“All it takes is 30 minutes of movement or activity a day, whether it be structured or unstructured exercise, and you’re on your way to a healthier and stronger you”
-Karla Y. Ortiz
Countless studies have shown that regular physical activity and exercise help prevent heart disease and stroke, lower blood pressure, help control diabetes, lower stress levels, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve mood, prevent obesity, reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, improve brain function, and prevent arthritis, loss of bone density, and memory loss.
In short, research has shown that any regular physical activity, whether it’s as simple as walking up a few flights of stairs or as hard as running a marathon, is the closest thing that exists to a miracle drug.
Despite all these benefits, over half of Americans get less exercise than they should, and men are even less likely than women to get the exercise they need to thrive. Because of this, our team at McGregor believes that it is important to discuss how to exercise correctly and prevent exercise-related injuries as we continue our observance of Men’s Health Month.
Kinds of Exercise
There are two basic kinds of exercise. Both are important and you should try to get both every day.
First, Aerobic Exercise includes exercises such as running, bike riding, skiing, swimming, basketball, and jumping rope that involve increasing your heart rate for an extended period of time.
Second, Anaerobic Exercise includes exercises such as weightlifting and sprinting that build muscle and strengthen bones. Anaerobic exercises involve short periods of intense exercise followed by a period of rest.
How Much Exercise Should You Do?
Any kind of physical activity – even walking, mowing the lawn, or washing your car – is better than none, but you won’t benefit much from this exercise unless you consistently do it several times a week for at least 20 minutes per day.
Ideally, men at any age should try to get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise on most days. This may seem like a lot, especially if you aren’t used to exercising regularly, but the good news is that you don’t have to do it all at once. Instead, you can spread out your exercise over the course of your day.
If you haven’t been very active up to this point, start off easier and then work your way up. You may only be able to do five minutes of sustained exercise per day, but to maximize health benefits, you should gradually increase your time until you’re up to 30 minutes or more every day.
Before starting any exercise program, talk it over with your doctor for guidance and take caution. Over-exercising can lead to injuries.
Making Exercise a Habit
Finding an activity or two that you enjoy is key to making exercise and fitness a lifelong habit. Most people who start an exercise program don’t stick with it for more than six months because they do not try to find an activity they enjoy.
Luckily for you, there is no shortage of ways to increase your daily exercise and fitness activities. As this list of physical activities, adapted from Armin Brott’s Blueprint for Men’s Health, demonstrates, you can find opportunities to exercise anywhere:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator whenever possible.
- When you go out shopping, park far away from the door instead of closer to it – this forces your body to walk longer distances.
- Do sit-ups, push-ups, squats, or jumping jacks before you leave your house or apartment.
- Use a treadmill or exercise ball while you’re watching television.
- Carry your own groceries, instead of letting a clerk do it for you.
- Use a manual lawnmower to do your yardwork instead of a tractor.
- Skip that mid-morning coffee and go for a walk around the house, office, or park to wake yourself up.
- Join a group or find a workout partner to keep you accountable.
Preventing Exercise-Related Injuries
One of the biggest reasons why people give up on their exercise programs is because they try to do too much before they are ready and end up injuring themselves in the process. Even so, many of these exercise-related injuries are preventable. Following these tips will help you to prevent injury from physical activity, especially as you age:
- Use the right equipment. For example, if you are running or walking, a good pair of tennis shoes is essential for protecting your knees and other joints. Likewise, if you are biking, a helmet is essential for protecting your head from injuries.
- Warm up and stretch for five to ten minutes before you start your workout. Warm muscles are less likely to get strained or injured.
- Cool down after your workout. Light stretching will keep you limber and reduce your chance of injury after a workout takes place.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts.
- If you feel pain, tightening in your chest, or anything else that doesn’t seem right, stop what you’re doing immediately and take a break. Seek help if the problem persists.
- Set reasonable, achievable goals. Ease into your new workout schedule and be patient with yourself as your body adjusts.
When all is said and done, just a little bit of exercise can make a huge difference in your overall health and fitness, no matter what your age.
Don’t forget to check back here next week for more advice on improving men’s health.