Chapter 3 : Be Active to Maintain Health

Walking Your Way to a Healthier You

Walking is the best form of exercise you can have to obtain better health and a fitter you and it will cost you nothing. It is a form of exercise which can be taken up by anyone regardless of age or physical condition providing you start off sensibly, as with all forms of exercise you are not used to doing.

The first steps to getting healthier should be taken slowly and it is advisable if you do not exercise on a regular basis to start off with no more than a 10-minute walk most days of the week. This can then be gradually increased to walking 3 times a day for 10 minutes or twice a day for 15 minutes at a time. There are many ways you can fit this into your daily routine without too much trouble; just consider when and where you could alter your routine to walk instead of taking the car or bus.

The benefits of walking are numerous to your health and wellbeing and simply by altering your routine and walking 30 minutes or more each and every day you can

  • See an increase in your overall fitness and the tone of your muscles
  • Feel good and look better
  • Find that your level of energy increases
  • Feel a lot less stressed and are slower to start feeling stressed
  • Find that your pattern of sleep changes and you sleep better and feel more rested on waking
  • Begin to reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer
  • Find that depression starts lifting and you don’t feel down as easily as you once did
  • Your outlook on life in general and the way you deal with things changes for the better
  • You lose weight and look better
  • You find that your muscles, joints and bones are stronger
  • You reduce the risk of developing diabetes

You can start gaining all these and more benefits simply by increasing the amount of walking you do per day and being more active. In order to gain the best health and fitness from walking you should aim to walk at a moderate pace, a moderate pace means that while you shouldn’t be over exerting yourself you should be walking faster than strolling along. This means that while you are walking, you should be able to hold a conversation without getting breathless and your temperature should rise a little, but you shouldn’t be sweating to the extreme.

Not only will you feel better and look better once you have been on your new regime for a while, you will feel many more benefits health wise and be well on the way to leading a more productive, happier and healthier way of lifestyle.

Running for Success

Running isn’t just for runners anymore.  Running just three days a week for 30 minutes has been proven to help maintain healthy weight as well as improve attitude and motivation.  In short, running can help you become happier, healthier and more successful to.  Here’s how.

For Health

Running is not just an athlete’s sport.  Although you probably won’t win the Boston Marathon, running can be a very healthy activity whether you choose to compete in races or not.  In order to achieve optimal health benefits from running, you will want to work yourself up to a level of being able to run at least 30 minutes at a stretch, three or four days a week.

The best part about running is that you can do it anywhere with just a pair of good shoes.  Go to your local running store and have them fit you into the right pair to ensure that you don’t cause injury from inadequate shoes.  The key here is not to have the cheapest shoes, the most expensive shoes or the nicest looking shoes, but to have the right shoes for your feet.

For Attitude

Running, above many other sports, can help develop a happier, healthier attitude towards life.  If you can motivate yourself to get out there to run three days a week, you can do anything.  Most people find that after they have been running for a few weeks that it becomes addicting.  You will enjoy the control you have over yourself and will crave more.  It can be most rewarding when you get out on the streets in inclement weather and brave a drizzle or windy day.  The lessons you learn from running will help you be a more positive person and will teach you that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

If you run with a negative attitude, you’ll find that you won’t get very far or you will walk a great chunk of the way.  In order to convince yourself to keep on running, you’ll find yourself telling yourself positive things, looking forward to the hills and forcing yourself to think that running is your favorite activity, even if it isn’t.  The amazing thing that will start to happen is that you will start to believe it.  After awhile, you won’t be forcing yourself to run, you really will enjoy it and look forward to it. 

Once you reach this level, you will find yourself with a more positive attitude towards just about everything.  Running is one of the best attitude adjustments there is.  Once you start to look forward to running up those hills because it is going to make you stronger and faster, you’ll find yourself thinking positively about all aspects of your life such as dealing with problem clients at work.  Instead of getting irritated, you will begin to think about what you could say to calm them down, make them happy and move on to the next client.

For Motivation

After you conquer the first 30 minutes of non-stop running, you will probably find yourself wondering if you could run further or faster.  Most people can find a 5k or 10k race within driving distance almost every weekend and this can help you gauge how fast you can run.  These races can serve as a great motivator for you and your newfound hobby.  Run your first one without regard for time, just finish.  After that, you will probably find yourself looking to improve your personal best and you will easily be able to find more races whenever you are ready to challenge yourself.

Cycling to your way to fitness

To gain benefits from cycling you don’t have to be super fit, an athlete or anything of the sort.  The benefits of bicycling are great and it is a fun way to get that much needed exercise.

