Physical exercise is one of the best actions to enjoy a good health because of the many benefits it has for the body and for all its internal processes. In order to take advantage of them all, some previous recommendations should be taken into account.
For this reason, it is important to stay active throughout the day and have a routine that allows us to be consistent in our practice in order to take advantage of all its benefits. Although, if it has never been carried out regularly, it is worth taking into account some previous recommendations.
Benefits of exercising
In addition to improving our overall physical condition, the main benefit of regular exercise is the reduction of the risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Exercise gives us the opportunity to relax or participate in activities that make us feel better, either alone or in a tema.
- Exercise controls weight. It can help prevent excess weight and even obesity by burning calories during its practice. The more strenuous the activity, the more calories are burned.
- Exercise helps prevent health conditions and disease. Staying active increases levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the so-called “good” cholesterol, and lowers unhealthy triglycerides. This allows a good blood circulation, thus decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to this, it helps improve cognitive function.
- It improves the state of mind. Exercise is one of the best emotional stimuli since it influences the production of brain chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins, which are related to the feeling of well-being.
- It increases energy. Physical activity provides oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, thus helping to improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system. This also causes an increase in muscle strength and endurance, having more energy in our daily life.
- It promotes better rest. Exercise can help you sleep better and fall asleep faster. Practising it before bedtime should be avoided because of the stimulation and energy it causes in our body.
- It improves one’s sex life. This is directly related to the increase in energy caused by sport. Also, men who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction. In women, physical fitness may help improve arousal.
Types of physical exercise
There are different types of physical exercise and, therefore, a great variety of ways to practise sport. It is important to choose the right exercise that best suits us depending on the objectives we want to achieve. A combination of several exercises is also possible. All of them are divided into aerobic or anaerobic exercises.
Aerobic exercise is known as anything that involves a significant increase in breathing and heart rate over a period of time. An example of this type of exercise is cardiovascular conditioning, better known as “cardio“.
In this type of exercise, the level of oxygen in the blood increases, also improving the flow of blood to the muscles. Aerobic exercise often helps to increase our stamina.
Anaerobic exercise requires rapid bursts of energy and maximum effort for a short period of time. Examples include jumping, weightlifting, sprinting, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Instead of oxygen, as in aerobic exercise, the body gets energy without the need to use it.
Recommendations and advice before physical activity
If exercise has not previously been done regularly, guidelines (tips) or precautions should be taken to ensure that it is done correctly and appropriately for each person’s physical condition.
- If you have heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or other health problems, it is advisable to consult your doctor or a personal trainer to adapt your exercise routine.
- Listen to your body. If you feel pain or discomfort during the practice of any exercise, take a rest and continue only if it disappears, progressively and smoothly. If the pain or discomfort does not go away, it is not recommended to continue as this could lead to an injury.
- Drinking water and staying hydrated before and during exercise is essential for the proper functioning of our bodies, especially when we are exposed to physical stress.
- At high temperatures, water intake should be increased and, in the case of physical activity outdoors, the midday hours should be avoided and creams with a sun protection factor should be used.
- High-intensity exercise is not recommended immediately after main meals.
- If there are low temperatures and/or wind, the sensation of water loss is reduced so rehydration must be well programmed.
- It is essential to use comfortable clothing that allows complete mobility as well as footwear suited to the type of exercise to avoid injuries.
Starting an exercise routine
When it comes to exercise, ideally you should start with warm-up exercises. As recommended by the Physiotherapist and Technician in Physical Activities, Marta Pérez: “For young and middle-aged people who do not have any chronic pathology, I recommend starting with warm-up exercises in a progressive way”, she says. While “for older people or those with some pathology, I would start by doing breathing exercises, a type of therapeutic physiotherapy to be able to reach greater resistance and support when doing physical activities, and to avoid fatigue”.
Therefore, before practicing any physical activity, it is recommended to warm up with dynamic stretching, which are active movements that warm up and flex the muscles. Warming up is aimed at increasing the heart rate and oxygen to the muscles.
You should start with a slower, easier version of the exercise to be performed. For example, if you go for a run, finish your warm-up with a brisk walk, or if you lift weights, start with some light weight repetitions.
Flexibility and stretching
It is important not to confuse warming up with stretching, as stretching is recommended for after physical activity and thus keeping muscles healthy. Regular stretching will also increase the flexibility of the muscles and extend the range of movement of the joints, and therefore:
- Improves the performance of physical activities.
- Reduces the risk of injury.
- Allows the muscles to work more efficiently.
