Exercises keeping you fit while reducing disease

Exercises keeping you fit while reducing disease

We hear it all the time – get in shape and reduce risk of disease.  It’s a good concept to work towards but how to go about it is easier said than done.  Where do you start?  What types of physical activities actually help you achieve this goal?

The best types of exercises or physical activities are those that meet both your goals of getting fit while at the same time, making you healthier and less likely to develop a chronic disease.  Here are 5 exercises that do just that.  They keep your weight under control as they burn off calories, improve your balance and range of motion, strengthen your bones, protect your joints, and could even possibly stave off memory loss.

Here are the 5 exercises that meet the above criteria making you fitter and healthier for years to come.  Discover which one(s) meet your needs best:

1.  Strength training

No matter what your age is or if you haven’t lifted a weight in years, pumping iron is a must.  From young to old, the health advantages of strength training benefit us all.  Muscles are meant to move and if we don’t stress them by lifting weights, they eventually will become smaller and weaker.  Then, at some point in your life, you’ll notice the amount of strength you’ve lost just from not making a demand of their use.

 Picture of two beautiful fitness women in gym

One important reason besides improving and maintaining strength is the fact muscles burn calories.  The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn making it easier to maintain your weight.  Here’s another “muscle” that can get strengthened while lifting dumbbells – your brain.  A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that weight lifting twice a week for six months significantly improved memory in women with early cognitive decline. 

Strength training can also relieve the pain of knee osteoarthritis, improve balance preventing falls, increases bone density reducing risk for fractures, and enhances sleep quality. 

If lifting weights for the first time, start light with just one or two pounds.  Working with a trainer is ideal as they can help you work on proper form when lifting. 

2. Walking

Probably the simplest and most effective exercise any of us can do is walking. The benefits of this wonder move is many – it can manage your weight, lower unhealthy LDL cholesterol while raising healthy HDL cholesterol, strengthens bones, lowers blood pressure, improves mood, and reduces your risk of several chronic diseases.

An important “step” to do before starting a walking routine is to have a pair of sneakers that fit and support your feet. There is nothing worse than walking in a pair of poor-fitting shoes making your feet hurt.  If just getting started, walk for only about 10 to 15 minutes at a time.  Over a few weeks, gradually increase the pace and length of your walking workouts until you are walking up to 60 minutes a day on most days of the week. 

3.  Swimming

Often referred to as the perfect exercise, swimming is not only a superior workout but also fun to do.  Whether you participate in a water aerobics class or swim lap after lap, swimming burns a ton of calories helping you tone up while enjoying a refreshing physical activity.

Anyone who suffers from joint pain will especially find water workouts an activity they look forward to.  The buoyancy of the water will support their body as it eases the strain off of painful joints making them feel better. 

Known for being a great aerobic exercise, swimming may also improve your mental state by putting you in a good mood.  Research has found swimming to reduce tension and fatigue while improving energy and activity levels of individuals who use it as a means of physical exercise. 

4.  Tai chi

Nicknamed “meditation in motion,” this ancient Chinese martial art may not appear to have numerous health benefits but don’t count it out.   Growing evidence is showing the value of tai chi in treating or preventing many health problems.  And the best thing about it is a person does not have to be in great physical condition or the best of health as it is easily adapted for anyone, from someone very fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.

Tai chi involves dozens of postures and gestures, performed in sequences known as “sets” or “forms” derived from animal movements.  Think of it sort of like slow-motion karate or swimming in air.  For the sets to be done correctly, it is important to learn controlled breathing, concentration, how to shift your body weight and how to relax your muscles.

One of the reasons for tai chi’s popularity around the world is the tremendous health claims made on its behalf.  There is a growing body of evidence from research that has built a compelling case for tai chi to be used for the prevention and rehabilitation of many health conditions.  From helping to ease depression, reduce falls in the elderly, improve coordination and balance to easing chronic pain and arthritis, this form of movement appears to do it all.

5.  Jumping rope

Do you remember the fun of jumping rope?  Then this may be the exercise for you.  Maybe not for those with physical limitation, nonetheless jumping rope is a simple yet complex activity ranking high as a bone builder, improves balance and coordination, increases muscle endurance and strength, improves cardiovascular fitness, enhances reflexes, and even gives a boost to your brain health.

Just ten minutes a day of jumping rope can provide the same benefits as 30 minutes of jogging, 2 sets of tennis singles, 18 holes of playing golf, or 30 minutes of racquet and handball playing. 

In addition, jumping helps develop the left and right hemispheres of the brain improving special awareness, reading skills in children, memory and mental alertness.  Even the American Heart Association endorses jumping rope as a key physical activity for heart health.