Regular aerobic exercise is vital for cardiovascular health, weight management, and is even an effective therapy for mild to moderate depression. But too many people quit, become injured, or simply find the process less enjoyable than they should. Here is Dr. Weil's advice for making aerobic exercise an ongoing, safe and rewarding part of your life:
- Any aerobic exercise is better than no aerobic exercise. I would be happy to see you doing even a few minutes of it on a regular basis, but if you want to experience all the benefits, please try to do some continuous aerobic activity for thirty minutes a day, on average, five days a week.
- Remember to work up to this level gradually and at your own pace, especially if you have not been exercising.
- Remember also that I am recommending an average amount of activity over time. It is not the end of the world if you miss a day or two here and there. You can make it up later. Feeling bad about missing exercise probably does you more harm than missing it.
- In addition to these workouts, find other ways to increase your daily activity, such as using stairs more often, parking farther from your destinations to walk more, and doing more physical work yourself instead of delegating it to others.
- If you exercise with others, try not to do so competitively. Competitive thoughts negate some of the benefits of exercise, especially on your cardiovascular and immune systems and emotions. If you cannot avoid competitive thinking, exercise by yourself
- Competitive sports like racquetball, handball, and tennis are not substitutes for aerobic activities such as walking, running and cycling. In competitive sports aerobic work is of a stop-and-go nature rather than continuous. It is regular, continuous effort that tones your cardiovascular system best.
- Always warm up before you get into the full swing of aerobic activity. The best warmup is a slowed-down version of the activity you are about to perform. For example, walk, run, or cycle in slow motion. You will see many people stretching as a warmup, but this does not prepare muscles for aerobic exercise as well as slow movement does.
- Give yourself a few minutes of cool down at the end of the activity. Repeat the same movements in slow motion.
- If you have never exercised, get a medical checkup before you start an exercise program. If you have a history of heart trouble or high blood pressure or a strong family history of such problems, a cardiac stress test may be in order.
- Pay attention to your body! Discontinue exercise if you develop unusual aches or pains.
- Stop exercising immediately if you develop dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, chest pains, or difficulty in breathing. Get a medical checkup promptly.
- Your heart rate and breathing should return to normal within five to ten minutes after the end of aerobic exercise. If they do not, get a medical checkup.
- Do not exercise if you are sick. Wait until you feel better, then resume gradually. Don't worry about losing fitness; it will come back quickly enough. Strenuous exercise at the onset of illness can cause you to be sicker longer.
Read more articles and information on exercise and fitness from Dr. Weil.