Following the recommendations of the physiotherapist Marta Perez, the training session can be ended with therapeutic stretching, “it is a way to get the cardio-respiratory rhythm back to normal in a smooth and gradual way. Since, after doing some exercises that are intense, it is not good to finish the activities in a rigorous way. Such sudden changes in heart rate are not recommended.”
Adapt your routine to your goals
Strength exercises, which are included in anaerobic exercises, are all those that involve the muscle working more than normal using body weight or working against resistance. Practicing this type of exercise increases the strength and size of the muscles as well as their power and endurance.
Thus, for muscle strengthening, you can lift weights, work with resistance bands, cycling and other exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and squats. If the goal is to gain strength and muscle mass, this type of training should be performed two or more times per week.
Cardiovascular exercise is anything that raises the heart rate and its practice is essential to maintain a good physical condition. For this reason, it is advisable to combine it with anaerobic exercise.
Practicing cardio regularly can help you lose weight, or control it, and sleep better. Cardio exercises usually do not include working with extra weight, so they are done with body weight at high speed and include jumping jacks, burpees or skipping.
Cardio activities include running, elliptical training, cycling, swimming or circuit training.
Gym exercises at home
In general, Physical Activity guidelines recommend 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and 2 sessions per week of muscle training. So even if you can’t reach those numbers with 15-20 minutes of physical activity now, you are gaining in health and positive thinking. Here are some recommendations for both regular exercisers and athletes:
- Create your own space to exercise, with good light and ventilation.
- Organize those elements that allow you to exercise, such as a skipping rope, elastic straps, dumbbells (you can improvise some with packages of vegetables, rice or water bottles), mats or blankets, if you have a fixed bicycle, etc.
- If you normally go to a gym or have a trainer, you can keep in touch with them virtually so that they can continue to guide your exercise routine.
- Motivate others through social networks with your exercise routine or follow live workouts or videos.
- Make an agenda for your physical activities, and measure your results to motivate you to continue.
What aerobic exercises can I do at home?
- Dance to your favorite music or exercise to a video.
- Jump rope (skip) with at least 12 repetitions.
- With your favorite music, walk quickly around the house or up and down the stairs for at least 15 minutes, twice a day.
- Two great aerobic exercises besides cardio are Jumping Jacks and knee fifts, which you can do alternately for 30 to 60 seconds, repeating twice. Jumping Jacks consist of jumping up with your legs and arms outstretched at the same time, and the second one consists of raising your knees with your feet outstretched and your arms straight and free, keeping your torso straight and tense.
What muscle training exercises can I do at home?
- There are many applications that you can download to your electronic devices, as well as video exercise routines. The recommendation is that these routines last at least 7 minutes so that they are moderately intense and help maintain your muscle mass.
- The same goes for the videos from muscle strength and endurance experts that you can find on the internet and practice them in the space you have created for your workout.
- Yoga is a discipline that connects body, mind and breathing, since through the physical postures you maintain your tone and muscle mass, which complemented with breathing exercises definitely improves your overall body tone.
- Exercises such as squats, wall push-ups, sit-ups, lunges and crunches are ideal for keeping your muscles in shape. Each exercise can be practiced in a complete routine of at least 30 seconds each by repeating at least 3 sets.
Routine for muscle tone
In general, it is recommended that for training or exercise routines to maintain muscle tone, the following actions be performed:
- Dynamic warm up: prepares the body for activity by stimulating blood flow and movement through a wide range of motion. The best exercises are those that increase the heart rate such as jumping or pedaling a stationary bike, followed by exercises to move the joints such as arm rotation.
- Active cooling down: aimed at minimizing muscle fatigue and soreness because after exercise, blood flow decreases and cellular waste products can build up. A good way is to pedal on a stationary bike at a slower pace for 5 or 10 minutes at the end of the workout.
- Stretching and mobility: focused on attending to the trained muscles, to avoid tension or fatigue, after finishing the exercise. To keep the tendons and muscles mobile, it is recommended to stretch each muscle group for at least 60 seconds. All stretching and mobility exercises should be completed in a slow and controlled manner, while breathing during each exercise.
- Work on the stressed areas with a foam roller: if you have one at home, gently roll it on the affected body part, approximately a couple of centimeters per second for about 30 to 60 seconds in total. Slowly increase the pressure as tolerated and work on the areas that feel tight or sore. Avoid rolling directly over the bones and joints or spending too much time in one area.
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- Mayo Clinic. Estiramiento: céntrate en la flexibilidad. Nov, 2018.
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- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. National Institute on Aging. Four Types of Exercise Can Improve Your Health and Physical Ability.
- Robinson L. et al. How to Start Exercising and Stick to It. HelpGuide. Jun, 2019.