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Regular physical activity is one of the simplest, least expensive and most rewarding ways to maintain a healthy body. A brisk walk brightens your mood and clears your mind. The increase in oxygen alleviates fatigue better than a cup of coffee.

Benefits of Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity is one of the simplest, least expensive and most rewarding ways to maintain a healthy body. A brisk walk brightens your mood and clears your mind. The increase in oxygen alleviates fatigue better than a cup of coffee. Regular exercise improves performance of your heart and lungs and keeps your body looking young. Heart disease, constipation, diabetes and arthritis are only a few of the ailments that can be avoided with adequate physical activity.

Regular exercise, combined with good nutrition, is the best way to maintain a healthy weight. Its calming influence reduces blood pressure, and helps stomach problems by relieving nervous tension, stress and anxiety. Tense muscles are relaxed and flexibility is improved. By stimulating blood circulation, exercise improves concentration, memory and sleep quality.

As well as improving existing conditions, exercise also prevents illness from developing. Perspiration rids the body of toxins, making it stronger and more resistant to disease. Further illness is also prevented in bedridden patients who perform simple exercises in bed. Best of all, an energetic person will feel more alert and develop a more positive attitude.

Children need movement and activity for healthy development, just as they need fresh air and proper nutrition. Children who get the exercise and fresh air they need are calmer, sleep more soundly, perform better in school and are more emotionally balanced.

Warm Up and Cool Down

Stretch your muscles before and after exercise to prevent injury and aching muscles the next morning, to improve flexibility, and to make the whole experience more enjoyable. Stretching means moving a body part slowly as far as the muscles will go and holding that position for twenty to thirty seconds. Let up slowly and stretch the muscles again, a little farther this time. When you have taken ten to fifteen minutes to stretch all of your major muscle groups, you can warm up. Warming up means doing the exercise you plan to do but at a much slower pace, just to get those muscles ready for their activity.

When finishing your exercise, gradually reduce the intensity of exercising over the course of ten to fifteen minutes. Cooling down gradually prevents aching muscles and cramps. As part of your cool down, stretch your muscles thoroughly for ten to fifteen minutes. This helps distribute the blood back into the body and prevents it from pooling in the muscles.

Exercising is best on an empty stomach. Drink pure water when needed before, during and after exercise.

Choosing Your Activities

There are numerous ways to become physically active. Strive for a minimum of twenty minutes of physically challenging activity three or four times a week. Exercise can be integrated into your busy schedule and become part of your lifestyle. For example, it is much healthier to walk or ride your bicycle to your destination than it is to drive. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or the escalator. Break the television habit and invigorate yourself with physical activity.

Set measurable activity goals that are realistic and sensible for you, and share these goals with family and friends. When you achieve your goals with regularity, review them and set challenging new goals. Many people find it easier to stick to exercising when they join a group, go to fitness classes or work out with a friend. Remember to warm up and do some stretching before and after your workout.

Choose activities that are challenging enough to get your heart beating a little faster and your circulation moving. You will find physical activity more satisfying if you push yourself a little. Think of exercise as your chance to feel good. If you find yourself gasping for air, getting dizzy or suddenly weak, slow down. Any kind of pain is a signal from your body that you are working too hard. Physical activity should be invigorating, not exhausting.

Choosing more than one type of activity is healthier for the body because more muscle groups are worked. Try different kinds of physical activity to keep yourself interested. You are more likely to stick with an exercise if you have fun doing it. Choose ones that suit your lifestyle, and do them regularly for a month or two before switching to new activities. Brisk walking is a simple and safe way to start. Begin slowly and gradually, move to increasingly strenuous activities as you feel comfortable with them. Think creatively. Cross-country skiing, skating and snowshoeing are great outdoor winter sports for those in northern climates. Badminton, volleyball and hockey are stimulating indoor and outdoor activities. Check local newspapers for courses and services offered by community centers and colleges. Along with the usual aerobics and step classes, you can try more gentle activities such as dance, stretching and water exercises. You can practice many of these routines at home as well.

Walking, hiking, swimming, and bicycling are particularly healthy because they are easy on the heart, muscles and joints. As outdoor activities, they also offer replenishing fresh air and the enjoyment of being outside.

