By Andrew Smith, Webmaster at UsanaInHealth.com

In my opinion, exercise is essential for everyone, regardless of personal goals and targets regarding health.  Exercise is not just for athletes or people looking to drop weight or gain muscle, it is essential for all of us.  If you believe that you do not need to exercise because you look well as you are then it is likely that the inside of your body may tell a different story! 

When I suggest physical activity I do not always mean formal exercises in a gym or health club setting.  I am referring to any activity that gets you moving and pushes your body outside of its usual sedentary or cumfortable state.  This is the principle known as OVERLOAD.  You overload a muscle when you encourage it to work harder than it normally would and this also applies to your heart muscle!

I am not about to bore you with all the reasons why you should exercise, but I am sure that you are reading this because you want to improve or maintain your health.  Health and vitality starts with your capacity and willingness to use and improve your physical body.

I know that there will still be individuals reviewing this, believing that they don’t have time to exercise, or don’t really believe that they need to, but this is likely to be because a part of the brain is attempting to hinder their efforts to improve themselves!  This is the same part of the brain that tells you that your healthy eating plan can wait until Monday, or that one more biscuit wont make any difference!  We all have coping strategies of some sort and look to rationalise choices we make, even though we know through standard logic that what we are saying to ourselves isn’t always the case!  The trick is to learn to recognise when you are making excuses and to learn to silence the voice of negativity!  This is a hugely important element to making positive changes in any area of your life.

So I will just outline 3 areas to incorporate into your own personal fitness regime.  You must include cardiovascular exercise (elevating your heart rate), muscular exercise (strengthening and toning your muscles) and flexibility exercises (improving your posture and range of motion around your joints).  Each of these areas are equally important and should be included in your exercise routine.

Cardiovascular Exercise

In this article I will be focusing on cardiovascular exercise.  Cardiovascular exercise is important for a number of reasons:  Firstly, it improves the efficiency of your heart and lungs and enables your body to uptake and circulate greater quantities of oxygen.  If your body is able to take in and circulate more oxygen then you are less likely to get out of breath so quickly.  You will be able to sustain physical activity for longer periods of time and your heart and lungs will generally be healthier.  This is described as cardiovascular fitness.

If we overlook the obvious then there are other benefits to training at higher intensities.  If we use a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is too easy and 10 is almost impossible then you should aim to exercise at a minimum of 7.  At 7 it will be hard and you will sweat, but you should be able to sustain the level of difficulty for a minimum of 20 minutes.  When you exercise at this level, changes begin to occur in your body.  Your body generates more mitochondria in the muscles and the mitochondria are responsible for absorbing oxygen.  To cut a long story short, your body will only use fat in the presence of oxygen, so the greater your body’s capability to absorb oxygen, the greater your ability to burn fat!

There is another school of thought that says you should exercise at an intensity of 6 out of 10, as this is the â??fat burning zone’.  Let me just explain something: you DO NOT burn more fat working at a difficulty level of 6 out of 10 than you do at an intensity of 7 out of 10! PERIOD! However, if you cannot sustain a minimum of 20 minutes at higher intensity then you should reduce your level of difficulty to achieve the full amount of time.  In my opinion this is the only time you should exercise at a lower intensity (other than warm ups and cool downs).  Working at 6 out of 10 will NOT encourage your body to undergo change and become a fat burning machine!

That said, only work up to higher intensities as your health develops.  You should be in this for the long haul, so don’t over do it in the first couple of days!  Start with what you are capable of doing and aim to develop over time.  Also, seek support from your doctor if you have any health conditions or concerns.

In my next post, I will be outlining a method for managing and improving your cardiovascular exercise and fitness.  This will provide a workable guide for anyone who is ready to begin exercising TODAY, or who has been exercising and wishes to develop further.

Please note that when you exercise your body uses more oxygen and as a waste product more free radicals are produced within your body.  Free radicals are volatile molecules, which attack and damage healthy cells in a process called oxidation (or free-radical damage).  It is widely believed that we need to ensure that we consume sufficient quantities of antioxidants (i.e. vitamins) to eliminate free radicals and safeguard our bodies against degenerative diseases.  If you would like to learn more about high quality, pharmaceutical grade nutritional supplements then please visit http://www.usanainhealth.com/products/?page_id=7

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