Every person must exercise. So many young adults today have insulin resistance and are at risk of developing diabetes mellitus, particularly if one or both of their parents are diabetic. And you know, if we adopt healthy lifestyles i.e. eat the right foods at the right times in the appropriate amounts, exercise daily and have adequate and healthy sleep, not only can we prevent diabetes but also reverse it .
We can say exercise consists of physical activities that are planned and structured. We repeat the same movements many times or do the activity repeatedly for a specific length/period of time. It helps us to become physically fit.
What does physical fitness mean? Physical fitness means we are able to perform physical activities in a sustained manner with ease and agility and do not feel fatigued within a very short time. It implies that our muscles are strong enough to work against resistance and also have endurance i.e. they are able to contract repeatedly during a given period of time without one’s feeling exhausted. Also the joints should be flexible through a full range of motions. Fitness includes having a good /healthy body composition, have speed, agility and balance, also have good resistance to infection and if injured be able to recover as quickly as possible.
How do we ensure that we are physically fit? By being physically active and to the extent possible incorporating physical exercise in our daily routines. Physical fitness needs to be developed and does not happen if we exercise sporadically. Exercise should be part of our routine as much as eating and using our cell phones are.
What are the benefits?
Before doing any exercise, it is important to do warm up exercises. These involve simple bending and extending different joints. Doing so helps to improve flexibility and prepares the body for undertaking exercise. Warm up exercises are generally done for 5 to 10 minutes and are not strenuous. Similarly cool down exercises are to be done after the exercise regime/set of exercises is completed for 5 to 10 minutes. These should be an integral part of every exercise regimen.
We can classify exercises as follows:
- Isometric exercises – Muscles of thigh and leg muscles are contracted without moving the knees or hips. Usually carried out for rehabilitation /special purposes. No special equipment is needed and there is minimal chance of injury.
- Isotonic exercises – Muscles and joints are moved, or their length is increased like bending/stretching the limbs. Sit ups and push ups are examples of such exercises. Such exercises help to improve circulation. In weight training such exercises can be done with dumbbells.
- Isokinetic exercises – Machines are used while exercising, to control the range and speed of motion. These are a combination of isometric exercises and weight training eg working out on an exercise bike set at a particular speed.
- Strength building exercises – These are basically isometric, isokinetic and isotonic exercises. They help to improve muscle strength and mass, bone strength as well as improve metabolism.
- Aerobic exercises – These are also called cardio exercises, because they are useful for cardiovascular conditioning. With aerobic exercise, the heart rate increases as does the rate of breathing that should be sustained through the exercise session. This helps to improve fitness of lungs and heart. Familiar examples are walking, jogging, running, spinning, skipping, bicycling, aerobic dancing, etc. This form of exercise involves moving the muscles rhythmically in a sustained manner. Another example is use of cardio machines. Aerobic exercise helps us to burn energy, and in weight loss as well as weight maintenance.
- Resistance exercise – Muscle groups are moved against exercise or applied force or weight or gravity. This helps to improve muscle mass and strength, with practice and perseverance. In the beginning many individuals particularly older persons or those who are obese or who have less muscle mass may find it difficult to do these exercises.
- Weight-bearing exercise – Groups of muscles are moved against resistance/applied force/weight/gravity. These exercises help to improve bone mass and to condition the body and give it strength. It is useful for postmenopausal women and persons having osteoporosis. However, person doing this exercise should do so with caution, not have jerky movements as there is risk of injuries. These exercises can be performed in bouts for short periods of time, as they cannot be done for long periods. E.g. weight lifting.
- Flexibility exercise – These are activities or exercises that are used to preserve or extend range of motion around a joint. Such exercises involved rotating or flexing the extremities. Yoga is an example; most people are familiar with. Zumba, pilates, tai chi and dancing are included as well.
- Balancing and stretching exercise – These exercises combine activities that aim to increase lower body strength while also trying to reduce the risk of falls. The focus is on harmony and helps the person to relax besides improving physical stability and flexibility. Yoga, dancing, gentle stretching, and tai chi are all balancing and stretching exercises. Such exercises are associated with less risk of injuries.
- Cardiac exercise – These are body movements that increase the heartbeats and improve the efficiency of oxygen uptake, enhance fitness, and can help to reduce/prevent cardiac disorders or diseases. Exercises like brisk walking, jumping, and cycling are examples. If endurance exercises are done, lower speed and intensity should be used and if done at faster speed and high intensity, it should be not be undertaken without guidance and supervision.
Exercise for specific target age groups: Children and teenagers can undertake and sustain exercise or physical activities for quite a long period of time eg 60 minutes. However, many adults particularly older persons may not be able do exercise for more than 30 minutes. Of course, those who are very physically fit and are used to exercise may be able to sustain it for longer periods. One group which should be considered is pregnant women, who should be advised moderate amount of physical activity daily. Persons with health problems also need to be given exercise prescriptions that are different from those we recommend otherwise. Persons having asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis or even they are simply obese, need to be evaluated for their ability to undertake exercise first and can be given exercise prescription that is approved by their supervising physicians. For such individuals, simple walking preceded by warm-up exercises can be prescribed.
We have used the word moderate and vigorous when talking about physical activity. Based on the intensity, physical activity is classified into three levels:
The World Health Organization in 2010 has given recommendations for different groups are follows:
If an elderly person has poor mobility, he/she should do exercise at least thrice/week in order to enhance balance and prevent falls. Twice in a week, the individual must do muscle strengthening exercises. There may be persons whose health condition does not allow them to undertake any of these activities. Such persons should do whatever physical activity is possible.
In addition, the American Heart Association states that one should spend less time sitting and even light intensity activities can be useful to offset the risks due to being sedentary. Also, one should gradually increase the amount and intensity of exercises.
A few words about yoga will not be out of place. Yoga is not just physical exercise and performing physical postures. In addition to these it helps one to achieve breath control and metnal focus and besides physical fitness by improving muscle tone and strength, improving flexibilityand health, it will help enhance mental and spiritual health. Other physical benefits are improvement in respiration, and vitality in general.