Posted by in Features.

Exercise is a word that haunts many of us as were are constantly reminded that we should exercise more, that we should have exercised more in the past and what will happen if we don’t exercise more in the future.

Many of us know or have that super fit athletic friend who puts us to shame as we hog the sofa for yet another rainy night watching the latest episode of Friends when we could be out jogging for that half hour!

Getting fit and exercising does not necessarily mean spending hours puffing and panting with reddened faces and nothing to look forward to only the prospect of stiff achy limbs for the next few days.

Basically, exercise is any activity that raises our heart rate above its normal resting rate, and to get fit we need to sustain this activity for 20/30 minutes on a regular basis. Our body’s ability to get through the day with sufficient energy reserves is a reflection of how fit we are; remember that optimum levels of fitness differ for every individual.

The beauty of exercise and fitness is that we can set our own goals and limits. How we choose to get fit and what exercise we do is up to each individual, so it can be going for a walk, swim, cycle or gardening or more formal training with a team jogging, doing weights in a gym etc. Just remember that whatever we choose to do we should enjoy it otherwise we will not keep it up.

The rainy evening should not stop us pulling on a coat and getting out there but for those who really dislike the outdoors and the rain there are a growing number of gyms and swimming pools that would be delighted for us to while away a few hours with them.

All we need to start is a pair of good comfortable shoes, which give good support; these are worth spending money on, some comfortable clothing, an exercise we enjoy and maybe a few friends to help us along.

So why should we exercise? And what are the benefits?

When we are exercising, we are stretching and strengthening our limbs, during walking, or any activity, the rhythmic movement of the limbs increases the blood flow to the muscles in the arms and legs, which is good for joints and muscles. Joints, which are stiff from not being used or from arthritis, can benefit from gentle exercise to loosen them out and ease pain.

If we exercise for a period of time 20/30 minutes, this will make the heart more efficient, as it is gently pushed to work harder. A more efficient heart will mean a fitter heart that is less likely to give problems like heart disease, heart attacks, and angina.

As we are exercising, we tend to breath more deeply as we need more air to keep up with the exercising muscles. Taking deep breaths helps expand the lungs so that they are being gently exercised also. This helps especially with people who have mild chest problems to get more out of their lungs.

By improving the efficiency of our heart and lungs capacity to work and building up strength and stamina we are helping our bodies to cope better with the stresses and strains placed on us during our daily life, thereby improving fitness.

Exercise is very important for women as it plays a major role in the prevention of osteoporosis, a bone thinning disease. By exercising through our teenage years we can build healthy strong bones and help to prevent this disabling disease later in life. However, it is never too late to start.

Apart from all these benefits, the most important one is the feel-good factor we usually experience from exercise. The experts tell us that when we exercise our bodies release hormones that can give us a small high as well as have a little pain killing effect. This is all good news for the body as this can make us feel younger and full of energy.

How often do we sit at home and think of doing some exercise and dreading it only to feel so good when we actually complete whatever we set out to do, be it walk, swim, jog, go to the gym or take part in team training. Not to mention the self satisfied feeling of knowing that there are a lot of people who are sitting down at that time wishing that they too could get up off their rear ends and do some exercise.

A few words of caution before you all jump up and go mad exercising. It is important to always stretch well before and after exercise and to increase the rate of exercise gradually also you must never experience pain when you are exercising, if you are in doubt or need some tips on the correct exercise and stretches for you and your lifestyle consult your chartered physiotherapist.

Getting started is the most difficult step but once you have started you will not look back and soon begin to reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, so get out there and enjoy!

Ciara Waters, MISCP
Chartered Physiotherapist,
Claregalway Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic,
091 799 683