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The Incredible Benefits of Regular Exercise

You keep your skin clean. You condition your hair. You're eating right. You're doing all you can to look and feel great. But are you missing out on an important part of a healthier lifestyle?
No matter what your age or shape, you should exercise daily. Not only does exercise tone your body so you can wear your favorite jeans, it strengthens your muscles, keeps your bones strong, and improves your skin. And there are more benefits of exercise -- increased relaxation, better sleep and mood, strong immune function, and more. Let's look at some of the incredible benefits of exercise, then talk about how you can get started.

Benefits of Regular Exercise: Weight Control

Because exercise helps use up oxygen, it causes your body to burn stored fat and helps you maintain a normal weight. For instance, if you walk 6 kilometers  a day, four times a week, you can burn about 1,600 calories, or nearly 0.25 kilos  a week. If you don't change your diet at all and keep walking the same distance over six months, you'll lose 5.5 kilos . Walk the same distance for a year and you'll drop 11 .0 kilograms !
The neat thing about exercise is you don't have to do it all at one time. After all, not many teens have time to walk 6 kilometers  after school! But you can do 4 miles in short bursts throughout your day. Here's an idea of how to work that much exercise into your daily regimen:

  • Take a 1-mile walk on a treadmill before school. Then, take a 1-mile walk around the track during school lunch period.
  • Take a 1-mile walk after school with friends or the family dog.
  • Take a 1-mile walk on the treadmill while watching your favorite show before dinner.

If you stay with the walking program, you'll see benefits with:

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle strengthening and definition
  • Stronger bones
  • A lower heart rate
  • Better mood
  • An improved complexion

Benefits of Regular Exercise: Stronger Muscles

Most people know that exercise keeps muscles strong. But did you know that strong muscles burn more calories? Muscle mass is metabolically active tissue. In other words, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn even when you're not working out.
Studies estimate that for each kilo of muscle you add to your body, you will burn an additional 35-50 calories per day. So an extra 3kilos of muscle will burn about 175-250 calories a day, or an extra half kilo of fat every 14-20 days.
Because guys have more muscle mass, they burn calories faster and lose weight more easily than girls. So girls need to work out daily to stay strong and in shape.

Benefits of Regular Exercise: Stronger Bones

Regular, moderate exercise -- particularly weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, jogging, and dancing -- keeps your bones strong. Studies show that resistance (strengthening) exercises also boost bone mass and keep muscles strong.

Benefits of Regular Exercise: Better Skin

Exercise also boosts circulation and the delivery of nutrients to your skin, helping to detoxify the body by removing toxins (poisons).
As exercise boosts oxygen to the skin, it also helps increase the natural production of collagen, the connective tissue that plumps your skin. Your skin color is also improved after exercise because of the increase in blood flow.

Benefits of Regular Exercise: Less Stress

Regular exercise reduces the amount of stress hormones in the body, resulting in a slower heart rate, relaxed blood vessels, and lower blood pressure. Increased relaxation after exercise shows on your face with reduced muscle tension.

Benefits of Regular Exercise: Improved Mood

Research shows that regular exercise reduces symptoms of moderate depression and enhances psychological fitness. Exercise can even produce changes in certain chemical levels in the body, which can have an effect on the psychological state.
Endorphins are hormones in the brain associated with a happy, positive feeling. A low level of endorphins is associated with depression. During exercise, plasma levels of this substance increase. This may help to ease symptoms of depression. A recent National Health and Nutrition survey found that physically active people were half as likely to be depressed.
Exercise also boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that send specific messages from one brain cell to another. Though only a small percentage of all serotonin is located in the brain, this neurotransmitter is thought to play a key role in keeping your mood calm.

Benefits of Regular Exercise: Fewer Colds

Regular exercise appears to help jump-start the immune system, thus helping to reduce the number of colds, flu, and other viruses.

Benefits of Regular Exercise: More Brainpower

Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain and helps it receive oxygen and nutrients. The better shape you're in, the faster you fire brain waves that are responsible for quick thinking.
So, for example, if math is a real problem, you may find that daily exercise helps to solve it!

Getting Started With Exercise

As you make the daily exercise commitment, be sure to include the following three types of exercise:

  • Range-of-motion, or stretching exercises. These involve moving a joint as far as it will go (without pain). You can do this with basic stretches or through dance, yoga, swimming , and similar activities.
  • Endurance or conditioning exercises. Endurance exercises include walking, biking, climbing stairs, aerobics, and swimming. These exercises strengthen muscles and build coordination and endurance.
  • Strengthening exercises. Resistance exercises help build strong muscles. You can do them with ankle and wrist weights, free weights, resistance machines, resistance bands, or free weights (handheld weights).

Don't Forget to Hydrate

The more intense the training session, the more heat your body will produce. Before beginning exercise, drink water to help the body compensate for sweating. You can drink more water during exercise if you're thirsty.
The benefits of daily exercise are incredible, and to think that they are free! Start a daily exercise regimen today, and enjoy all the proven "extras" that come with moving around more.

Fact vs. Fiction

Your heart, your brain – your entire body – benefits from exercise.

