Today's blog will address and explain the second of two main areas in which men can take charge of their preventative care. Monday we introduced the importance of a healthy diet and the role it plays in protecting our health. Today we will discuss the concept of exercise as another area of preventative care by which men can improve and maintain good health.
Men die younger than women from 9 of the 10 top causes of death, but it doesn't have to be this way. Extensive studies show that actively participating in the right combination of diet and exercise can prevent more than half of health-related premature deaths, along with about 60 percent of chronic diseases, and most injuries and accidents.
Exercises is perhaps one of the most effective ways of improving and maintaining excellent health. Regular physical activity, whether it's walking up a few flights of stairs or running a marathon, is the closest thing that exists to a miracle drug. Research has shown that exercise:
- Helps prevent heart disease and stroke
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps control diabetes
- Lowers stress levels
- Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression and improves mood
- Prevents obesity
- Reduces the risk of developing certain cancers, including colon cancer
- Improves brain function
- Helps fight common signs of aging, such as arthritis, osteoporosis and memory loss
Despite all these benefits, more than half of Americans get less exercise than they should, and a quarter get none at all.
WHAT KIND OF EXERCISE SHOULD I DO?
There are two basic kinds of exercise: Aerobic exercise involves increasing your heart rate and breathing and keeping them at higher levels for an extended period.
- Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and burns fat. Examples include fast walking, running, hiking, bike riding, swimming, skiing, basketball, karate, even jumping rope.
- Anaerobic exercise involves short periods of intense exercise followed by a period of rest. Anaerobic builds muscle and strengthens bones. Examples include weightlifting and sprinting.
Both kinds of exercise are important, and you should try to get some of both every day.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I EXERCISE?
Before starting any exercise program, talk it over with your doctor for guidance. If you haven't been very active until now, start off easy—you may only be able to do five minutes per day. Gradually increase your time until you're up to 20 minutes or more per day. Your goal is to increase your heart rate and breathing. You want to feel slightly out of breath, but not so out of breath that you can't carry on a conversation.
Ideally, you should try to get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise on most days (the more the better, but try for at five minutes). This may seem like a lot — especially if you haven't been exercising regularly. The good news is that you don't have to do it all at once. Instead, spread it out over the course of the day. Research has shown that even a brisk walking for as little as 30 minutes per day can decrease your risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.
Any kind of activity — even mowing the lawn, washing your car, or wrestling with your children — Is better than none. Still, you won't benefit much from doing exercise or being active unless you do it more than twice a week, or more than 10 minutes per day. If your goal is to lose weight, you'll need to get at least 30 minutes of continuous aerobic exercise at least five days per week.
The best way to ensure that you're getting the most out of each workout is to get your heart rate into the 'target zone' and keep it there for 30 minutes. Calculating your 'target zone' is a two-step process:
- Find your maximum heart rate. To do that, simply subtract your age from 220. So if you're 44 years old, your maximum heart rate is 176.
- Your 'target zone' is 50% to 80% of your maximum heart rate. If your max rate is 176, then your 'target zone' is between 88 (50%) and 141 (80%) beats per minute.
Finding an activity or two that you enjoy is the key to making exercise a lifelong habit. Most people don't do this, which is why more than half of those who start an exercise program don't stick with it for more than six months. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of easy methods that can increase the amount of daily exercise you get. Here are just a few examples:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator whenever you can.
- When you go out shopping, park your car as far away as you can from where you're going.
- If you take public transportation, get off a few stops early and walk the rest of the way.
- Do some sit-ups, pushups, squats, or jumping jacks, or use a ski-machine or treadmill while you're watching television.
- Carry your own groceries instead of letting a clerk do it for you.
- Skip that mid-morning cup of coffee and go for a walk around the office instead.
- Join a group or find a workout partner.
- Take a dance class with your partner.
PREVENTING EXERCISE-RELATED INJURIES
One of the biggest reasons why people give up on their exercise programs is because they try to do too much too quickly and injure themselves in the process. Following these tips will help you minimize and/or prevent opportunities for injuries to occur:
- Get the right equipment. If you're running or walking, for example, good shoes are essential for protecting your knees and other joints. Wear a helmet, groin cup, goggles, or whatever is necessary to minimize injury.
- Warm up for five to 10 minutes before you start your workout. This can be anything from a brisk walk and a few jumping jacks to running a mile at a slow pace. After you've warmed up, do some stretching. Warm muscles are less likely to get strained or injured.
- Cool down after your workout. Muscles often tighten up after exercise, so doing some light stretching will keep you limber and reduce the chance of injury.
- Bend your knees and use your legs when lifting — do not your back.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts.
- Vary your routine. Boredom can make you pay less attention to safety.
- Listen to your body. Forget "no pain, no gain." If you feel pain, or experience dizziness, tightening in your chest, or anything else that doesn't seem right, stop what you're doing immediately.
- Set reasonable, achievable goals. If you haven't exercised in a few years, don't expect to get out there and perform as well as you did in high school.
- Ease into it. Be patient with yourself.
Despite our best efforts, injuries can and do still happen. If you strain, pull, or irritate something, remember the acronym RICE:
- REST. Stop exercising. Don't "play through" your injuries.
- ICE. Put an ice pack on the injury for 20 minutes each hour for the first day or two after it occurs.
- COMPRESSION. Wrap the injured area in an Ace-type bandage.
- ELEVATION. Try to keep the injured area higher than your heart so that blood won't pool there.
In addition, you can take over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce the swelling. After 24 to 48 hours of following the RICE routine, gently stretch the injured area, stopping before it becomes painful.
Along with maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly has wide-ranging physical, emotional and social health benefits, and is an area of preventative care that is easy to take charge of. Exercising safely to remain healthy and injury-free should be a primary factor when determining your routine. Safety is about using common sense, understanding basic techniques and listening to your body. As always, see your doctor for a check-up before embarking on a physical activity program. Your doctor, physiotherapist or local sporting club can offer you invaluable tips about staying safe while exercising. Remember: if it's safe and painless, you're more likely to stick to it!