Exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle. And according to the American Heart Association, 65% of adults aren't getting nearly enough since that's the percentage of us who are classified as obese or overweight. In general, people are simply less active because of technology and better mass transportation. Physically active jobs now make up only about 25% of the workforce, 50% less than in 1950.
Even in the EMS field you've likely noticed technology has taken some of the physical strain out of the tasks you perform. Yet, it's critical to stay in shape.
Most everyone is familiar with the benefits of exercise. Log onto nearly any website associated with exercise and physical activity and you'll find long lists of benefits. Some of them include reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and more. It also improves stamina, strengthens and tones muscles, bones and ligaments, controls weight and can help combat fatigue, put you in a better mood and help you fall asleep faster.
Exercise falls into three categories: aerobic, strength training and flexibility. Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate, works your muscles and raises your breathing rate. Activities such as dancing, tennis and swimming are all considered aerobic. Strength training builds strong bones and muscles, and with more muscle, you can burn more calories, even at rest. Lifting weights is a classic weight training activity, but the American Diabetes Association indicates that working out with elastic bands and plastic tubes is also beneficial. Flexibility exercises, what most of us know as stretching, helps keep joints flexible and reduces the chances of injury while doing other activities. Gentle stretching for as little as 5 to 10 minutes helps your body warm up.
Ideally, include all three types of exercise into your program, but be sure to consult with your doctor before starting any rigorous exercise program.
With all of its benefits, finding time to exercise should be at the top of everyone's to-do list. The good news is that moving just 30 minutes a day can improve your physical as well as mental well-being, and three 10-minute sessions is nearly as beneficial as setting aside time for one 30-minute period. The American Heart Association also indicates that for each hour of regular exercise, you can gain two hours of additional life expectancy, even if you don't start until middle age.
With that in mind, it suggests starting an exercise program by going for a walk. It's simple, costs nothing and has the lowest dropout rate of any type of exercise.
Medicinet.com indicates there are several ways to incorporate more physical activity, especially walking, into your daily life without a lot of additional effort and equipment needed. For example, if you take the elevator, use the stairs instead. If you look for the closet parking spot next to the door, park farther away and walk. If you eat at your desk, take a 10- to 20-minute walk first, then eat your lunch.
Whatever activity you choose to do, set weekly goals. Write down the activity you plan to do. Include information about which day of the week you plan to do it, for how long you plan to do it and at what time of day. Be realistic. At the end of each week, review your goals and set new ones for the next week.
The Mayo Clinic offers some advice for overcoming the excuses many of us use for not exercising. A classic put-off is that exercise is boring, but think of it as an activity. Choose one that you enjoy. Also vary the routine, join forces with friends, neighbors or co-workers and check out exercise classes or sports leagues at a recreation center or health club.
Adding a dog to your routine can also bring an added boost to your walk. Borrow one if you don't have one of your own. And don't get down on yourself if you're self-conscious about exercising, especially in front of others. Remind yourself what a great favor you're doing for your cardiovascular health.