The Best Exercise for You: What Does Science Say?

Many of us have to lead very sedentary lives. For work, many careers require sitting in a chair all day. Then, you’ve got to sit in your car or public transport on the way home and when you get there you’re sitting down for meals and media. Granted, plenty of people make time for exercise, but many have trouble finding the time for it or even knowing what to do. According to the World Health Organisation, physical inactivity is cited as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. So, it’s certainly something all of us should be thinking about. The question is, what’s the right kind of exercise for you? Fortunately there are many different options that can suit a variety of different schedules. After reading this article, you’ll have a better idea of how to become active in ways that suit you best.

One method of fitness that many discard into adulthood is the continued practice of team sport. According to a 2017 study from the Netherlands, 10% of adults across both Europe and Africa play soccer regularly. In addition to long-spanning cultural reasons, this is due in part to the numerous physical benefits of exercise conducted not just for the sake of it. “Team play encourages you to let go of the idea of an exercise ‘dose,’” Jake Simmons, professor of kinesiology and physical education from Cal State University-Hayward said in 2004. “When you’re engaging with other people while exercising, you tend to stop worrying about whether you’re doing ‘enough.’” The implications of this go clearly beyond just physical fitness. As part of a team that’s sharing in a goal and strategy for winning, you’re afforded the chance to make new friends and meet new people. It’s a mental health boon in addition to physical. Some researchers have even found that cognitive development through team sport can actually improve information-processing ability, which is excellent for interpersonal relationships and career development through higher performance. Clearly, this is a great source of exercise, but if you’re strapped for time it can certainly be difficult to train to a team’s schedule. In addition, it doesn’t exactly cater to the more introverted among us! Fortunately, there are a variety of excellent solitary solutions that will save you time while still affording the benefits.

Yoga is a fantastic way for people of all ages to improve their physical and mental fitness, while also granting a degree of… well… flexibility! Although there are plenty of ways to find Yoga groups, it can just as easily be done in the quiet comfort of your own home. The next logical question is, what is it? Dating back 5,000 years, Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy originally conceived as a path to spiritual enlightenment. Although this end is still desired by some, the more ‘corporeally focussed’ among us can use it as a low-intensity stress management routine that utilises a variety of structured poses and breathing exercises. Among the more… acrobatic poses, there are plenty of lying and sitting postures. This makes it excellent for elderly people with joint issues and arthritis looking to keep up their fitness in old age. It can also lower chronic pain according to Dr Natalie Nevins of the American Osteopathic Association. “Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia,” Dr Nevins adds. Similarly to team sports, she swears by its role in “developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life” regarding stress, headaches and sleeping problems. So what do you need to start? Simply heading to a Yoga Shop to purchase a mat and getting instructions online or in-person will suffice. However, it’s understandable if this more disciplined course of exercise might not be up your alley. If you’re looking for something more physically intense while also allowing you to set your own schedule, the exercise methods to follow should interest you.

If you feel like returning to your primal roots, you need not look any further than good old running! In addition to being able to set your schedule and get started with minimal knowledge, running has been proven to help prevent obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some cancers and more. Exercise physiologist Greg Justice, founder of AYC Health & Fitness, asserts that every run improves resting heart rate so your heart becomes more efficient. This benefit alone makes it a tempting prospect; this heightened cardiovascular fitness can improve your ability to participate in any other physical activity. It’s also a weight bearing exercise, meaning your joints develop higher resilience. However, this sort of thing is a double-edged sword. While running is easy to get into, the fact it is weight bearing means it’s hard to sustain into age, as it can damage your joints permanently if done excessively. “Your body is designed to deal with oxidative stress that comes from exercise for the first hour,” cardiologist James O’Keefe warned, “but prolonged intense exercise causes excessive oxidative stress, which basically burns through the antioxidants in your system.” In words that don’t require eight years of medical school to understand, it’s going to hurt! A nice alternative with similar benefits is swimming. If you’ve got access to a public pool, swimming exercises all muscle groups while imposing much less of a toll on joints. This makes it another good alternative for the elderly and sufferers of arthritis.

Overall, the world is full of great methods for getting healthier. It can be intimidating sometimes to choose just one or two considering our limited schedules and obligations, but as this article has made clear it’s certainly worthwhile. It’s just a matter of finding the right exercise for you. No matter who you are, you can do it. Fitness is just a decision away!

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