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Exercise helps your heart

Regular exercise is an important way to lower your risk of heart disease. Exercising for 30 minutes or more on most days can help you lose weight, improve your cholesterol, and even lower your blood pressure by as many as five to seven points.

A sedentary lifestyle, where your job and your leisure activities involve little or no physical activity, doubles your risk of dying from heart disease. This is similar to the increased risk you’d have if you smoked, had high cholesterol, or had high blood pressure.

The good news

It’s easier than you might think to improve your health with exercise. You don’t have to jog for an hour a day. In fact, some studies have shown greater health benefits from light to moderate exercise simply because people are more likely to stick with it.

Your heart health improves with just 30 minutes of exercise on most days. Two 15-minute segments of exercise or three 10-minute segments still count as 30 minutes. Just make sure the activity is vigorous enough to raise your heart rate. Try the talk/sing test: If you can’t talk while you exercise, you’re working too hard. If you can sing, you need to work harder.

What happens with exercise

Just as exercise strengthens other muscles in your body, it helps your heart muscle become more efficient and better able to pump blood throughout your body. This means that the heart pushes out more blood with each beat, allowing it to beat slower and keep your blood pressure under control.

When you exercise regularly, your body’s tissue (including the heart) does a better job of pulling oxygen from your blood. This allows your heart to work better under stress and keeps you from getting winded during high-intensity activities.

Physical activity also allows better blood flow in the small blood vessels around your heart. Clogs in these arteries can lead to heart attacks. There’s also evidence that exercise helps your body make more branches and connections between these blood vessels, so there are other routes for your blood to travel if the usual path is blocked by narrow arteries or fatty deposits.

Exercise also increases your levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that lowers heart disease risk by flushing the artery-clogging LDL or “bad” cholesterol out of your system.

Along with lowering your risk for heart disease, exercise:

  • Keeps your weight down.
  • Improves your mood.
  • Lowers your risk for some types of cancer.
  • Improves your balance.
  • Reduces your risk of osteoporosis by increasing your bone mass.
  • Gives you more energy.
  • Helps you sleep better.

Your doctor can help you design an exercise routine that’s right for you. Be sure to check with your doctor if you haven’t exercised in a long time or if you have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, dizziness, or exercise-related pain.

Clinical review by Avra Cohen, RN
Kaiser Permanente
Reviewed 01/03/2019

7 Heart Benefits of Exercise

Understanding just how physical activity benefits your heart can be strong motivation to get moving to get moving more. Here’s what to know.

  1. Exercise lowers blood pressure.

    Exercise works like beta-blocker medication to slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure (at rest and also when exercising). High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease.

  2. Exercise is key to weight control.

    Especially when combined with a smart diet, being physically active is an essential component for losing weight and even more important for keeping it off, Stewart says—which in turn helps optimize heart health. Being overweight puts stress on the heart and is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

  3. Exercise helps strengthen muscles.

    A combination of aerobic workouts (which, depending on your fitness level, can include walking, running, swimming, and other vigorous heart-pumping exercise) and strength training (weight lifting, resistance training) is considered best for heart health. These exercises improve the muscles’ ability to draw oxygen from the circulating blood. That reduces the need for the heart—a muscular organ itself—to work harder to pump more blood to the muscles, whatever your age.

  4. Exercise can help you quit smoking.

    As smokers become more fit, they often quit. And people who are fit in the first place are less likely to ever start smoking, which is one of the top risk factors for heart disease because it damages the structure and function of blood vessels.

  5. Exercise can stop or slow the development of diabetes.

    Johns Hopkins research has shown that when combined with strength training, regular aerobic exercise such as cycling, brisk walking, or swimming can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by over 50% by allowing the muscles to better process glycogen, a fuel for energy, which when impaired, leads to excessive blood sugars, and thus diabetes.

  6. Exercise lowers stress.

    Stress hormones can put an extra burden on the heart. Exercise—whether aerobic (like running), resistance-oriented (like weight training) or flexibility-focused (like yoga)—can help you relax and ease stress.

