There goes a very sound advice given by most doctors – “Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness.”
In today’s day and age, more and more emphasis is being given to exercising and workouts. You can see this from the number of gymnasiums and health clubs which are mushrooming in every corner of the city. This new emphasis on workouts and fitness is of course a result of increased awareness about stress and its side effects on one’s health. Doctors prescribe workouts and exercises apart from medication for the overall healing of the mind, body and soul. After all, an alert mind will fail to work well if it is not a part of a fit body!
The scope of this article is to inform you of the various kinds of workouts. You could be using any one or a combination of these, in order to achieve your own personal goal of having a fit body, a flexible body, increasing your stamina, toning your body, building a six pack stomach, losing weight or for some few lucky ones – gaining weight!! How hard, how long and what exercises should you adopt depends upon your goals of exercising.
Workouts could be divided into three kinds. Each of them has different objectives and benefits the body differently.
Also known as cardio vascular exercises, the primary function of these is to improve the respiratory and circulatory system of the bodies. Any physical activity done over a sustained period of time which increases the heart rate will qualify as aerobic exercise. The primary focus of aerobic exercises is to bring in more oxygen into the cells and to remove toxins and waste from the cells. Different kinds of exercises may qualify as aerobic exercise.
- There goes an old saying – “After dinner, rest awhile, after supper, walk a mile.” The simplest of all forms of exercises, walking is a ‘wonder exercise’ and can be done anywhere and by anybody.
- Walking could be done in open air or on a treadmill. Any form of walking is beneficial for health; however, in order to be counted as an aerobic exercise, walking should be done at moderate to high pace. Do I hear you asking – How do we know, what is moderate and high pace? The easiest method is to try talking to your walking partner or on the phone or just humming a tune.
- If you manage to talk without falling short of breath, you are walking slow….If you are able to talk only in short sentences and are short of breath, it means that you are walking at medium pace; if you find it difficult to talk – you are walking at high pace. In order to derive benefits from walking, doctors advise that you should walk at medium to high pace, at least for 30-45 minutes, most days of the week.
- On the stationary bike or on the regular bike at a speed which leaves you slightly out of breath is counted as an aerobic exercise. Unlike walking, this does not stress the knees. Cycling should be done at such a speed so as to increase the heart rate.
- Colloquially, this term stands for combining dance with exercise done to a music beat. It is fast, done rhythmically and brings freshness to the mundane exercises. Aerobics is a very common form of exercise these days and is a great way to increase muscle and motor fitness.
- Any style of swimming gives a complete workout to the upper as well lower body. Apart from burning calories, swimming is a great method to build muscles. It is most beneficial for people who are overweight or pregnant as the weight of the body in water is almost one tenth of the weight on land.
- Swimming minimizes the pressure on the joints and so it is one of the best exercises for people suffering from joint pain and arthritis. An increasingly popular form of water exercises is Aqua aerobics. It is primarily aerobics which is done in water and incorporates the advantages of both aerobics as well as swimming. Since water offers resistance, the body has to work doubly hard to perform an activity and this helps it to burn more calories and build more muscles.
Long distance running
- Running at any pace (slower will be referred to as jogging, medium paced will be referred to as running and fast paced will be referred to as sprinting) for a long period of time is a cardio vascular activity. This activity should be sustained for at least 15 minutes during which the heart rate should be increased. Running gives an instant boost to the body and is great form of exercise especially for losing weight and building leg muscles. Care should however be taken to wear proper running shoes and choosing grounds which offer some shock absorbing capacity. Proper exercise gear goes a long way in offering enough support to the knee and calf muscles.
Other sports – Any other sport practiced singly or in groups could be termed as an aerobic activity. This may include basketball, squash, badminton, tennis, rowing etc. Different sports offer exercise to different body parts and help in focusing thoughts on the activity at hand.
Advantages of aerobic exercises
- The advantages of aerobic exercises are many and regular aerobic exercise helps more inflow of oxygen, which in turn increases the red blood cell and strengthens the respiratory system; it helps the heart to pump more blood, thereby increasing its size and pumping capacity; it also strengthens the different muscle kinds; improves the mental health and reduces stress.
