Exercising; it’s something that some of us praise as a tool to potentially change your life and others chalk up to an overrated pastime that didn’t give them the results they were hoping for. Ever since the 1970s, the idea of actively taking time out of your day to prioritize your fitness has become widely popular and has spread across the world. Now you might pose the question: “If exercise is so important for our well-being, why was it that only in the 1970s did working out for leisure become in-style?”.
This is because before, the majority of people had labour intensive jobs such as farming, factory work, mining or tailoring as careers. These were all resource extraction and manufacturing jobs which would leave you sweaty and coming home numb. However, ever since the 1970s, that has shifted in the West to a more services and information-based economy which focused more on filling out papers, talking on phones, sitting at desks, and looking at screens. The increased sedentary (i.e. sitting) lifestyle along with the abundance of high-fat and high-sugar foods in our diets has led to increasing obesity and related health risks which were what sparked the popularity of exercising in the first place.
Preventing Far Worse
The numbers coming out of Canada show a striking reality. Public Health Canada reported in 2017 that 64% of Canadians over the age of 18 are overweight (BMI over 25) or obese (BMI over 30) with childhood obesity rates ranging from 8-18% depending on the age bracket. This has become associated with numerous other ailments that come along with being overweight and/or obese.
Being overweight and especially obese are leading causes of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer and more. Public Health services have also uncovered that about 10% of the Canadian population aged 20 and older have been diagnosed with ischemic heart disease, better known as coronary heart disease (CHD). This is caused by narrowed arteries leading to the heart which leads to a lack of blood and oxygen being supplied to the heart due to the clogging up of the arteries.
Cardio Exercises - What’s Not to Love?
One of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular diseases and illnesses is to control your weight, and that means staying fit. And remember, fit does not mean muscly or ripped. Fit means lean, so put away the dumbbells and bench presses and let’s get to work. What’s most important when it comes to cardio exercises is that they are aerobic, meaning that they focus on fitness and not muscle. All of them have one very important thing in common: movement. Lots and lots of it. The easiest way to get back in shape is to get on your feet and do what you were born to do: move.
Running, jogging, sprinting or even taking brisk walks is a great way to improve your health that requires no extra equipment, just you and the nearest sidewalk. Some other great exercises you can find at your local gym or purchase online are ellipticals, rowing machines and stair climbers. These three are probably some of the most intense workouts since the more effort you put into it, the more you have to keep putting into it to keep up with the machine’s resistance.
Other great exercises include jump rope, cycling and swimming. Go outside and do these exercises with fresh air in your lungs and a clear head when you have time since when you finally come home and take a nice cold shower, you’ll feel like you’re 22 again. Exercising in general actually does not directly correlate as much with weight loss as people think but rather, exercise regulates our appetite, lowers our blood pressure, and helps regulate our blood sugar which makes us healthier.
Want to Shed Weight and Build Muscle?
The options mentioned above were all a part of aerobic exercise which as already mentioned are more focused on the fitness aspect and less so on the muscle. But let’s say you want to kill 2 birds with one stone, be our guest! Be ambitious! The sets of exercises that focus on muscle and bone building are all strength training exercises which are all classified under anaerobic exercise.
Circuit training is a great way to get into shape fast while also building up your physique. It’s been shown that for maximum benefit, keep your heart rate at about 60 to 70% of its maximum for optimal heart health. Any less and you’re aren’t trying hard enough, any more and you might burn yourself out. Circuit workouts consist of 8 to 12 various exercises performed in a series with no breaks in between. The participant then takes a short break before repeating the cycle.
Another option is lifting weights. This is something everyone has heard of and dreams of as their way to becoming a supermodel. However, if you go down this path, know that lifting low to moderate weights is actually the most beneficial for your cardiovascular health and not heavy ones. Work your muscles not through intensity but instead through repetition, doing about 3 to 4 sets with 15 to 20 repetitions for smaller weights. This allows for your muscles to grow while also not overexerting yourself which especially for beginners, can lead to injuries.
If you’re more focused on your lower body, try out the barbell back squat. That is when you place a barbell on your shoulders as you squat while holding onto the barbell with your hands. It works numerous muscle groups and engages your core making it great for exercising multiple joints. The more full body an exercise is, the greater its potential. However, if that gets a little rough for you, you can tone it down with lunges. Yes, lunges are considering strength training. These are your go-to exercise when it comes to working out your legs.
Finding What Works for You
If you happen to be interested in working out more specific muscle groups such as your chest, arms, or back, try out bench press, military press, and pull-ups. There’s always something to do to improve your fitness, all you have to do is find the way that works best for you. Imagine all of these exercises as your cardio equipment and you as the person that decides whether or not that equipment is yours or not. Regardless which exercises you choose, just remember that there such a thing as too much of a good thing. It’s best to spread out and diversify such as for instance going for a swim before hopping into the gym to lift some weights or doing some intensive cycling before cooling off with some yoga.
Your body is a machine and you control what you put into the engine as well as how you renovate it. So in short, you can renovate your machine by exercising with both an anaerobic and aerobic approach and that will thus change what you put into it which will keep it from breaking and make it brand new again. So happy exercising! And remember, even if an exercise isn’t specifically focused on cardio, that doesn’t mean it won’t help. Every step taken or weight lifted is a step in the right direction.