  7. Exercise reduces inflammation.

    With regular exercise, chronic inflammation is reduced as the body adapts to the challenge of exercise on many bodily systems. This is an important factor for reducing the adverse effects of many of the diseases just mentioned.

Long-term benefits of regular exercise

Long-term benefits of regular exercise

Keeping healthy habits over time isn’t easy—but it is worth it.

Once you push past the first few weeks of starting a new fitness program, you probably start to notice some changes in how you feel.

You might feel challenged to stay motivated—changing up your workouts is a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle.

In addition to feeling energized and positive about your progress, regular physical activity is shown to provide a bundle of physical benefits:

Overall health improves with exercise

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says ongoing exercise can help:

  • Control weight
  • Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and some cancers
  • Strengthen bones and muscles
  • Improve mental health and mood
  • Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls
  • Increase your chances of living longer

Exercise can make a positive impact on aging

Harvard Medical School compares the effects of aging with the effects of exercise—and demonstrates that exercise can influence how your quickly your body grows older. For example, with age:

  • Resting heart rate increases—exercise can help decrease resting heart rate.
  • The speed at which intestines empty decreases—exercise can help increase speed.
  • Metabolic rate decreases—exercise can help increase metabolism.
  • Body fat increases—exercise can help decrease body fat.
  • The risk of depression increases—exercise can help decrease this risk.

Consistency is key

To realize the benefits of exercise, it’s critical that you participate in physical activity regularly. For example, running five miles on one day and then skipping workouts for the next two weeks doesn’t work that well. Exercising sporadically can decrease motivation, decrease endurance and increase injury.

However, “consistent workouts” does not mean that you must work out every day—it’s important to build rest days into your fitness program. Does it really matter if you work out three days in a row, rather than spread activity across the week? .

There’s no doubt exercise is good for you, but the degree of benefits varies

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans are based on years of scientific research, which shows that the longer, harder and more often you exercise—the greater the health benefits.

Scientific American examines common claims about the benefits of exercise and says that family history and other factors can also play a role in how fitness can have an impact on your overall health.

Benefits of Exercise

We have all heard it many times before – regular exercise is good for you, and it can help you lose weight. But if you are like many Americans, you are busy, you have a sedentary job, and you haven’t yet changed your exercise habits. The good news is that it’s never too late to start. You can start slowly, and find ways to fit more physical activity into your life. To get the most benefit, you should try to get the recommended amount of exercise for your age. If you can do it, the payoff is that you will feel better, help prevent or control many diseases, and likely even live longer.

What are the health benefits of exercise?

Regular exercise and physical activity may

  • Help you control your weight. Along with diet, exercise plays an important role in controlling your weight and preventing obesity. To maintain your weight, the calories you eat and drink must equal the energy you burn. To lose weight, you must use more calories than you eat and drink.
  • Reduce your risk of heart diseases. Exercise strengthens your heart and improves your circulation. The increased blood flow raises the oxygen levels in your body. This helps lower your risk of heart diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack. Regular exercise can also lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
  • Help your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels. Exercise can lower your blood sugar level and help your insulin work better. This can cut down your risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. And if you already have one of those diseases, exercise can help you to manage it.
  • Help you quit smoking. Exercise may make it easier to quit smoking by reducing your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It can also help limit the weight you might gain when you stop smoking.
  • Improve your mental health and mood. During exercise, your body releases chemicals that can improve your mood and make you feel more relaxed. This can help you deal with stress and reduce your risk of depression.
  • Help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. Exercise stimulates your body to release proteins and other chemicals that improve the structure and function of your brain.
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles. Regular exercise can help kids and teens build strong bones. Later in life, it can also slow the loss of bone density that comes with age. Doing muscle-strengthening activities can help you increase or maintain your muscle mass and strength.
  • Reduce your risk of some cancers, including colon, breast , uterine, and lung cancer.
  • Reduce your risk of falls. For older adults, research shows that doing balance and muscle-strengthening activities in addition to moderate-intensity aerobic activity can help reduce your risk of falling.
  • Improve your sleep. Exercise can help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  • Improve your sexual health. Regular exercise may lower the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. For those who already have ED, exercise may help improve their sexual function. In women, exercise may increase sexual arousal.
  • Increase your chances of living longer. Studies show that physical activity can reduce your risk of dying early from the leading causes of death, like heart disease and some cancers.

