The natural condition of our life, no longer give us enough physical activity. Work and travel are increasingly sedentary, and leisure equally, usually a matter of sitting, and watching something.
It has been estimated through research, that on average 75 hours are spent by people in watching films, television, sports, documentaries, news etc, for every one, spent in physical exercise.
So we have to plan and work to achieve enough activity to keep us physically fit. But if the need is there, so also is the potential. A high level of physical fitness can often be reached in just a couple of month’s daily physical training, and maintained after that by exercising only on alternate days.
In theory adequate fitness might perhaps be maintained every day by walking briefly for a mile or two, to and from work.
Standing up while doing something for a couple of hours, using vigorous towelling movements after washing.
Stretching occasionally, and hurrying up a hill, embankment or stairs, carrying a fairly heavy load, all these are forms of exercises.
In practice few have the time or taste or consistent discipline for even the simple exercises numerated above, and most of us are well below levels of fitness.
So formal exercise, over and above the normal daily demands, becomes essential for the achievement for an efficient, strong and durable body.
What are the main types of exercises?
Each component of fitness has its own corresponding forms of exercise. I shall advise us to read each type with a discerning mind, taking into cognisance our state of health before deciding which exercise to choose.
1) Circulo-Respiratory Exercises (CRE). These include, brisk walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming, rope skipping, running on the spot – treadmill, cycling machines, rowing machines etc etc. All are “aerobic” and therefore place demands on the circulation and respiration to supply oxygen.
2) Isotonic Exercises – These consist almost entirely of weight lifting, this gives the progressive resistance necessary to test and increase, the maximum strength of a single joint movement.
3) Isometric Exercises – These are motionless. They use the force of one body muscle against another or against a fixed point such as wall or bar. Towels or ropes provide simple accessories, more complex are machines – such as the Bullmarker and Flexociser that provide variable resistance according to strength. Holding for 6 seconds or more produces the best strength gains, with 10 or 12 seconds recommended. Intensity of effort is more important than frequency.
4) Muscular Endurance Exercises – These consist mainly of traditional calisthenics with or without equipment ie push-ups, sit-ups, squat-leg-thrusts, pull-ups to a bar, bar-dips. All these are usually isotonic – in weight-lifting, done with repetitive pumping motion, used for increasing muscle size, rather than strength. They are only isometric if held locked in a tense position ie against gravity.
5) Flexibility Exercises – These usually consist of stretching and rotating movements of parts of the body.
How to choose your exercise
The range of possibilities include team sports, opponent sports, gym activities, keep-fit-classes, companion activities – such as hiking or group jogging, lone indoor routines, and extensions of normal activities such as walking to work or going upstairs carrying heavy shopping.
Factors that could influence your choice include
a) Your purpose for exercising.
b) The availability of time, money, facilities, equipment and other people, and,
c) Your personal interest.
● b) and c) are self explanatory. So I shall only discuss a).
a) Your purpose for exercising.
● You may want to get generally fit, or to train for a sport, or perhaps to develop or strengthen a weak part of your body.
● The distinction is important because the function of different exercises is so specific. Where training for sports is the intention, the best method is to practice the sports itself.
• Endurance running for example, will not help so much with endurance swimming – though some exercise may provide a neat substitute. But some sports do not raise the level of general fitness much, and so additional fitness training may bring improved performance.
● Similarly, strengthening a part of the body is best done in conjunction with a general fitness programme.
Let your exercise maximise your interest
Help yourself by setting aside a regular time – whether before breakfast, or the late morning, or afternoon at work, or at home in the early evening or just before going to bed.
Whatever factor is important to you, please start something today even if it means walking around your house every other evening. Be medically guided.
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