Recognize Your Most Valuable Asset
When looking at your assets, you must admit that your health is the most valuable of them all. Which makes exercise one of the smartest investments you can make. Unfortunately most people see exercise as a chore needed to control their weight. Regular exercise, however, brings a host of benefits and is considered one of the best prescriptions to avoid noncommunicable (chronic) diseases such as heart attacks, strokes and diabetes. By boosting the production of High Density Lipoproteins -- good cholesterol -- and decreasing the amount of unhealthy fats in your body, exercise can lower the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. It also has a profoundly positive impact on your mood, helping to reduce stress. For more details on this, read our article ‘Burning Out The Stress’.
Here we take a look at 4 ways to help you with your exercise regimen by keeping you motivated and injury free.
Stretching before working out is key to avoiding injuries (P2)
To avoid injury, incorporate warming up and cooling down exercises into your workout routine. Warming up prepares your heart, loosens your muscles and increases your body’s oxygen intake. Cooling down helps your body gradually adjust from being active to being passive. Good technique and form when exercising are equally as important. Bad habits and incorrect technique can lead to injuries which can halt your progress dead in its tracks. For example, if there is an imbalance in your strength and flexibility between joints, you may get an ‘overuse’ sports injury. Such matters regarding technique are best resolved by seeking guidance from a professional trainer.
Pushing yourself too much can lead to injuries (P3)
Manage Intensity and get rest
Running faster or lifting heavier may seem like the best way to get fit quickly. However chances are that this approach will cause injuries, preventing you from sticking to a daily routine. Instead of surprising your body with a sudden dose of exercise, it is more effective to start by working out at a moderate pace.(1) The intensity of a workout can be measured by monitoring your heart rate, which can now be done on your smartphone through the many apps available. One way to estimate your maximum heart rate is to calculate 220 - (minus) your age. To achieve a moderate intensity you want to keep your heart rate at 50%-70% of this value. And for high intensity exercises, once you are competent in your form and technique, you should target between 70%-85% of your maximum heart rate to see the most benefits. (2)
Besides managing your intensity, in order to build muscle and improve endurance it is important to rest. This may seem counterintuitive but resting correctly can help you see significant gains in your exercise. It usually takes a minimum of 48 hours to recover while a full recovery takes between 72-96 hours after working out.(3) Your resting heart rate also reflects your level of fitness and can provide a measure of how effective your workouts are. The fitter you get, the lower your resting heart rate should be.
An apple a day can keep the doctor away, but a healthy diet can do more (P4)
The food you consume plays a major role in enhancing your workouts. What you consume before and after a workout is especially important. Starting your fitness journey with a strict diet plan can be daunting. Instead, start effectively by focusing on the nutrients you should consume rather than those you should be giving up.
Research suggests that it is best to eat healthy carbohydrates such as whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat breads and low fat yoghurts before a workout. You should avoid saturated fats and proteins as these digest in your body much slower. After working out, it is advised to consume more carbohydrates and also proteins.(4)
It is important to keep hydrated during exercise, ensuring sufficient oxygen inflow. An intense workout often causes lactic acid to form in your muscles making them stiff. Therefore it is important to replenish your body with water and salts to help alleviate any stiffness. Another remedy, now available in the market, is Alkaline water. Studies have shown that the consumption of Alkaline water can increase blood flow, ensuring a more efficient delivery of oxygen to your muscles, which reduces the chances of lactic acid formation.(5) Besides this, studies also highlight its weight loss benefits especially when combined with exercise.(6)
Don’t stop moving (P5)
Habits like sitting down for long periods of time affect your body negatively, slowing down the progress gained from your workouts. Such habits also discourage you from engaging more regularly in physical activity. Ultimately, there are no shortcuts to reaping the benefits of an active and engaged lifestyle. Investing the time and energy towards it is the only way. And while the inertia of your current lifestyle is sometimes difficult to overcome, it is up to you to take the initiative and avoid living an inactive life. Just remember to start with, and continue to make, small changes for the better. The results are priceless.