Exercise helps keep your body healthy and your tissues and organs working properly. In keeping your body in good working order, exercise also helps ward off many diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and many others.
National health and exercise organizations recommend you do moderately intense physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most (preferably all) days of the week. Doing more vigorous exercise is also encouraged.
Your exercise program should include:
In aerobic exercise, you continually move large muscles in the legs and buttocks. This action causes you to breathe more deeply and your heart to work harder to pump blood, thereby strengthening your heart and lungs.
Strength training builds lean muscle mass, which increases your physical strength and your bone mass.
Stretching can offer many benefits, such as improving:
Major muscle groups to stretch include:
Stretching classes include:
Here are some tips for safe stretching:
Here are some common stretching mistakes to avoid:
Since brisk walking qualifies as moderately intense physical activity, that is a place to start if you are new to exercise. Before starting an exercise program, check with your doctor about any possible medical problems you may have that would limit your exercise program.
Consider making an appointment with a certified athletic trainer to help you develop a safe, effective, and enjoyable exercise program. You can find a trainer at a local gym or through a referral from your doctor or a friend. Make sure this person understands your goals and can help you maintain an exercise program that you will enjoy and stick with.
American Council on Exercise
Weight-control Information Network
Canada's Safety Council
Government of Canada
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.sportsmed.org/tabs/Index.aspx . Accessed September 4, 2008.
Exercise: how to get started. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20061215/2095ph.html . Published December 2006. Accessed September 4, 2008.
Health and fitness tips. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: http://www.acefitness.org/healthandfitnesstips/default.aspx . Accessed September 4, 2008.
Mayo Clinic. Stretching: focus on flexibility. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stretching/hq01447. Updated February 21, 2010. Accessed May 18, 2010.
Last reviewed May 2010 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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