Weight loss and bicycling

If you are trying to shed a few pounds, dieting alone very rarely works out in the long term, however doing more exercise on a regular basis works wonders. If you cycle on a daily basis then it will not only help you burn a large number of calories during your workout but it will also raise your metabolism and help you burn more calories throughout the day.  Cycling along a flat road or path at 12 mph will help you to burn off roughly 450 calories an hour, and even when you stop your metabolism is still speeding ahead, helping to you burn calories quicker.

Not only can cycling help you to lose weight and keep it off, it is also beneficial health wise. By cycling at least 20 miles per week you can help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease by half compared to those who don’t cycle.

Health benefits of bicycling

Cycling is classed as an aerobic form of exercise; this is a type of exercise that is particularly beneficial to the lungs and heart. Your lungs expand with the effort of pedaling, which allows you to get more oxygen into your body; this in turn makes your heart beat faster to send the oxygen throughout your body. If you develop powerful lungs and a strong heart then you are well and truly on your way to fitness.

Just by cycling a few miles per day you will soon begin to feel fitter and healthier, you will see your muscles beginning to tone. You thigh, backside and calf muscles will gain the biggest benefit from cycling, as these are the muscles that you will use the most, but overall you will find yourself in much better shape.  Perhaps you will find that you no longer get winded walking up a flight of stairs.  However, the best part is, that the more you bicycle, the more you will enjoy it and look forward to your next outing.

Bicycling can also be beneficial when we are feeling down or if we suffer from stress, anxiety or depression. When we exercise we release what are known as endorphins into our bloodstream, endorphins bring about a feeling of happiness and contentment and are a great way to combat stress and depression. Cycling can be done almost anywhere by anyone, if you live in towns or the countryside there is always somewhere to bicycle. It doesn’t have to be expensive and is a relatively safe sport, when you follow the few simple guidelines and can be enjoyed as a family.

Here are a few simple tips to help you get the most out of cycling

Always carry a puncture repair kit

Make sure you take a water bottle with you especially on long rides in the countryside

Keep your tires pumped up to the required level to make cycling easier

For safety always make sure you wear a bicycle helmet

Always have lights and reflectors on your bike to make sure you are seen

When cycling at night wear bright colors or preferably some sort of reflective material

Pilates for back pain

The most essential thing that those who suffer from back pain can learn is awareness of the neutral alignment of the spine and the strengthening of the postural muscles to support the alignment. For those people with back pain caused by the degeneration of discs and joints, or poor posture, a Pilate’s exercise program can be beneficial to easing the problem.

Most back problems are caused by bad posture; this can be sitting, walking or standing. This causes us to lose strength in our postural muscles over time and gets worse until eventually you cannot even correct your posture if you want to. Pilates is an exellent form of exercise to remedy this problem too. 

What is Pilates?

The Pilates method is a form of exercise that focuses on using the core postural muscles to help keep the body balanced and support the spine. It is a method that teaches awareness of breathing and alignment of the spine. In helping to prevent and alleviate back pain the system also strengthens the deep torso muscles.

While Pilates is a simple form of exercise you shouldn’t underestimate the impact that it can have, Pilates can help to develop support for the deep postural muscles of the trunk. It brings an awareness of the importance of neutral alignment and leads to the shoulders and hips being suppler.

Pilates has roots in ballet and dance and as such some of the movements used in the system can be particularly challenging and difficult, however there are some exercises that can be learned and practiced at home between guided sessions. As when beginning any new form of exercise it is important that you seek the advice of your doctor before commencing, the instructor guiding the Pilates session should also be qualified.

One-on-one sessions may be the answer

For those who have significant back problems it may be advisable to have a few one-on-one sessions with an instructor qualified in Pilates and especially in treating those with back pain. While this is more expensive than attending a class it can be worth the extra expense to learn the exercise correctly by having one-on-one guidance.

While the exercises in the Pilates system should challenge you mentally and physically, they shouldn’t cause you to struggle with them. If an exercise is causing you pain then it could be that you are not performing it correctly or it could be too difficult a position for you. You should make sure that you never put too much excessive stress on the intervertebral discs and avoid mental or physical fatigue.

As a general rule those suffering from back pain and attending Pilates should never perform any exercise that pushes the spine into extremes of extension or flexion. Side bending movements and twisting of the spine should also be avoided. As with most forms of exercise, it will take perseverance and some time spent attending classes before you will see any major improvements.

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