The merits of exercise are hard to ignore. Not only does it prevent chronic health conditions, but also boosts your confidence and self-esteem. Your body must stay active to be healthy or else your muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and bones will all begin to groan and grumble. Virtually everyone regardless of age, sex race or physical ability can reap the health benefits of exercise. Exercise can do wonders to your body—it can tone up your muscles , keep your joints in good condition and increase the level of fitness. As you exercise your body ligaments, muscles and other soft tissues remain supple. Certain breathing exercises such as aerobic exercises and water exercises are good for heart and lungs. They improve blood supply to the vital organs including the brain. Exercise counters obesity and most importantly it counteracts lethargy, stress, helps in digestion and sleep.
Studies have shown that physical exercise is quite effective in lowering blood pressure, and even reducing the risk of bowel and breast cancer. Regular exercise may not be a ‘magic bullet’ for preventing diseases but when combined with a nutritious diet it may be the best intervention currently available.
Physical exercises can help people with chronic diseases. Different exercises are advised for different ailments. However, being sedentary can turn into a real health crisis. For instance, sitting down for long period of time can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in which blood circulation slows down causing clot formation, which can become dangerous causing death. Therefore, make exercise a part of your daily routine.
Always warm-up before you begin with any exercise taking in deep breaths, stretching and relaxing the muscles involved. If the exercise causes pain or discomfort at any time, slow down and stop. If your movements get restricted, seek medical help.
- Reduces the risk of premature death
- Improves mind-body co-ordination
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, osteoporosis, diabetes and obesity
- Improves body’s immunity
- Increases the oxygen carrying capacity of blood
- Is good for the skin
- Helps maintain normal body weight, helps in weight loss by reducing excess body fat
- Builds and maintains healthy muscles bones and keeps joints, tendons, ligaments flexible and makes you mobile
- Improves digestion
- Improves sleeping pattern, improves psychological well-being and work performance
- Increases your metabolism by burning calories and helps you maintain a normal weight
- Helps in excretion of waste products
- Slows down the ageing process
Exercises are known to prevent and reduce your risk for several chronic ailments and diseases. Exercise is not a burden; think of it as a therapy. Set a reasonable goal. Take medical help whenever needed.
Regular exercise increases muscle strength and endurance, and improves flexibility and posture thus preventing back pain. A fitness program, which includes muscle strengthening and flexibility, can manage back pain. Good posture helps a lot in strengthening your back.
A temporary soft-tissue injury to the muscle or ligaments of the back can give you mechanical injury or backache. This does not involve the nerves, hence is usually not serious and yet it can be incredibly painful. This is the most common of all back pains. If you experience nerve irritation symptoms such as numbness, tingling or bladder symptoms, consult your doctor.
For acute backache your doctor may prescribe painkillers and muscle relaxants and rest for a few days until the pain subsides. For an acute low pain, bed rest may not be necessary. Continuing with your daily chores will help recovery.
Avoid healthy lifting and vigorous sports such as squash or tennis, which includes spinal movement. However, gentle exercises can build a strong back and stomach muscles and support your spine. These exercises also help maintain flexibility. The simplest exercise for bad backs is walking or running. Cycling comes next only if it is easy to incorporate it into your lifestyle. Swimming is good for backs as it strengthens your muscles while supporting the body with water. However, get professional advice regarding which stroke is suitable for you.
For chronic back pain, consult your doctor about what regular routine exercise is good and safe for you. This is because a lot many common exercises may be unsuitable for you. Also a specific therapy exercise or Yoga is also a good idea. Exercise can make your back muscles strong and maximize the support for the back. However, do not continue an activity if it hurts your back.
Remember, excess weight can pull the spine out of alignment and cause a back injury. Some sport activities such as golf, tennis, badminton may injure your back if not done properly. Along with exercise, diet high in fruits, grains and vegetables helps. Poor diet makes your back weak and more susceptible to injury.
For people with arthritis, rheumatoid or osteoarthritis; exercise can help reduce joint stiffness and pain, increase muscle strength and flexibility and also help in maintaining bone strength. It can improve your cardiac fitness and endurance levels. Experts suggest range-of-motion exercises for people suffering from arthritis, for example, dance or strengthening exercises (like weight-training and aerobics) or endurance exercises (such as bicycle riding). However, before you start on any exercise, discuss with your doctor or your physiotherapist.
