Why is exercise important? The reason is simple: Studies show that regular and consistent physical activity has a positive impact on both mental and physical health. In fact science has proven time and time again that moving your body on a regular basis creates long-lasting benefits. In this article we will discuss many topics including:
- How exercise can improve mental and physical health
- The different types of exercise
- The varied types of programs
- How to get started with an effective exercise program
Getting started with an exercise program and routine can be difficult. But understanding these factors will give you the confidence to get moving, and do so effectively.
How can exercise impact your overall health?
Physical activity can impact both your mental and physical well being. So let’s dive into how regular activity can impact both of these areas.
How does exercise improve mental health?
Studies have shown that regular exercise can positively impact mental health, including for people suffering from conditions like anxiety and/or depression. It is also proven to improve mood, self-esteem and cognitive function.
Exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, including blood flow to the brain. This increased circulation can increase motivation and improve mood. Meanwhile when your motivation and mood are high, it can have a wide array of positive outcomes including decreased distractibility, improved self regulation, and increased social interaction.
Physical activity also releases endorphins, which are naturally-occurring hormones released by the body in response to pain or stress. Endorphins are also known as “feel good” chemicals. Why? Because they contribute to feelings of well-being.
According to Harvard Medical School, “A moderately intense pace, whether you’re walking fast or doing another form of aerobic activity, seems to be best for releasing endorphins.” However, any type of movement is beneficial! Things like stretching, lifting weights, dancing, or a leisurely stroll can release endorphins and help improve overall mental health.
Other benefits of physical activity include:
- Improved sleep
- Improved sex drive
- Increased stamina
- Increased energy
Of course, improvements in any of the above will contribute to improved mental health.
How does exercise improve physical health?
Regular exercise can improve your labs, increase muscle mass and improve cardiovascular endurance.
Just as exercise increases the blood flow to your brain which benefits your mental health, it also increases blood flow to your muscles including your heart and other vital organs. With this increased blood flow comes increased oxygen distribution, as well as nutrient absorption/utilization by your body.
Increased blood flow from exercise to your muscles creates a positive impact on your health by:
- Improving your insulin sensitivity, leading to better blood sugar control
- Increasing the strength and flexibility of your heart and blood vessels which will decrease the workload on your heart thus improving heart health
- Reducing inflammation within your body leading to relief from symptoms of arthritis
- Increasing your metabolism and improving weight loss outcomes
- Improving lung function to work more efficiently
- Improving bone structure leading to increased bone density and decreased risk of osteoporosis
Exercise as a tool to prevent and manage disease
Regular and consistent exercise decreases the risk of a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Also for people already living with certain health conditions, exercise can have a positive impact on one’s ability to manage that condition, and thus improve quality of life. Here are just some of the conditions that can be prevented or managed with exercise:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Arthritis and inflammation
- Hyperlipidemia (High cholesterol)
- High triglyceride levels
Types of exercise
Now that you know the reasons why physical activity is important, the next step is to understand the types of exercises out there, so you can find one that suits you. Meanwhile if you are looking for a specific health or physique outcome, the type of exercise you choose matters.
Above all, it is important that you find exercise that you ENJOY! Studies show that people who stick to consistent exercise are typically doing work outs that they find enjoyable. Keep this factor in mind. Why? Because physical activity you do regularly is better than physical activity that you only do occasionally!
What are the different types of exercise?
Physiologically there are two types of exercise: aerobic and anaerobic exercises.
- Aerobic exercises are movements that require oxygen in order to be executed. A simple way to remember this is that the “AER”of AEROBIC means “with air”! So movements in this type of exercise require consistent breathing to help you get through the movements. This includes cardiovascular exercises such as jogging, running, cycling, rowing or swimming
- Anaerobic exercises are those movements that use glucose as energy without the need for oxygen. This includes resistance training, HIIT, sprinting and reactive/power training
Knowing how to implement the proper exercise routine is important. Things you need to consider when planning your exercise program depend on your goals, experience with physical activity, financial situation, and what equipment is available to you. Without knowledge of these things, you may end up with a routine that is inconsistent and/or lacks the proper difficulty.
Working with a personal trainer is a great way to ensure that your fitness program will help you meet your goals. Personal trainers are experts in the field of exercise and can implement a program that fits your goals, keeps you safe, increases your confidence with exercise and helps you work out consistently. Want to meet with a personal trainer virtually, who can customize a plan just for YOU? Check out our Get Moving program.
