Dr Thanh-Tam Pham - 22/10/2022
Regular physical exercise reduces the risk for chronic disease and improve the quality of life. Some of the benefits are:
- Improve memory and brain function in all age groups
- Protect against many chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis…
- Aid in weight management
- Improve quality of sleep
- Improve joint pain, stiffness, maintain muscle strength and balance and prevent injuries
- Reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and fatigue
- Improves immunity and reduce risk of cancer
- Anti-aging and increase life span
There are 3 main types of exercises:
- Aerobic or “cardio” activities. These make the heart beats faster, breathing rate increases such as walking, running, cycling, swimming, dancing, jumping, skipping…
- Strength training makes the muscles to work against a resistance such as weights, resistance bands…
- Flexibility such as stretches, yoga, Pilates…
- Aerobic exercise benefits:
- Brain health: Aerobic exercises increase heart rate and improves blood flow to all the organs of the body including the brain so it may improve memory and prevention of cognitive decline leading to dementia.
- Improve immunity: with exercises the blood flow increases and the blood vessels including the small capillaries dilate permitting the immune cells to work more efficiently in fighting infections and detecting abnormal cells to prevent cancer formation. Some studies showed that exercises reduce the risk of colon cancer.
- Improves cardiovascular health: exercise strengthens the heart and helps it more efficiently to pump blood throughout the body, improves the flexibility of the blood vessels and prevent cholesterol deposition in the blood vessels. Exercise can help with lowering blood pressure.
- Helps to regulate blood sugar and improve control of diabetes
- Reduces asthma symptoms and lessen both the frequency and severity of asthma attacks as it improves lung function.
- Reduces chronic pain especially with low impact activities like swimming, aqua aerobics as it improves muscle function and endurance.
- Improves sleep: a study showed that individuals with chronic sleep problems, regular exercise with sleep hygiene is an effective treatment for insomnia. However, rigorous exercise close to bedtime may make it more difficult to sleep.
- Regulates weight: diet and exercise are the building blocks to weight loss.
- Improves feeling of anxiety, depression, and chronic fatigue.
- Reduces risk of falls by promoting better balance and agility.
Most people should aim to get around 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity at least 5 times a week that is 150 min per week.
- Strength or resistance training:
-It increases muscle strength by making the muscles to work against a weight or force such as free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or just by using your own body weight.
-Strength training can protect joints from injury as strong muscles holding the bones together will make the joints more stable and give support for the joints preventing wear and tear of the joints. As people get older, degenerative changes can be more severe if the muscles are not strong. Some of the common problems are knee pain, back pain, neck pain, shoulder, and hip pain.
-Strength training can help with weight management and increase muscle to fat ratio as you gain more muscles.
-Improve posture especially with strong back muscles, improve mobility and balance from improvement in joint function, muscle, tendon, and ligament strength and improve bone density.
Flexibility is very important to protect against injuries. A strong tree trunk can snap with the force of high winds, but a flexible bamboo plant can sustain strong winds.
A well-rounded fitness program should include aerobic exercises to improve heart and lung fitness, strength training to improve joint function, flexibility, and balance exercises.
To gain most benefits from exercise, it needs to be regular, and the activities need to be done to the point where it is hard for you to do another repetition.
A few special exercise programs:
- Knee Ability Zero by Knees over Toes guy Ben Patrick: Ben loves basketball and he had 3 knee surgeries in his teens and after another injury he refused surgery, and has designed a program to rehabilitate knee injuries without the need for surgery and he is now training many NBA players how to improve their dunks. It includes:
- Walking backwards to strengthen the opposing muscles
- The tibialis raise: put your butt against the wall with both legs straight at a comfortable distance in front. Flex the toes up for 2 sec without letting knees bend
- The FHL (flexor hallucis longus) calf raise: put your hands against the wall and back up until your ankles are stretched and heels come slightly off the ground. Without bending your knees, raise up until your weight is on your big toes.
- The Knees over toes (KOT) calf raise: stand about an arm’s length from the wall. Bend your knees over your toes far enough that your heels lift slightly off the ground. Raise your heels while still keeping your knees over your toes.
- The Patrick step: Standing with leg straight and reach the inside foot forward and slowly lower the heel to the floor then raise back up.
- The ATG (Ass to Grass) split squat: upright torso, back toes still pressed and back knee not touching the floor with fully bend knees
- Elephant walk: for flexible hamstrings, have your palm on the floor without bending your knees.
- L- sit: for hip flexor strength, sit and hold the body with both legs straight off the ground
- Couch stretch: shin and shoulders against the wall
- High intensity interval training ( HIIT):
HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low intensity recovery periods. It is perhaps the most time efficient way to exercise. It can be 10-30min duration. The activities being performed can vary such as sprinting, biking, jumping, skipping…or other body weight exercises like push ups or with weights. It should involve short periods (30 sec for example) of vigorous exercises that make the heart rate speeds up, then followed by a period of slow intensity exercise. The benefits include burning a lot of calories in a short amount of time, increase metabolic rate for hours after, reduce body fat, reduce blood sugar level…
Full contact kick boxing is excellent for self-defence but kickboxing workout with a bag gives a lot of benefits. It strengthens and tones your legs, arms, glutes, back and core muscles all at once. It is a good way to reduce stress as you can kick and punch to a stress-free zone. It can boost confidence levels and improve coordination.
Dancing has always been a part of human culture, rituals and celebrations. It is an enjoyable way to be more physically active and stay fit and it is an aerobic exercise with amazing health benefits suitable for all ages, shapes, and forms.
- It improves flexibility, reduces stiffness, improves muscle tone, strength, endurance, increases energy, balance, and maintain good posture.
- It minimizes stress, reduce depression, improves social skills.
- It improves physical confidence, self-confidence, self-esteem, improves mental functioning and general psychological wellbeing
- It improves co-ordination, balance, spatial awareness, and social awareness.
- The most important of all, is that dancing was shown to be an effective way to prevent dementia.
- Core muscle strengthening exercises:
Core is a collection of muscles that stabilize, rotate, and move the spine. It is sometimes easy to neglect to strengthen the core muscles if you only work with weight machines, free weights, bike exercise and treadmill in the gym.
Benefits of core strength:
- improve posture
- reduce injury when combined with full body strength training
- may improve running, training performance and overall fitness
- reduce low back pain and stiffness, a stronger back and better balance
Some of the core strengthening exercises:
- crunches, bicycle crunch, V crunch, Russian twists, reverse crunches, sit ups
- mountain climber, Bird dog crunch, kick through exercise
- leg raise, V-ups
- plank, side plank, side plank with rotation, low plank twist, low plank jack-taps, high plank walk, high plank knee to elbow touches, elbows to hands plank
- reverse plank, tabletop
- push ups