The exercises involve moving the joints through the normal range of movement. Strengthening exercises too can be done everyday. These help build strong muscles, which help protect the joints. Strength training can be done using free weights, elastic bands or on exercise machines. But if you notice any swelling, or have pain in the joints take a day off.
The arthritis Foundation recommends doing two sets of each exercise. A set is when you repeat an exercise more than once without any rest in between. And you should do an exercise 3 to 10 times in each set. Examples of range of motion exercises include head turns, back pat and rub, forward arm reach, knee lift and elbow bend and turn.
Aerobic exercises or endurance exercises can be done 20-30 minutes for three times a week. These help develop your stamina. Low impact aerobic exercises such as walking or swimming are easier on the joints. To be on the safer side you can split the time into 10-minute sessions.
People with arthritis tend to avoid exercises for fear of joint pain. With painful joints walking or swimming even a single lap may make you cringe. Isometric exercises (described in detail in Chapter 4) are then advised, which strengthen muscles without bending painful joints. These are exercises that involve alternate series of isolated muscle flexes and period of relaxation without any joint movement.
Isotonic exercises (see Chapter 4) involve joint mobility and are more intensive. Repeated movements are used with the help of small dumbbells or elastic bands. To incorporate both these in your exercise plan, it if safer for you to take help of your physiotherapist or your fitness instructor. Also, to look for the best plan for the type of arthritis you have, consult your doctor to get you the most benefits with least joints pain aggravation.
Hydrotherapy or water therapy is an excellent exercise for arthritis. The aqua exercises makes you build up strength, ease stiff joints and relax aching muscles. The buoyancy of water reduces the pressure on your joints and makes it easier to exercise. Aqua pools are available where you can exercise in tepid waters. Hydrotherapy helps you relax, relieve pain and helps in movement.
Gentle forms of yoga or tai chi may be good for people with arthritis. Any movement is good for the joints. Ask your doctor for what sort of exercise is suitable for you. Do not overexert. Start slow and increase the intensity and time steadily.
- Heat can relax your muscles and joints. It can also relieve pain. Before exercising apply heat—warm towels, hot packs or a warm shower for about 15 minutes.
- Warm-up by moving your joints gently. Begin with range-of-motion exercises for 5-10 minutes.
- Move on slowly to strengthening or aerobic exercises.
- Exercise with slow and easy movements. Take a break in case of any pain. If you notice inflammation, redness, or any swelling of the joints; stop immediately.
- Cold packs or ice packs for about 10 minutes after exercising help reduce swelling and pain.
Exercise plays an important role in the prevention of the brittle bone disease osteoporosis, which is an increased fragility of bones because of the loss of mineral density. The pulling of muscles and tendons attached to the bone surface promotes increased bone mineral density and stop further osteoporosis form occurring.
Exercise imparts a good range of movement to ligaments around joints, keeps them strong thus enabling better support to joints. Research indicates that moderate exercises increases and maintains bone mass thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Lack of exercise puts you at a greater risk of fractures.
Similar to muscles, bones too become stronger when they are made to bear more weight than normal. When you lift a bucket filled with water, you are loading your shoulder, arm, spine, legs and hips. All your muscles contract and exert forces on the bones supporting those body parts. The force stimulates the bones to maintain or even build new tissues. Perhaps this has to do with exercise triggering the osteocytes (mature bone cells) to order the osteoblasts (bone-building cells) to increase bone formation.
Strength training exercises such as weight-lifting, and the weight-bearing exercises such as walking and jogging, help preserve bone mass and make your bones stronger. Strengthening of muscles and bones improve balance and co-ordination, reducing the risk of falls.
People already suffering from osteoporosis can also benefit from exercise, as strength and training exercises help in management of the disease. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, a few hours each week, jogging, stair climbing, dancing or lifting weights can be great forms of exercise. Refrain from vigorous sport exercises as these can increase the risk of falls and fractures and other injuries. Resistance training, which develops muscle strength by resisting movement is an effective form of bone stimulation and has a low risk of injury.
Weight-bearing exercise combined with a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can do wonders for osteoporosis patients.