Planning a Cardiovascular Program
Before starting a program it is important to make sure your doctor is aware and approves! If your health goals are cardiovascular-oriented, then you should follow the FITTE programming model:
- Frequency refers to how often one is able to exercise. For improved cardiovascular health, beginners should begin moving at least 1-3 days per week. Intermediate athletes should work out 3-5 days per week.
- Intensity refers to how hard you are pushing yourself within your workout. Intensity is a variable that must be individualized and is typically measured by heart rate, the talk test, or rating of perceived exertion.
- Time is the duration of time during which you perform an exercise. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 150-300 minutes of moderate cardio per week.
- Type indicates the modality of how you are performing the cardio. Some examples would be running or agility training.
- Enjoyment is one of the most important factors. This refers to how much one you like doing the different activities.
The FITTE model for cardiovascular programming may seem simple, but it is also easy to become complacent and not improve. This is especially true when it comes to the areas of intensity and frequency. This is yet another reason to work with a personal trainer, who can track your progress and help push you out of your comfort zone.
Planning a strength training program
Most trainers will progress you through a series of steps based on your goals. Meanwhile where you start in your training is determined by your history of training and current skill level. Also, depending on the trainer, the program may have varied steps or phases to get you to your end goal. The training program that our trainers use here at Anderson’s Nutrition is the National Academy of Sports Medicine’s (NASM) OPT model.
NASM OPT ™ Model
This training program was developed by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and aims to target three main areas: Stabilization, Strength, and Power. There are sub phases within these three categories that progress as follows:
- Stabilization Endurance: Focus on stabilizing the muscles around your joints to help improve your range of motion. Typical variables in the phase would include:
- Sets: 1-3
- Reps: 8-12
- Tempo: slow
- Rest: 90 seconds
- Strength Endurance: Aims to improve the length of time for which your muscles will produce force. Typical variables in the phase would include:
- Sets: 2-4
- Reps: 8-12
- Tempo: slow to moderate
- Rest: 60 seconds
- Muscular Development: This phase focuses on developing your muscles to grow stronger. It includes the following variables:
- Sets: 3-6
- Reps: 6-12
- Tempo: moderate
- Rest: 60 seconds
- Maximum Strength: This phase focuses on increasing the load you are bearing while exercising, in order to help you produce maximal force. This phase pushes you to your maximum abilities.
- Sets: 4-6
- Reps: 1-5
- Tempo: Explosive
- Rest: 2-4 minutes
- Power: This phase’s goal is to elicit explosiveness, which requires the most force in the shortest amount of time. It includes strength exercises combined with explosive movements.
- Sets: 3-5
- Reps: 1-5 or 8-10
- Tempo: Explosive
- Rest: 1-2 minutes
Altogether, these phases (if done correctly) will help you achieve your long term strength-related goals. Furthermore, combining a cardiovascular training program with a strength program will produce optimal health benefits.
Putting an effective exercise program together
Now that you know the different types of programs that you can follow, the next step is combining them in a way that fits your lifestyle and routine. When you start a program, focus on what is realistic in YOUR world. You can have a great program planned out but if it isn’t realistic, you decrease the odds that you will reach your goals.
A personal trainer can help you implement a program that is realistic. A good trainer should start by helping you create S.M.A.R.T. Goals, which will keep you accountable. Not familiar with the concept of S.M.A.R.T. Goals? Read our blog post on the topic here.
S.M.A.R.T. Goals will target your training plan but may also expand into other areas of your health to include your sleep quality, stress management, and nutrition. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, are not appropriately managing stress, and are not eating a well-balanced diet, then a great program will not progress. It is often helpful to work with other professionals such as a dietitian, a therapist and even a sleep specialist. All of these aren’t always necessary, but they can help you pinpoint areas that might be obstacles to success.
Let’s Get Moving!
No matter the reason why you decided that it’s time to get moving, you now have the perfect recipe for a successful exercise program:
- Motivation and realistic goals
- A mixture of cardio and strength training based on your current ability level
- Time and focus!
- Someone to help you along the way: a friend, trainer, or health coach
Our Get Moving Program at Anderson’s Nutrition can help ensure that you meet (and exceed) your fitness goals. Our trainers will learn about your history with physical activity including any concerns or obstacles to success you may have, and put together a customized plan just for you. The plan will work whether you choose to use a gym, work out using materials you have at home, exercise outdoors, or use equipment such as your Peloton bike or a treadmill. Ready to learn more? Click the button below.