, to increase the strength, tone and sometimes size of a muscle. Resistance training is not just for bodybuilders who wish to increase their muscles' size, but rather, is for anyone wishing to keep their body strong, healthy and fit. In addition, resistance training can simultaneously provide a cardiovascular workout. By keeping the rest-time between the sets of exercises minimal, a moderate heart rate can be achieved and maintained throughout the entire workout. This extends the benefits of your exercise training program to the most important muscle of all, the heart.
Note: Please check with us or other health care provider prior to initiating any fitness or exercise routine, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition that you're aware of.
Studies conducted on exercise have shown the following benefits:
• cardiovascular healtho reduction in LDL ("bad" cholesterol)• emotional health and quality of life
o increase in HDL ("good" cholesterol)
o increased heart strength and health
o increases V02 max (maximum oxygen uptake)o anxiety reduction• disease prevention
o stress lowering
o increased sense of well being
o increase in self confidenceo reduced disease and sickness• weight management
o reduction of fall injuries in seniors
o diabetes prevention in the agingo reduction of body fat• size and strength gains
o prevention of obesityo increased physical performance• functioning and quality of life in the elderly
o increased strength
o increased speed
o increased muscle toneo increased mobility and independence in seniors• pregnancy
o life extensiono increased on-time deliveries
o increased protection from miscarriages
Stretching is the foundation of any exercise program
Exercise. You just can't under-estimate the importance exercise plays in a healthy lifestyle. Yet many people do underestimate the foundation of a good exercise program: flexibility.
Lifting weights and running marathons aren't the only things that can help you live longer and healthier. Stretching improves your flexibility, preventing joints stiffness, promoting circulation, and lengthening muscles and tendons to reduce risk of injury. Taking the time to stretch after you workout helps remove waste products, such as lactic acid, from your muscles and improves your recovery time.
Click here for a great stretching resource: "Stretching-Exercises-Guide".
TIP: Spend 5 to 10 minutes stretching before and after any physical activity.
In addition to increasing your flexibility, regular stretching can improve your strength and coordination. Yoga or Tai Chi are popular exercise programs that help you learn proper stretching techniques. (See the news item on page 8 for more on the benefits of Tai Chi.)
TIP: Over-stretching can cause injury. Be cautious and listen to your body when performing stretching activities. A little burn is good. If you feel pain, don't push so hard.
One type of stretching to try is static stretching, which involves holding a position for 20 to 30 seconds. Holding a stretch lets your muscles adapt and become longer and looser.
TIP: When you get up in the morning, take five minutes to stretch your body every day.
Be kind to your body
It's easy, especially when starting a fitness program, to let your enthusiasm carry you away. You want to dive right in and get started, but you have to remember to be gentle with your body. You should think of stretching as the "ramping up" and "cooling down" parts of your exercise program - and as every bit as important as the exercise itself.
Some standard stretching exercises:
- Stand about a metre from a wall, feet at shoulder width apart and flat on the ground. Put your hands on the wall with your arms straight for support. Push your hips forward and bend your knees to stretch your calves
- Slide one foot forward half a metre and bend your knees slightly to stretch your calf of the hindmost leg. Switch legs and repeat.
- Lie down with one leg straight up in the air, the other leg flat on the floor. Grab the up-raised leg around the hamstring and pull the leg towards you. Then tilt your toes towards the floor to stretch the calves. Switch legs and repeat.
- Swing your leg up onto a beam a metre high. Hold leg straight stretching your hamstrings.
- Stand on one foot, with one hand on a beam for balance. Hold the other foot with the opposite hand and raise the heel of the lifted foot to your buttocks, stretching your quads. Change legs and repeat.
- Sit on the ground with your legs crossed. Lift your right leg and cross it over the left, which should remain bent. Hug the right to your chest and twist the trunk of your body to look over your shoulder. Change legs and do the reverse by looking over your left shoulder.
- Grab your elbow with the opposite hand and gently push the elbow up and across your body until your hand reaches down your back as though you were scratching it. Gently push on your elbow to guide your hand down your back as far as it will go without strain, stretching your triceps and shoulders. Change arms and repeat.
- Kneel on the floor on all fours, hands under your shoulders. Lower your hips to the floor, arching your back and hold for 30 seconds. Rise up and push your buttocks back while lowering your head towards the floor so reversing the arch of your back. Hold, and then repeat twice.