Is Exercise The Wonder Drug You’ve Been Looking For?

Robert Clark, PT, DPT, GCS, CareOne’s Senior Director of Education and Development, shares exercise tips to help you stay active and fit.

As Plato said, “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”

Exercise is defined as a subclass of physical activity, planned structured, and repetitive bodily movement done to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness.  In other words, going for a walk or going to the gym and working on aerobic machines or even taking a pool class.  Exercise is anything that gets you up and moving!

The benefits of exercise include increased endurance, strength, flexibility and overall energy.  Exercise helps to lose or maintain weight, helps reduce feelings of depression, improves sleep patterns and improves blood pressure. Research has also shown that exercise stabilizes blood sugar levels, strengthens your heart, improves cholesterol levels, improves microcirculation and reduces the risk of heart disease.

So where do you start? The best way to begin an exercise program is to follow the “FITT” Principle:

  • FREQUENCY (days per week)
  • INTENSITY (how hard)
  • TYPE (of activity)
  • Time (how long to go)

Frequency – Walk around your block once or twice a week. Start with 5 or 10 minutes, or the amount of time that you can tolerate.  Add 1-2 minutes every week.  Your duration goal should be between 20-60 minutes. During the winter months, try using a treadmill or walking indoors at the mall.

Intensity – Go at your own pace.  Use the Talk Test to gage your intensity – exercise at a conversational level.  If you are short of breath, slow down.  Listen to your body!

Type – The type of activity you do may vary.  It may include anything that involves working your arms and legs and should include continuous, repetitive and structured activities such as walking, cycling, dancing, swimming and stair climbing.  You should always include a warm-up and cool down period.

Time – Begin with what you can tolerate.  If you are walking, add 1-2 minutes per week. If you are stair climbing, add 1-2 steps per week. Work towards 30-60 minutes most days of the week.  The more you do, the stronger you’ll get!

Strengthening exercises should be done at least twice per week.  You can use hand weights, leg weights, resistance bands, or even milk jugs.  The trick is to follow a slow and easy progression.  For example, lift 8-12 times (repetitions) doing 8-10 different exercises. Take a break between exercises (1 set) and repeat.

Flexibility is important, too.  It helps prevent joints from becoming stiff and painful.  Types of flexibility exercises include simple stretching, Yoga or even Tai Chi.

Remember, talk to your doctor or physical/occupational therapist before starting an exercise program.

Keep a log and start slow.  Results take time.  To stay motivated, get other family members involved.  Make physical activity a priority in your life.  It takes time but it also makes time!