Understanding Exercise

"Sitting still for more than 11 hours per day raises the chance for premature death by 40% compared to those who sit fewer than 4 hours per day."

"People who are physically active and at a healthy weight live about 7 years longer than those who are not active and are obese."

Click one of these links to learn more:
Why is exercise important?
What are the different types of exercise?
How do I get started?
How much exercise do I need?
Exercise resources

Future Health Videos are a great way
to learn more about this topic

Learn how to approach your fitness the right way with a special guide from exercise physiologist Jessica Black from Mercy Hospital.

Watch this 15 minute video segment

Why is exercise important?

When combined with a balanced diet and stress management tools, exercise can reduce your risks for certain diseases, improve your mental well-being and help manage your weight. According to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition:
  • Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day; only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week.
  • More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, and more than 80% of adolescents do not do enough aerobic physical activity to meet the guidelines for youth.
  • 28% of Americans, or 80.2 million people, aged six and older are physically inactive
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular exercise can help you:
  • Control your weight
  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Lower your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Lower your risk of some cancers
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve your mental health and mood
  • Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you're an older adult
  • Increase your chances of living longer
  • Reduce stress

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What are the different types of exercise?

There are many ways to exercise and maintain an active lifestyle. Remember to check with your physician before beginning any new fitness routine.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic activities are any activities that increase your heart rate and make you breathe harder. The goal of aerobic exercise is to increase your heart rate to burn calories. Aerobic exercise should be moderate (you can talk, but can't sing) to vigorous (you can only say a few words between breaths). Try to pick activities that bring you to 60% to 85% of your MAXIMUM HEART RATE.

Examples of aerobic exercise are walking, swimming, jogging, bicycling or hiking.

Strength training

Strength training is exercises that strengthen your muscles by lifting or pushing weight. You can use dumbbells, soup cans, resistance bands, a medicine ball or your own weight to build muscles.
Strength training can reduce body fat, help you burn calories more efficiently and reduce your risk of injury. Choose a weight or resistance that will tire your muscles after about 12 repetitions. Try to do two to three 20-30 minute sessions of strength training a week to get all the benefits.

Click here for a collection of strength training exercises.
Click here for a collection of resistance band exercises.

Balance and flexibility training (stretching)

The goal of balance and flexibility training is to improve the body's stability and range of motion. This has many benefits, including:
  • reduction of lower back pain
  • prevention of injury
  • alleviation of muscle soreness and fatigue after a workout
  • mental relaxation
Stretching exercises are best performed after a workout, when the body is warm and a greater range of motion is possible. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers these Guidelines for flexibility training:
  • Activities: Perform a general stretching routine following exercises that have warmed-up the body, targeting the major muscle groups.
  • Frequency: At least 3 days per week
  • Intensity: Slowly stretching to a position of mild discomfort
  • Duration: Hold stretch for at least 10 seconds, working up to 30 seconds
  • Repetitions: Perform each stretch 3-5 times
Click here for a collection of balance exercises.
Click here for guidelines on safe stretching and exercises.

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How do I get started?

It can be hard to find the time to exercise. Here are some tips to get you started. Remember to check with your doctor before beginning a new fitness routine.
  • Limit screen time to free up time for physical activity.
  • Join a group fitness activity, sports team or class.
  • Exercise with a friend for extra motivation.
  • Incorporate movement throughout your day by to parking farther from the entrance, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or riding your bike to work.
  • Break up your workout into three 10 minute intervals throughout the day.
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How much exercise do I need?

AHA Recommendation
For Overall Cardiovascular Health:
  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes
  • At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
  • Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.
For Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
  • An average 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times per week

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Exercise resources

Check out the resources and blogs below to learn more about managing exercise.

Learn about the 7 most effective exercises
Information about physical activity
Barriers to physical activity and how to overcome them
Safety tips
Find a great outdoor activity/hike near you!

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