Most of us have said, at some point in our lives, that we’ll start exercising. But for some reason or another we lose the habit. If this has happened to you, don't worry! The important thing now is that you're interested in starting a healthier lifestyle—otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this article.
Let us tell you a few tips for you to successfully start an exercise routine.
Exercising: A Necessary Activity for a Longer and Healthier Life
When it comes to health and physical activity, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity. Exercising is known to bring several psychological and physical benefits, which is why it’s an essential activity for staying healthy.
Research has repeatedly shown that physically active people enjoy a longer life expectancy, recurring feelings of well-being, and, in general, a better quality of life. Exercise—or physical activity—is identified as any muscle activity that requires an expenditure of energy and is practiced repetitively.
The amount of physical activity that our body needs varies depending on our age. A general guideline is:
- 5 to 17 years old: 60 minutes a day.
- Over 18 years old: at least 150 minutes a week.
The Benefits of Exercising
Having a balanced diet and exercising can bring several benefits to your overall health:
When exercising, a process clinically known as ‘adaptation’ modifies the functionality of our body, delaying many latent diseases from developing and making us more resistant to the exhaustion produced by continued physical activity.
From a psychological point of view, physical activity increases the feelings of optimism and fosters a more positive attitude towards our life.
The brain releases endorphins and serotonin when we engage in physical activity. According to the article: How to Hack Your Hormones for a Better Mood endorphins are hormones our body releases to help us tolerate pain. These endorphins are produced when we’re exercising and evoke a feeling of happiness by chemically altering our brains. Basically, whenever we exercise, we’re effectively releasing happiness hormones.
Another hormone released by our bodies when exercising is serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate your mood and sleep, appetite, digestion, learning abilities, and memory. Low serotonin levels can cause depression, so you could say that physical activity is a natural antidepressant!
There is a lot of evidence demonstrating the health benefits of physical activity. As it would be impossible for us to include them all in a list without boring you to death, we'll just highlight the most important ones:
- It helps with insomnia and improves the quality of your sleep
- Improves our body image
- It helps relieve tension and stress
- Reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression and increases enthusiasm and optimism
- Decreases the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases
- Prevents and delays the development of hypertension
- Reduces triglycerides and increases HDL cholesterol levels
- Improves glycemic regulation
- Improves digestion and the regularity of the digestive rhythm
- Decreases the risk of certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer
- Helps in regulating body weight
- It helps maintain and increase muscle endurance
- It helps to keep the structure and function of the joints
- It's essential for normal bone development during childhood and to reach and maintain peak bone mass in young adults
- In older adults, it decreases the risk of falling and helps delay or prevent chronic and age-related diseases
- It decreases mortality rates in adults of any age. Even a moderate amount of physical activity is enough to reduce the mortality rate compared to that of people with sedentary lifestyles
How to Get the Most Out of Your Exercise Routine
If you’re not used to exercising, setting achievable goals is the easiest way to go. We suggest starting small and making a commitment to yourself that you’ll follow your routine. After your short-term goals have been achieved, the feeling of accomplishment will fuel your will for longer-term commitments. In other words, exercising should feel like a natural part of your everyday life and not just like a spontaneous activity.
Sports medicine prescribes exercise just like other doctors prescribe drugs—the dose, type, frequency, intensity, and duration depend on your specific situation. You don't need to be a performance athlete to reap the benefits of physical activity. A mild but adequate routine based on your physical capabilities and time constraints can work wonders if you commit to it.
To create a suitable workout routine, you can follow some of the guidelines offered by the U.K. National Health Service:
- Children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, and adults should get at least 150 minutes a week. Start slowly and increase your activity level periodically.
- Try to use part of your lunchtime to take a walk.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Look for other people who want to exercise with you and motivate each other.
- If you have children, go out and play with them whenever you can. Keep them active and limit the time they watch TV and play video games (1 or 2 hours a day is the recommended maximum).
- Encourage outdoor activities such as running or playing sports.
- Older people should focus on strengthening and balance-improving exercises, reducing the chances of falling.
- Stop your routine if you are in pain.
- Staying properly hydrated is very important. Drink liquids before, during, and after your exercise routine.
- If you are about to start competitive sports training, you should consult your doctor for an appropriate exercise and diet program.
- If you suffer from a chronic disease or present any other risk factors such as obesity, you should see your doctor and discuss your options for the types of exercise you can do and the ones you should avoid.