Walking

Walking is the perfect exercise it is easy, enjoyable and free. Walking is healthy at various paces. Anything faster than a stroll tones your muscles, restores circulation and increases your heart rate. A regular, brisk walk can improve physical fitness dramatically. Walking is easier on the muscles and joints than jogging, and there is little risk of injury, even for someone just starting out. A brisk walk is an excellent means of releasing stress after a full day indoors. It can prevent headaches and improve concentration, memory and mood. Furthermore, a walk is a healthy way to lose weight and combat high blood pressure.

Walk as much as you can, preferably three or more times a week for at least twenty minutes. A short stroll is better than none at all, but the longer you walk, the healthier it is for your muscular, respiratory and circulatory systems. Before walking, stretch the muscles to keep them flexible and deter injuries. Be kind to your feet, knees and back wear comfortable walking shoes with cotton or wool socks. Whenever possible, walk on soft grassy or earth surfaces. Set aside time when you can walk for leisure and relaxation, such as your lunch break. Choose to walk rather than drive. These are great ways of sneaking some healthy activity into an otherwise busy daily schedule. As a bonus, it benefits the environment to have fewer cars on the road.

Hiking

Hiking is an extended walk in a natural environment. It is an excellent activity to release stress, have fun and benefit your health and spirit. Nature provides a peaceful and interesting background, the air is pure and the trails are a soft cushion for your skeletal system. The fresh air and workout stimulate your appetite and ensure a good night's rest. Climbing uphill will give your heart and lungs a steady workout.

Wear comfortable, supportive shoes or hiking boots. Bring a backpack with some water, food and extra clothing as the weather and temperatures can change quickly, especially at higher altitudes. Always pay attention to where you are going. Bring a map and make sure the trails are well marked. Hike for a couple of hours or an entire day-get fit at your own pace and keep your weight down in an enjoyable way. Hiking is safe, inexpensive and pleasurable. It is a terrific activity for seniors, pregnant women and children.

Water Activities

Water activities are highly therapeutic, and are often used to heal and improve the symptoms of the serious diseases. For centuries, natural springs of water have been used therapeutically. Varying temperatures of hot and cold baths rejuvenate the body and strengthen resistance to disease. Swimming exercises the largest number of muscles and offers an ideal range of movement. Swimming encourages rhythmic, deep breathing and gives the heart a workout. Enquire about taking lessons if you want to improve your swimming skills.

Water activities are suitable for everyone. Since the water provides ideal support for the muscles and joints, water activities are a safe and effective sport for the elderly or for those who are particularly sedentary or overweight. Water sports are also great for asthma sufferers, since they improve lung capacity and takes place in an environment with high humidity and little dust. Like any exercise, start slowly, warm up first and stop when you get tired. Shake out trapped water from your ears if it enters. Always swim with a friend, and on an empty stomach to avoid cramps.

Bicycling

Bicycle riding is an excellent way to have fun and get fit. The bicycle is regaining popularity as an efficient means of transport. In countries like Holland and China, the bicycle is a standard form of transportation cyclists can park much more easily than drivers and have fewer problems with traffic jams. Biking is environmentally friendly and can be an excellent aerobic workout with comparatively minimal effort. Stationary bicycles are a popular option for keeping fit indoors during winter weather.

When buying a bicycle, choose one that fits your height and adjust the seat accordingly. Remember to wear a helmet.

Stretches and Exercises To Do on the Job

People who perform repetitive movements on the job, such as computer-terminal operators, bus drivers, assembly-line workers, hairdressers, librarians and musicians, often develop muscle tension and repetitive strain injuries. Aching wrists and sore forearms are signs of repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome, where ligaments, tendons or muscles become sore and injured from overuse. Stretching several times throughout the day combats muscle tension and can prevent more serious or long-term problems from developing.

Many people suffer headaches and tension in the neck and shoulders which is often the result of stress and poor posture while working. The exercises and stretches provided can help prevent and combat these problems.

Neck Exercises

Sit up straight and keep your shoulders down, slowly move your head to the right as far as you can and hold for five to fifteen seconds. Return to the center, and then do the same on the left side. Now tuck in the chin and roll the head forward to your chest, keeping the shoulders down. Hold that position for five to fifteen seconds. Focusing straight ahead, bend the neck to the right side as far as it will go towards your shoulder and hold for five to fifteen seconds. Repeat on the left. Each exercise should be repeated several times, three times daily.

