Nearly everyone is concerned about how they look and rightly so. The looks partly tell the state of health and more. In the same vein, practically all is desirous of fit and toned bodies that not only make them feel attractive, but also healthy. All this is possible with regular exercise. Generally, exercise can help trim the figure by toning the muscles. But success is more assured, when such efforts are combined with a change in diet. Exercises that improve the strength and flexibility of muscles will also improve posture.
Combined with a reducing diet, regular exercisers would shed excessive weight and dislodge unwanted fat over a relatively short period. However, if large muscles are developed in the process, it could lead to more weight gain. So, care should be taken not to end up this way. If you are unsure of how to go about it, your best bet is to engage the services of a professional trainer for guidance and accuracy. Note though that you can as well do it at home by yourself.
Specific exercises are targeted at different parts of the body, which would, therefore, achieve different goals. So, to avoid developing large muscles, certain exercises must also be avoided. On the other hand, appropriate exercise easily brings about the right toning of the muscles.
Vigorous exercises such as swimming or cycling can improve looks by giving the complexion a healthy glow, as well as making the eyes sparkle. Exercises, which depend on good co-ordination such as racquet, can also help one to feel more alert, agile and graceful. Many people find that these benefits combine to give then a sense of well-being and confidence, which in turn can improve personal appearance.
Becoming agile and having a sense of balance and co-ordination require corresponding exercises that can give such. And there are several of these, which if undertaken regularly will enhance looks, posture and your sense of wellbeing.
It is probably possible to lead an inactive life and still experience healthy ageing, but it isn’t likely. Almost all the healthy seniors I know were physically active throughout life, and many of them still are. They walk, dance, play golf, swim, lift weights, do yoga and Tai Chi.
Of course, it is possible to get too much physically active, not just because over activity raises the possibility of damaging joints, muscles and bones, but also because of the possible adverse effects on body composition, the nervous system, reproductive and immune function. Knees are especially vulnerable, and surgical methods for repairing them are less than ideal. Repeated concussive injuries, as in football and soccer, may be associated with cognitive impairment in later life. That said, far more people err on getting too little physical activity than too much.
Walking, if you do it vigorously enough, is the overall best exercise for regular aerobic activity. It requires no equipment, everyone knows how to do it and it carries the lowest risk of injury. The human body is designed to walk. You can walk in parks or shopping malls or in your neighbourhood. To get maximum benefit from walking, aim for 45 minutes a day, an average of five days a week.
Strength training is another important component of physical activity. Its purpose is to build and maintain bone and muscle mass, both of which diminish with age. In general, you will want to do strength training two or three days a week, allowing recovery day between sessions. You should be able to develop a routine, whether with machines, free weight or tubing, that you can complete in half an hour.
Finally, flexibility and balance training are increasingly important as the body ages. Aches and pains are high on the list of complaints in old age. Many of them are avoidable, the result of chronic muscle tension and stiffness of joints. Simple flexibility training can prevent these by toning muscles and keeping joints lubricated. Some of these you do when you stretch. If you watch dogs and cats, you’ll get an idea of how natural it is. The general principle is: whenever the body has been in one position for a while, it is good to briefly stretch it in opposite position.
The best-known formal system of stretching is yoga, now immensely popular in the West. Many different styles of yoga exist, some very vigorous and demanding, some quite gentle. I couldn’t be more pleased to see yoga becoming so mainstream. I think it will increase the number of healthier and happier people. But I do not recommend the strenuous forms for everyone. Older people will do best with gentle forms of hatha yoga.
By Dr. Andrew Weil
Living Better Longer
Photo Credit: This Is Africa. Black Doctor