Exercise

Exercise is an essential component of healthy living. It not only increases the level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol in the blood, but also reduces the level of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. In addition, it helps us to maintain our weight within a healthy range, lower our blood sugar levels, and improve our overall cardiovascular fitness. A physically active person is approximately 1.5 times less likely to develop heart disease and 30-50% less likely to be hypertensive. Conversely, lack of exercise may leave a person more vulnerable to developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Fortunately, exercise need not be overly strenuous before we are able to derive health benefits from it. Just 30 minutes of physical activity (for instance, brisk walking, aerobic dancing, swimming) at least five times a week can substantially reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Read more: Lack of Exercise as a Risk Factor for Cardiovascular Disease

A proper exercise programme should include a:

  • warming-up phase
  • conditioning phase
  • cooling-down phase

The warming-up phase typically consists of 5 to10 minutes of gentle stretching and calisthenics to warm up the muscles and reduce the risk of injury during exercise. The conditioning phase, which should form the main component of your exercise sessions, involves aerobic and/or strengthening exercises. Aerobic exercises (for instance, cycling, jogging, swimming) help to improve your blood circulation, while strengthening exercises such as lifting weights help to build and tone your muscles. Following the conditioning phase is a cooling-down period of 5 to 10 minutes to round off the exercise session.

If exercise is not currently a regular part of your life, here are some simple tips to help you incorporate it into your routine:

  • start slowly
  • begin with relatively low-intensity exercises such as taiji, qigong or walking
  • gradually progress to more vigorous activities as your fitness improves
  • choose physical activities which you enjoy so that you will not find your exercise sessions a chore
  • be careful not to over-exert yourself as you exercise

As a general rule, you should exercise until you perspire and breathe deeply, but not to the extent of getting out of breath. If you are too breathless to talk while exercising, you should scale down the intensity of your work-out. A helpful guide in this respect is the acronym “F.I.T.T.”, which stands for:

  • Frequency (F) – 3 to 5 times a week;
  • Intensity (I) – until you sweat and breathe deeply without discomfort;
  • Time (T) – at least 20 minutes per session, with an additional 5 to 10 minutes for warming-up and cooling-down both before and after exercise;
  • Type (T) – a mixture of aerobic and strengthening exercises.