Daily Physical Activity - Make it a Habit!

We begin this year with Healthy Habit #1:  Physical Activity.  And what better healthy habit to incorporate into our daily lives than this one! 

But, how do we whittle off those extra pounds and develop a healthy approach to developing and maintaining physical wellness?  Harvard Medical School advises that, in general, there are four vital types of exercise which it is important to engage in:  stretching, balance, strengthening and aerobic exercise.  This foursome offers the optimal approach to achieve and maintain mobility, agility and strength.   "People do what they enjoy, or what feels the most effective, so some aspects of exercise and fitness are ignored," says Rachel Wilson, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. 

The following offers a description of the benefits for each type of exercise: 

1.  Stretching

Stretching helps maintain flexibility.  Aging leads to a loss of flexibility in the muscles and tendons. Muscles shorten and don't function properly.  That increases the risk for muscle cramps and pain, muscle damage, strains, joint pain, and falling.  Stretching the muscles routinely makes them longer and more flexible, which increases your range of motion and reduces pain and the risk for injury.  Aim for a program of stretching every day or at least three or four times per week.

2.  Balance   

Improving your balance makes you feel more stable and helps prevent falls.  It affects us more as we get older, when the systems that help us maintain balance—our vision, our inner ear, and our leg muscles and joints— have a tendency to degenerate. "The good news is that training your balance can help prevent and reverse these losses," says Rachel Wilson.  Many senior centers and gyms offer balance-focused exercise classes, such as tai chi or yoga.  It's never too early to start this type of exercise, even if you feel you don't have balance problems.

3.  Strength Training

As we age, we lose muscle mass.  Strength training builds it back.  Strengthening your muscles not only makes you stronger, but also stimulates bone growth, lowers blood sugar, assists with weight control, improves balance and posture and reduces stress and pain in the lower back and joints.  If you’re new to this type of exercise, it’s best to start out with a personal trainer, who can instruct you in the proper methods of strength training.  And, as physical therapist, Rachel Wilson notes, "Remember, it's important to feel some muscle fatigue at the end of the exercise to make sure you are working or training the muscle group effectively.”

4.  Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise speeds up your heart rate and breathing and is important for many body functions.  It gives your heart and lungs a workout and increases endurance.  Aerobic exercise also helps relax blood vessel walls, lower blood pressure, burn body fat, lower blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, boost mood, and raise "good" HDL cholesterol.  Combined with weight loss, it can lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, too.  Over the long term, aerobic exercise reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression, and falls.  Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity. Try brisk walking, swimming, jogging, cycling, dancing or classes like step aerobics.

We hope the benefits described above will help motivate you to start incorporating a wider array of physical activities into your daily routine.


The 12 Habits of Highly Healthy People

The 12 Habits of Highly Healthy People

This group is an adjunct to our "12 Habits" program for MyAHE members. Although this group is open to all, only MyAHE members are eligible to utilize our 24alife personalized health app.

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