Shoulder Exercises

Shrug your shoulders as far as you can up towards your ears and hold for five to fifteen seconds, then relax. Repeat three times.

Let your arms fall beside you and slowly rotate your shoulders forward in a circle. Repeat continuously ten times, and then rotate backward.

To improve your posture, clasp your hands behind your back and straighten your arms. Push your hands upwards and towards your head. Hold that position for five to fifteen seconds and let your arms fall loose. Repeat.

Lower-Back Exercises

Lower-back problems are often linked to weak abdominal muscles and poor posture. Tilting the pelvis forward uses the abdominal muscles and straightens the back. Stand with your back pressed against a wall. Feel the wall against all parts of your back, especially your lower back. Keep your pelvis tilted forward and bend your knees, maintaining contact between your back and the wall. You may find yourself moving down the wall a little as you move your pelvis forward.

Sit-Ups

Sit-ups are terrific for strengthening abdominal muscles and helping lower-back problems. Sit-ups are best performed in the two stages described below. First, get into the rhythm of doing a pelvic tilt. After you establish this rhythm, contract your abdominal muscles and add an upper-body movement to complete the sit-up.

Pelvic Tilt

Lie with your back on a comfortable surface like a padded mat or a carpet. Keep your lower back pressed into the floor at all times and your feet planted flat on the floor. Tilt your pelvis forward and hold for five to fifteen seconds. Relax and repeat ten to twenty times.

Sit-Up Motion

Add a sit-up motion to the pelvic tilt by contracting your abdominal or stomach muscles. Feel those muscles contracting those are the muscles you want to work and strengthen. Lift your shoulders off the floor with your stomach muscles to complete the sit-up. Halfway up is the maximum. Any more than that and you are working different muscle groups. Support your neck with your arms behind your head, and keep your elbows out. You should not be able to see your elbows as you are sitting up.

Imagine you have an orange lodged between your chin and your chest keep your chin well away from your chest. Always look upwards towards the ceiling when doing sit-ups. Exhale as you complete the forward motion upwards. Come down from the sit-up slowly, inhaling as you go down. Rest for a brief moment with your full back against the mat or carpet before exhaling and sitting up again. Repeat sit-ups ten to thirty times. Sit-ups may be done every day. An abdominal exercise machine will not make a difference, but if it encourages you to exercise, use it.

Wrists and Forearms

Computer-terminal operators and others who make repetitive motions with their wrists and forearms can benefit from the following stretches.

Make a fist, squeezing tightly for five to fifteen seconds. Stretch your fingers out as far as they will go, and hold this position for five to fifteen seconds. Now, hold your arms and wrists still, moving your hands in a circle. Do this one way, then the other. Give your hands and wrists a good shake. With one hand, bend the fingers of the other hand back as far as is comfortable. Feel the stretch in the wrists. Hold that position for five to fifteen seconds. Repeat the stretch with the opposite hand. Perform these stretches as often as necessary.

Reduce the chance of repetitive strain injuries by ensuring that your desk, chair and computer are at the correct heights. When sitting at a desk with a computer, your back should be straight and your feet flat on the floor. You should have ample room under the table for your legs. The computer screen should be straight ahead of you. Your head should remain looking forward, not tilted. If you are copying text, an upright copyholder can save your neck muscles from undue strain.

The image on the screen should be sharply focused with good contrast and no glare from windows or light fixtures. Anti-glare filters are available. The print should be large enough to read comfortably. A single color tends to be less strenuous on the eye muscles. Ensure your work space has adequate background lighting.

The chair should be adjusted so that the knee and hip joints bend at right angles. Foot rests are sometimes helpful. To prevent wrist and forearm injury, the keyboard should be low enough so that the wrists are straight and the elbows are bent at right angles. The keyboard should be placed on a surface that lies lower than the desk. Every office worker should get up and move around frequently throughout the day. The body is not designed to remain in one position for long periods. Even with the best equipment, remaining in one position too long can lead to muscle strain and discomfort, leading to increasing stress and tension. If you feel tense, get up and move around for a minute or two.

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