Follow these exercise tips to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
Do you want to feel better, have more energy and add years to your life? Then start exercising daily. “The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore,” says Dr. Jennifer Driver, a primary care doctor at Crescent City Physicians, a subsidiary of Touro Infirmary. “Engaging in physical activity and exercise will not only improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, it will also help to improve your mental outlook.”
Board certified in family medicine, Dr. Driver enjoys her role as primary care doctor. “Family medicine is a great fit for me, and I love that it offers a continuity of care across generations,” she says. “I do my best to educate my patients so that they can live longer and healthier lives.” Here, Dr. Driver provides six long-term benefits of exercising.
1. Exercise prevents excess weight gain and helps to maintain weight loss. “When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories,” she says. “The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. To reap the benefits of exercise, just add more and more activities throughout your day. Next time, opt to take the stairs instead of the elevator.”
2. Exercise combats health conditions and diseases. Regular exercise helps prevent or manage a range of health problems, including reducing your risk for a heart attack, stroke or type 2 diabetes. “No matter what your current weight, being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or ‘good’ cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides,” she says. “Exercise will keep your blood flowing smoothly, which in turn, decreases your risk of cardiovascular diseases.”
3. Exercise improves your mood. If you want to relieve stress, take a 30-minute brisk walk or go to the gym for 30 minutes. According to Dr. Driver, physical activities stimulate various brain chemicals (serotonin, endorphins and stress hormones) that will help you feel happier and more relaxed.
4. Exercise boosts your energy level. “Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently,” Dr. Driver says. “And once your heart and lung health improve, you will have more energy to tackle those daily chores.”
5. Exercise promotes better sleep. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. “Make sure you don’t exercise too close to your bedtime, because you may be too energized to fall asleep.”
6. Exercising is fun. Exercising and engaging in physical activities can give you a chance to unwind, enjoy the outdoors or spend time with your workout buddy at the gym.
HOW TO GET STARTED
A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity is recommended daily in order to maintain good health and reduce your risk of health problems. Dr. Driver suggests adding different types of cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility training to your routine. “Engage in a combination of vigorous and moderate aerobic exercises, such as running, walking or swimming for cardio, then add strength training (using free weights, weight machines or doing body weight exercises) and stretching exercises that target a major muscle group with eight to 12 repetitions,” she says. “For my older patients, I recommend yoga or tai chi.” The goal is to accumulate 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity, or a combination of both, each week.
Everyone benefits from exercise, regardless of age, sex or physical ability. “Exercise is a vital component to wellness, and it does not take a lot out of your day,” Dr. Driver says. “Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you haven’t exercised for a long time or have chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis. You should work out conservatively in the beginning and gradually build up to the recommended amount. There are many apps that you can use to track your progress and to increase your workout over time to avoid any injuries.”