The Basics

Exercise Program: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide

There’s no need for a grueling gym workout. Learn the benefits of dancing, gardening, and more. exercise

How to get started with an exercise program.
By Dulce Zamora
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
You've decided it's time to start exercising. Congratulations! You've taken the first step on your way to a new and improved body and mind
"Exercise is the magic pill," says Michael R. Bracko, EdD, FACSM, chairman of the American College of Sports Medicine's Consumer Information Committee. "Exercise can literally cure diseases like some forms of heart disease. Exercise has been implicated in helping people prevent or recover from some forms of cancer. Exercise helps people with arthritis. Exercise helps people prevent and reverse depression."
And there's no arguing that exercise can help most people lose weight, as well as look more toned and trim.
Of course, there's a catch. You need to get -- and keep -- moving if you want to cash in on the benefits. This doesn't necessarily mean following a strict, time-consuming regimen at the gym -- although that can certainly reap benefits. The truth is you can get rewards from many different types and levels of exercise.
"Any little increment of physical activity is going to be a great boost to weight loss and feeling better," says Rita Redberg, MSc, chairwoman of the American Heart Association's Scientific Advisory Board for the Choose to Move program.
Your exercise options are numerous; including walking, dancing, gardening, biking -- even doing household chores, says Redberg. The important thing is to choose activities you enjoy, she says. That will increase your chances of making it a habit.
And how much exercise should you do? For heart health, the AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking, on most days of the week.
Yet "if you're getting less than that, you're still going to see benefits," says Redberg. "It's not like if you can't do 30 minutes, you shouldn't do anything, because you're definitely going to see benefits even at 5 or 10 minutes of moving around."
Ready to get started?.
A way to measure the intensity of your exercise is to check you heart rate or pulse during physical activity. These should be within a target range during different levels of intensity.
For example, according to the CDC, for moderate-intensity physical activity, a person's target heart rate should be 50% to 70% of his or her maximum heart rate.

Get Ready

The first step to any workout routine is to evaluate how fit you are for your chosen physical activity. Whenever you begin an exercise program, it's wise to consult a doctor. Anyone with major health risks, males aged 45 and older, and women aged 55 and older should get medical clearance, says , chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.
But no matter what your medical condition, you can usually work out in some way.
"I can't think of any medical issue that would get worse from the right kind of exercise," .
After assessing your fitness, it helps to set workout goals. For example, do you want to prepare to run a 5K? Hit the gym five times a week? Or just walk around the block without getting winded?
"Make sure the goals are clear, realistic, and concise," .
Whatever your goals and medical condition, approach any new exercise regimen with caution.
"Start low and go slow," advises Bryant. Many beginners make the mistake of starting out too aggressively, only to give up when they end up tired, sore, or injured, he says. Some get discouraged because they think an aggressive workout will produce instant results.
"Generally speaking, when people go about it too aggressively early in the program, they tend not to stick with it over the long haul," says Bryant. "What you really want to do is to develop some new habits that you can stick with for a lifetime."

Fitness Definitions

Even long-term exercisers may have misconceptions about exactly what some fitness terms mean. Here are some definition of words and phrases you're likely to encounter:

  • Aerobic/cardiovascular activity. These are exercises that are strenuous enough to temporarily speed up your breathing and heart rate. Running, cycling, walking, swimming, and dancing fall in this category.
  • Maximum Heart Rate is based on the person's age. An estimate of a person's maximum age-related heart rate can be obtained by subtracting the person's age from 220.
  • Flexibility training or stretching. This type of workout enhances the range of motion of joints. Age and inactivity tend to cause muscles, tendons, and ligaments to shorten over time. Contrary to popular belief, however, stretching and warming up are not synonymous. In fact, stretching cold muscles and joints can make them prone to injury.
  • Strength, weight, or resistance training. This type of exercise is aimed at improving the strength and function of muscles. Specific exercises are done to strengthen each muscle group. Weight lifting and exercising with stretchy resistance bands are examples of resistance training activities, as are exercises like pushups in which you work against the weight of your own body.
  • Set. Usually used in discussing strength training exercises, this term refers to repeating the same exercise a certain number of times. For instance, a weight lifter may do 10 biceps curls, rest for a few moments, then perform another "set" of 10 more biceps curls.
  • Repetition or "rep." This refers to the number of times you perform an exercise during a set. For example, the weight lifter mentioned above performed 10 reps of the bicep curl exercise in each set.
  • Warm up. This is the act of preparing your body for the stress of exercise. The body can be warmed up with light intensity aerobic movements like walking slowly. These movements increase blood flow, which in turn heats up muscles and joints. "Think of it as a lube job for the body,"  At the end of your warm-up, it's a good idea to do a little light stretching.
  • Cooldown. This is the less-strenuous exercise you do to cool your body down after the more intense part of your workout. For example, after a walk on a treadmill, you might walk at a reduced speed and incline for several minutes until your breathing and heart rate slow down. Stretching is often part of a cooldown.

Before beginning any fitness routine, it's important to warm up, and then do some light stretching. Save the bulk of the stretching for after the workout.
Once you're warmed up, experts recommend three different types of exercise for overall physical fitness: cardiovascular activity, strength conditioning, and flexibility training. These don't all have to be done at once, but doing each on a regular basis will result in balanced fitness.

  • Cardiovascular activity. Start by doing an aerobic activity, like walking or running, for a sustained 20-30 minutes, four to five times a week, .  To ensure you're working at an optimum level, try the "talk test": Make sure you can carry on a basic level of conversation without being too winded. But if you can easily sing a song, you're not working hard enough.
  • Strength conditioning. Start by doing one set of exercises targeting each of the major muscle groups. Using a weight at which you can comfortably perform the exercise eight to 12 times in a set. When you think you can handle more, gradually increase either the weight, the number of repetitions, or number of sets. To maximize the benefits, do strength training at least twice a week. Never work the same body part two days in a row.
  • Flexibility training. Do slow, sustained static stretches three to seven days per week. Each stretch should last 10-30 seconds.