Well, did we accomplish the goal? You know, the one we set after Christmas: “I am going to get myself in shape so I can look good at the beach”. Or this one: “I am finally going to be able to wear shorts this summer”. “No”, you say, but you rationalize that it is only May, there is still time… WRONG, it is too late!!! The sun is already out is force, temperatures are rising, and people are already making plans for time at the beach.
Does that mean you should give up exercise for the summer? Absolutely not! Exercise is something we should do year round, not just for a special occasion to look good. If that is our main goal, it is a bit shallow and probably won’t keep us going. We should exercise because it is good for us. Looking better is simply one of the byproducts. Additionally, exercise will keep us healthier, which means fewer trips to the doctor and less medicine. That in itself will help people save large amounts of money.
Our mental health also benefits from regular exercise. Research has shown that two-thirds of all depression could be reversed after three months of regular exercise done three times a week. It will keep us more alert, happier, and will enhance desire to enjoy life to the fullest. Exercise has also been shown to reduce stress and boost brainpower. These substantial mental health benefits are motivation to exercise in and of themselves.
An exercise program should be broken down into three phases: strength training, aerobics, and flexibility. For strength training, you can invest in some equipment of your own or join a facility that has good equipment. If you don’t want to use weights you can do Pilates or follow some exercise videos designed for the purpose. The point is that strength training should not be overlooked just because you often exercise another way—different types of exercise target different parts of your body and are all necessary. (To learn more about my personal weightlifting method, see Weightlifting: Train, don’t Strain.)
Aerobic exercise, also called Cardio, is designed to get your blood circulating and build endurance. Aerobic exercise is particularly beneficial to your heart, lungs, and circulation. Types of cardio include, walking, running, cycling, and swimming. Each week, healthy adults should try to do some form of aerobic exercise at least three times a week. However, even if you have to break your exercise into short sessions, it will benefit you. Even exercise sessions as short as 10 minutes have been demonstrated to improve health.
For aerobic exercise, if at all possible, GET OUTSIDE! Especially if warm sunny days are not that plentiful in your part of the country. I’m based in South Dakota and vitamin D deficiencies are the norm around here. Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because the body uses sunlight to convert cholesterol into vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels very important, particularly for strong bones. The good news is vitamin D can be stored; but getting some sun exposure, especially during the summer, is important. That being said, do not burn your skin or spend hours exposed each day, as this could lead to potential problems down the line. (For more information on vitamin D and sun exposure, check out this episode of Your Life and Health.)
Flexibility is an aspect of fitness that can be easily practiced in your own home or whatever facility you are at. If they have stretching machines available, all the better. Stretching is the aspect of fitness often gets ignored (even by people who focus strongly in other areas). Ignoring flexibility is a big mistake. To keep moving comfortably into old age, we need to stretch. Don’t just work a few specific areas; be sure to work all major joints to reap the full benefits of flexibility.
If all these steps are followed, you might be in for a big surprise. Each month, it is possible to lose 5 pounds of unwanted fat. Yes, it is already May, but if you start now, by August, you could have lost 15 pounds of fat. In addition to the great health benefits, it will help you feel better about yourself when you go to the beach. In other words; dig your swimming suit out of the closet and get it ready for action!