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Exercise Smarter in 2023

It’s a new year, which may mean you’re hoping to jumpstart your exercise routine with a new approach.  Maybe you’re looking to support a weight-loss goal, perhaps you just want to be healthier and mindful of getting enough exercise or maybe you are looking for a new challenge to take on.  Whatever your reason, you’re on the right track – the most important thing about exercise is to do it!

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Before beginning any exercise routine, visit with your physician to ensure that exercise is safe for you.  Exercising with an undetected, underlying health condition can result in serious injury, illness or death. 


Many Reasons to Exercise

Losing weight – and keeping weight off – are two good, popular reasons people want to start or increase their activity level.  It turns out that there are a lot of other good reasons to get moving, as well!


      • Live healthier & longer:  Exercise promotes good health and can help prevent or delay the onset of numerous health challenges, such as:


            • Heart Disease

            • Stroke

            • Hypertension

            • Type 2 diabetes

            • Arthritis

            • Falls

            • Depression

            • Anxiety


          • Good for your mind and soul: As you can see from the list above, it’s not just physical ailments that exercise protects us from.  It also helps us deal with mental and emotional challenges.  Exercise improves your mood and mental well-being and is a great way to relieve stress!  People who are physically active are less likely to suffer from depression.


            • A natural energy booster:  You’ve probably seen or heard ads for various supplements designed to boost your energy levels.  You don’t need a supplement, which probably won’t help you anyway – all you need is to get moving!  Exercise gives you energy and keeps you feeling good throughout the day. 


              • Sleep better:  Regular exercise helps you sleep better.  Getting adequate sleep is also linked to fighting a range of serious diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. 


                • Be sharper: Some studies suggest that physical activity can aid cognitive ability, improving memory and problem-solving skills. 

              Types of Exercise

              There are four broad categories of exercise.  Each offers key benefits and it’s best to get a combination of these exercises into your routine:


                  • Aerobic:  Aerobic exercises, also known as cardio, increase your breathing and heart rate.  This has the effect of giving your heart and lungs a workout.  By causing your heart to beat faster to pump blood, cardio exercise helps your heart become stronger and healthier. 

                Cardio also burns a lot of calories, helping us keep excess weight off.  It can also help lower blood pressure and increases the good HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol carries the bad LDL cholesterol out of our bodies, helping prevent heart disease.  Common cardio activities include:


                    • Brisk walking

                    • Jogging or running

                    • Swimming

                    • Biking

                    • Using an elliptical or rowing machine


                      • Strength training: Also known as resistance training, this makes your muscles stronger.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies have shown that strength training two times per week helps to build muscle mass and bone density. This is especially important for older adults to prevent falls, loss of balance and broken bones.  Strength training also helps prevent osteoporosis and provide relief from arthritis and back pain. 


                        • Balance exercises:  Balance exercises help prevent falls.  Tai chi is an example of balance exercise.


                          • Flexibility exercises: These stretch your muscles and help prevent injury.  Yoga is a good example of flexibility exercise. 

                        How Much Exercise Do You Need? 

                        “The general guideline for exercise is that most adults need to get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week – an average of 30 minutes a day, five days a week,” says Dr. Torrance Walker, an orthopedic sports medicine physician in Fort Worth.  “It’s also recommended that we get two days of strength training a week in order to keep our muscles strong.” 

                        “All that said, if you haven’t been physically active, start slow!” adds Dr. Amber Lesley, an internal medicine physician in Fort Worth.  “Don’t feel like you need to exercise at the recommended levels right from the start.  Start with a 15-minute walk and add a few minutes each day.  Do a few pushups and sit-ups to get started on strength training.” 

                        Don’t Forget to Rest

                        Sometimes when we are highly motivated to start and maintain a new exercise routine, we can overdo it.  Exercising too much, too fast can lead to injury.  Be sure to give your body regular days off to allow it time to recover.  Doing so will make your next workout more productive and prevent an injury that could derail your exercise routine for weeks. 

                        Where Do I Start?

                        You don’t need to invest in a gym membership or buy a bunch of equipment to begin your journey to regular exercise and physical fitness.  As long as you have some comfortable shoes you can walk in, you’re ready to get started!

                        Go for a brisk walk around your neighborhood for 30 minutes.  Do this five days a week and you will begin reaping the rewards of a cardio workout.

                        Two days a week, do some strength exercises.  You don’t necessarily need to go to the gym or buy any weights.  Instead, you can do bodyweight exercises.  Common examples include:


                            • Push-ups (strengthens your arms and chest)

                            • Pull-ups (strengthens your arms)

                            • Sit-ups (strengthens your abdominal muscles)

                            • Bodyweight squat (strengths your legs)

                            • Lunge (strengths your legs)

                            • Plank (strengths your core)

                          There are many free online resources that feature guides and videos for these and countless other exercises that you can refer to. 

                          Basic Equipment

                          After time, you may want to add some equipment to support your exercise routine.  This may provide a greater challenge and add some variety to your routine.  Here are a few inexpensive items to consider: 


                              • Resistance bands – these lightweight, versatile bands are great for strength training

                              • Swiss ball – this is a great tool for strengthening your core

                              • Exercise mat – helpful to have for any number of strength and flexibility exercises

                              • Dumbbells – you don’t need a full set, but having a few pairs of dumbbells that will challenge you after 12-15 repetitions are a good addition

                            Resolve to Move More

                            If more regular exercise is part of your New Year’s resolutions – or simply a goal you are trying to establish and meet in 2023 – being specific and detailed is important to being successful.  Just like with diet and healthy eating, vague good intentions are no match for specific actions. 

                            Therefore, don’t say “I’m going to exercise more.”  Instead, consider specific commitments, such as:


                                • I will exercise at least five days a week, 30 minutes per day.

                                • I will walk three miles each day.

                                • I will do strength-training exercises twice a week.

                                • I’ll take the stairs instead of the elevator.

                                • I’ll park a greater distance from the entrance at work, leading me to walk more. 

                              As the last two examples indicate, not all exercise has to involve workout clothes and dedicated time each day.  You can easily work in more steps – therefore burning more calories – by adjusting your daily routines.  Dancing, yard work, cleaning the house – all of these activities are a form of exercise and help improve your health. 

                              Mix it Up!

                              One reason people tend to abandon their exercise routine is that they get bored with it.  That’s why it’s important to mix it up, says Dr. Triwanna Fisher-Wikoff, a family practice physician in Fort Worth. 

                              “If you’re walking frequently and find yourself losing interest and motivation, try something new!  Sign up for tennis lessons or a dance class.  Try biking or swimming in addition to walking.  There are so many ways that we can all get beneficial exercise, there is no need to tie yourself down to just one thing,” she explains. 

                              However you choose to get your exercise, the most important thing is that you get it in – not only will it help you feel better physically, mentally and emotionally, you will reap multiple health benefits now and for years to come.  If you’re not sure where to start, visit with your health care provider for advice on an exercise plan that works for you!

                              This article has been reviewed and approved by a panel of Privia Medical Group North Texas physicians. 

                              This article contains information sourced from:

                              The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

                              National Library of Medicine

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