Benefits of Exercise
by John Zimmerman, Chiropractor
Components of Exercise:
There are three major components of exercise; cardiovascular,
strength, and flexibility. Cardiovascular exercise means exercise which benefits the heart and lungs. When this
is mentioned, most people think of aerobic exercise, which is exercise that raises the heart rate to a certain
level for a specified period of time. This component of exercise is very important in terms of overall
Another component of exercise is strength. While this may conjure
up images of huge bodybuilders strutting on stage flexing their muscles, it might be better to think in terms of
daily activities. With proper strength training, it becomes easier to hold a squirming baby, carry groceries, or
do a myriad of household chores. Of course, strength training is also the most effective way of changing a
person’s figure. Also, adding muscle mass is also a terrific way of bumping the amount of calories a person
One very important, but often overlooked, aspect of fitness is
flexibility. When speaking of flexibility, we are most likely to picture people with extraordinary levels of
flexibility such as gymnasts or circus performers. In reality, like strength, flexibility really comes into play
most during ordinary activities. Proper flexibility and good range of motion not only helps protect against
injuries during sports and exercise, it also allows us to perform everyday tasks more efficiently and with less
likelihood of injury. Folks who have experienced such injuries could certainly describe how difficult life can
be if you aren’t able to shower, comb your hair, or tie your shoelaces.
So what kind of exercise is best?
All kinds of exercise can be beneficial in certain aspects.
Everyone’s goals will be different. But the fundamental goals should be the same, to increase cardiovascular
fitness, strength, and flexibility. Of course, a good exercise should offer these benefits with little risk.
Above all, to make exercising useful there are only a few general guidelines to keep in mind.
If the exercise is something you really enjoy doing, you will be
much more likely to do it often enough to derive some positive effects. Some people may really enjoy exercises
that challenge them to keep getting better. Sports of all kinds can provide such a challenge.
2. Make it a
Everyone who exercises on a regular basis has somehow made a
decision at one point to make exercising a priority in his or her lives. Exercising must be done on a regular
basis at least a few times a week in order to get the maximum benefits. In our lives, we will always face time
conflicts and other challenges which will seem to stand in the way of taking care of ourselves. Only by making
exercising a priority, can we “find the time”. However, once you are in shape, exercising will have become a
habit as regular as brushing our teeth should be, and you will not ever want to get out of shape
3. Get friends
There probably isn’t a single person anywhere who doesn’t
sometimes feel less than motivated to exercise. If you have a friend or significant other to work out with, it
will be much easier to get through those, “I just don’t feel like it” days.
4. Change routine
Even if you really love a particular sport or exercise, doing the
same thing every time can get monotonous. Keep looking for new sports or exercises that you might enjoy. Also,
you can look for ways to spice up the exercises you are already doing. Make it fun, and you’re much more likely
to keep at it.
Exercises designed for health:
As mentioned above, all exercises and sports can have some
benefits if approached with caution. However, it is true that most sports and a number of exercises, are one
sided and may not really be well designed to better overall health.
So what makes an exercise designed for health?
a. Not one sided.
Many sports such as golf, tennis, and baseball are exclusively
one sided. That is, they employ and develop one side of the body much more than the other side. The result is
usually imbalances in muscles and much overuse of certain joints and muscles. People who play these sports
frequently develop injuries resulting from overuse such as “tennis elbow” and “golfer’s elbow”. One extreme
example is baseball pitchers who so frequently develop debilitating shoulder injuries that it seems incredible
that anyone makes it to the professional level.
b. Correct biomechanics.
The human body is meant to function in a certain way in the
present field of gravity. While
all people who play sports or exercise can learn to do so
better by learning correct biomechanics, only certain exercises place
their main emphasis on how to function correctly. Examples include many of the eastern disciplines such as Yoga, tai-chi, Aikido, and chi-kung. People who
participate in these activities frequently find out that they can improve
their abilities in other sports by applying the principles they learn
from these other disciplines.
Always use proper safety equipment. Wearing the proper safety
gear could probably prevent most severe traumatic athletic injuries. How many people break their wrist while rollerblading or suffer a head injury
from a bicycle accident because safety equipment just “doesn’t look cool”. Take a tip from the pros. and use
those helmets and other gear.
Repetitive Stress Injuries- e.g. Tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow
rotator cuff injuries.
While there is some risk of traumatic injury from many sports, a
far more prevalent problem is injuries from overuse, known in medical parlance as repetitive stress injuries.
These kinds of problems can frequently be prevented by proper warm up and stretching. Improper mechanics are
also often to blame. In most cases, proper treatment would include icing the injured region and temporarily
avoiding the activities that caused the injury. In any case, it is a good idea to get this kind of injury looked
at by a health care professional who is properly trained in handling this kind of injury. Taking
over-the-counter painkillers is not recommended for more than a few days.
With these precautions in mind, there is overwhelming evidence
that the greatest danger is inactivity. Get in the game! Your heart, lungs, muscles, bones, brain, and waistline
will all thank you for it!