- Regular aerobic activity helps in burning calories and reduction of weight, prevention of heart diseases, blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and many more.
Disadvantage of aerobic exercises
- The disadvantage of aerobic exercises is that it is not a good choice if you would want to build muscles. Also, if done without proper footwear and guidance and care, it may cause serious injuries and sometimes irreparable damage to your knees and other body parts.
Anerobic workout is just the opposite of aerobic workout discussed above. Anaerobic exercises are done at very high intensity and for a very short duration or in spurts. Anaerobic exercises may also be called strengthening exercises and are used for improving muscle mass, strength, speed and power. The primary focus of anaerobic exercises is to push your body to the maximum level for a limited period of time; this may reduce the oxygen intake, however, increases the metabolism rate of the body for a longer period of time. Kinds of anaerobic exercises are:
- Running at very high speeds for duration of no more than 2 to 5 minutes is called sprinting. In order to sustain the high speed, you will need to build muscles and ensure that they are able to withstand the activity.
- Weight lifting is done by involving forceful muscle contraction against resistance, usually using free or machine weights. This activity is done by targeting the larger muscle groups first and then the smaller muscle groups. Care should be taken to choose the weights which are difficult to lift, but not impossible. Normally, every exercise of weight lifting is repeated in 8-10 sets, without any intervals.
Since anaerobic exercises target the muscles and pushes them to the limit, it is advisable to work each muscle group in rotation, allowing enough resting period to the muscle group which has been worked upon previously. Doctors and fitness buffs advise a resting period of at least 1-2 days before working the same muscle group again. Numerous precautions with regards to amount of weight lifted, duration of the exercise, breathing technique, prevention of injury by wearing the right kind of exercise gear are advised for performing strength training exercises. For beginners, perform the anaerobic exercises under the supervision of a trainer.
Anaerobic exercises focus on the muscles and helps in strengthening the body and improving the shape and size of the muscles. Focus should be given to the major muscles which make it easy for the body to function even in later years, such as shoulder, spine, leg, arms and side abdominal. They also increase the bone density. Over a period of time with muscles being strengthened, you develop a higher metabolic rate which helps a person to manage his weight much more easily.
Stretching and flexibility
- Any activity which stretches your muscles and tendons reduces their stiffness and enables the muscles to perform better would also be increasing the overall flexibility. These are normally exercises done at a slow pace, without causing any pain (minor discomfort is acceptable), the focus being on extending the muscles and making them more flexible. These exercises help prevent injuries, by allowing the muscles to be more flexible and springing back to normalcy once the exercises are done. It helps people to perform the aerobic and anaerobic exercises better.
- Stretching exercises could be done as a part of other aerobic and anaerobic exercises – as a warm up and cool down or could be done on their own as well such as Yoga and Pilates.
- Yoga is essentially performing different poses/asanas with controlled breathing and stretching techniques. Its benefits are manifold. Do refer to our separate, detailed article on Yoga and its benefits.
- Pilates is another form of stretching done for various muscle groups. Pilates strengthens and stabilizes the core muscle groups and focuses on the breathing. It believes in aligning different muscle groups so that they perform at an optimal level; breathing deep and right for enough oxygen to flow in and energize the cells and remove the toxins. It believes that the body has a core or a center, which is also known as the powerhouse.
- The powerhouse includes the lower back, abdomen, hips and buttocks. Pilates believes that the main energy flow happens from this core area to the other limbs and this core is important for effective functioning of the body. Regular practice of Pilates helps in improving concentration power and flexibility.
If you are working out to achieve a specific goal, I would recommend having patience and dedication to the workout program you have chosen. Remember Rome was not built in a day! Proper exercise gear (shoes, apparel and other accessories) is also important to give you the required comfort and strength for working out and deriving benefits. A word of caution though, if you are working out after a long time, or if you suffer from a medical condition, do discuss your workout regimen with the doctor to avoid medical complications.
Happy working out!!