What are the benefits of exercise?

Exercise has many benefits. It can:

  • Burn calories, which helps people control their weight
  • Help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes
  • Lower blood pressure, especially in people with high blood pressure
  • Lower stress and help with depression
  • Keep bones strong, so they don’t get thin and break easily
  • Lower the chance of dying from heart disease

What are the main types of exercise?

There are 3 main types of exercise. They are:

  • Aerobic exercise – Aerobic exercise raises a person’s heart rate. Examples of aerobic exercise are walking, running, or swimming.
  • Resistance training – Resistance training helps make your muscles stronger. People can do this type of exercise using weights, exercise bands, or weight machines.
  • Stretching – Stretching exercises help your muscles and joints move more easily.

It’s important to have all 3 types of exercise in your exercise program. That way, your body, muscles, and joints can be as healthy as possible.

Should I talk to my doctor or nurse before I start exercising?

If you have not exercised before or have not exercised in a long time, talk with your doctor or nurse before you start a very active exercise program.

If you have heart disease or risk factors for heart disease (like high blood pressure or diabetes), your doctor or nurse might recommend that you have an exercise test before starting an exercise program.

When you start an exercise program, start slowly. For example, do the exercise at a slow pace or for a few minutes only. Over time, you can exercise faster and for longer periods of time.

What should I do when I exercise?

Each time you exercise, you should:

  • Warm up – Warming up can help keep you from hurting your muscles when you exercise. To warm up, do a light aerobic exercise (such as walking slowly) or stretch for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Work out – During a workout, you can walk fast, swim, run, or use an exercise machine, for example. You should also stretch all of your joints, including your neck, shoulders, back, hips, and knees. At least 2 times a week, you can add resistance training exercises to your workout.
  • Cool down – Cooling down helps keep you from feeling dizzy after you exercise and helps prevent muscle cramps. To cool down, you can stretch or do a light aerobic exercise for 5 minutes.

How often should I exercise?

Doctors recommend that people exercise at least 30 minutes a day, on 5 or more days of the week.

If you can’t exercise for 30 minutes straight, try to exercise for 10 minutes at a time, 3 or 4 times a day. Even exercising for shorter amounts of time can be good for you, especially if it means spending less time sitting.

When should I call my doctor or nurse?

If you have any of the following symptoms when you exercise, stop exercising and call your doctor or nurse right away:

  • Pain or pressure in your chest, arms, throat, jaw, or back
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling like your heart is fluttering or racing very fast
  • Feeling dizzy or faint

What if I don’t have time to exercise?

Many people have very busy lives and might not think that they have time to exercise. But it’s important to try to find time to exercise, even if you are tired or work a lot. Exercise can increase your energy level, which might even help you get more work done.

On days when you really can’t find time to exercise, there are ways that you can be more active. For example, you can:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park in a parking space that is farther away from the door
  • Take a longer route when you walk from one place to another

Spending a lot of time sitting still – for example, watching television or working on the computer – can be bad for your health. Try to get up and move around whenever you can.

What else should I do when I exercise?

To exercise safely and avoid problems, be sure to:

  • Drink fluids during and after exercising (but drinks should not have caffeine in them)
  • Avoid exercising outside if it is too hot or cold
  • Wear layers of clothes, so that you can take them off if you get too hot
  • Wear shoes that fit well and support your feet

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