Exercise Fundamentals for Achieving Good Health

Exercise FundamentalsStudies show that repetitive movement such as exercise increases the alpha waves in the brain, and the alpha state is associated with enhanced intuition. The mind pervades the body, and when you move your body repetitively and rhythmically, more of your mind’s power will become available to you.

There are four aspects of exercise that are important for achieving good health. They are aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching, and breathing. Including all four of these in your fitness plan will ensure you reap the benefits of exercise for years to come. Here is a short primer to help you understand these four components.

Aerobic training. keeps your heart and lungs in good condition. It is also a great way to burn excess fat. Aerobic exercise is defined as an activity during which the heart rate is elevated to your “target zone” for 15 to 20 consecutive minutes. You can calculate your target zone using the following formula:

First, subtract your age from 220, then subtract your resting heart rate (beats per minute) from this figure. Next, multiply the remainder by your “exercise quotient” — this is .06 for beginners and .08 for advanced exercisers. Finally, add your resting heart rate to the figure you got from this number.

This is your target heart rate in beats per minute. You can divide the number by 6 to find out your heart rate for a ten-second count. Using a heart rate monitor is a good way to ascertain the level at which you are exercising, and can help prevent you from surpassing your target heart rate.

Many runners and people who take spinning classes use these to keep track of how hard they are working. One caveat to the target zone numbers is nose breathing. Your target heart rate may need to be lower for a while until you learn how to do aerobic exercise while breathing in and out through your nose!

Strength Training. Studies show that as we age, we create about 1.5 pounds of fat per year. We also lose about a half-pound of muscle per year if we don’t exercise. In other words, muscle loss results in fat gain. Weight-bearing exercises help you to increase the amount of muscle mass in the body relative to fat.

When you use strength training it also helps you build and maintain strong bones because strengthening the major muscle groups in your body puts stress on your bones, which helps keep them strong, too. The great thing about strength training is that the more you lift, the easier everything gets. Having strong muscles and strong bones allows you to move more easily, so you can enjoy whatever activities you participate in.

Working opposing muscle groups, such as biceps and triceps or quadriceps and hamstrings, helps improve balance, which many women start to lose in their forties. Strengthening core muscles is also important for your posture. Yoga and Pilates are two good ways to strengthen the muscles deep in your hips, stomach, and back.

Stretching before and especially after exercise helps prevent injury and allows for greater freedom of movement because it increases blood flow to the muscles and helps to remove lactic acid, preventing soreness after exercise. Stretching also promotes flexibility and helps you to relax. Good times to stretch include before and after aerobic exercise, in-between strength training sets, and any time you feel your muscles begin to tighten, such as when you are sitting at your desk and you feel your shoulders moving up around your ears. Being flexible will help you do everything — from changing a light bulb to sleeping better.

I truly believe that breathing is the most important part of any exercise routine. I know that a lot of the cardiovascular machines have heart rate training ranges. but, unless you have a heart rate monitor and a strong interest or really need to keep track of your heart rate, these can be confusing. Heart rate readings on cardio machines are also inaccurate much of the time. A better way to gauge your intensity level is by breathing correctly through your nose and monitoring your breathing.

When you breathe properly through your nose rather than gulping air through your mouth you can progress through your work-outs at a much slower heart rate and breath rate than might otherwise be expected.

It is also more comfortable to breathe this way when you are exercising. Have you ever seen a racehorse breathe through its mouth? In fact, all warm-blooded animals breathe through their noses. Nose breathing is associated with parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system balance. Mouth breathing is a sign of stress.

The best way I have found to practice deep breathing is to first, take three full deep breaths through your mouth. When you are finished, take three full, deep breaths through your nose. Notice how the air goes all the way down to the lower lobes of your lungs when you breathe through your nose. If you breathe through your nose while you exercise, your lungs will become more efficient and you will achieve higher levels of fitness with much less effort.

If you are in the habit of mouth breathing, it may take a while for you to develop the chest wall flexibility necessary to nose breathe easily while working out. You may have to slow your pace for several months, but the increased oxygenation and decreased oxidative stress to the body are worth it. You will always feel energized, not depleted when you work out this way.

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