How can I make exercise a part of my regular routine?

  • Make everyday activities more active. Even small changes can help. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk down the hall to a coworker’s office instead of sending an email. Wash the car yourself. Park further away from your destination.
  • Be active with friends and family. Having a workout partner may make you more likely to enjoy exercise. You can also plan social activities that involve exercise. You might also consider joining an exercise group or class, such as a dance class, hiking club, or volleyball team.
  • Keep track of your progress. Keeping a log of your activity or using a fitness tracker may help you set goals and stay motivated.
  • Make exercise more fun. Try listening to music or watching TV while you exercise. Also, mix things up a little bit – if you stick with just one type of exercise, you might get bored. Try doing a combination of activities.
  • Find activities that you can do even when the weather is bad.You can walk in a mall, climb stairs, or work out in a gym even if the weather stops you from exercising outside.

The Biggest Mental and Physical Benefits of Working Out

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We’ve got some happy news that will rev up your exercise routine: The moment you head out on your run, launch into your spin class, or start your Pilates session, the benefits of working out kick in. “We see changes in the body within seconds,” says Michele Olson, Ph.D., senior clinical professor of exercise physiology at Huntington University in Montgomery, Alabama. Your heart rate increases and blood is delivered to your muscles. You start burning calories for fuel. And you get an almost immediate mood boost.

As little as 30 minutes of cardio (including these top three styles) three to five days a week can add six years to your life, according to research at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. Do that plus a couple of days of resistance training and you’ll not only live longer but also look younger, feel happier, and have more energy.

Keep reading for our timeline on the quick and long-lasting benefits of working out regularly.

As You Work Out…

Your lungs are getting stronger. When you do cardio, your brain sends signals to them to help you breathe faster and deeper, delivering extra oxygen to your muscles.

Your motivation is at its peak. Thanks to a flood of endorphins, which trigger the classic runner’s high, a big benefit of working out is that you feel psyched and energized. (Here’s how to maximize that rush!)

You’re burning cals. “During typical cardio exercise, your body taps mainly fat for fuel,” Olson says.

Within One Hour of Exercise…

You’re protecting yourself against colds, flu, you name it. Exercise elevates your level of immunoglobulins, which are proteins that help bolster your immune system and ward off infection. “Every sweat session you do can help strengthen your immune function for about 24 hours,” says Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise.

You’re feeling zen. Mood-enhancing chemicals, like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, flood your brain for a couple of hours post-exercise. This benefits of working out lasts for up to a day if you’ve competed in an endurance event, like a marathon. Stress? What stress?

You’re blasting more calories, even at rest. “For every 100 calories you burn during your workout, you can expect to burn 15 calories after,” Bryant says. If you went on a three-mile run, you would torch about 300 calories, which could mean zapping an extra 45 later.

You’re hungry. Now that you’ve burned through your energy stores, your blood sugar levels are dropping. Just how low they go depends on how much you ate or drank before your workout and how long and intensely you exercised, says Kristine Clark, Ph.D., R.D., director of sports nutrition at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. (Related: The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Your Sweat Sesh)

Within One Day of Exercise…

You’re adding lean muscle. If you did a strength-training routine, your muscles are now starting to rebuild themselves and repair the microscopic tears that come with lifting weights, says Paul Gordon, Ph.D., chair of the department of Health, Human Performance, and Recreation at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Preliminary research shows that women respond to and recover from resistance training faster than men.

Your heart is healthier. One of the major benefits of working out can be found in how your heart functions. One sweat session lowers your blood pressure for up to 16 hours. (Did you know the number of push-ups you can do may predict your heart disease risk?)

You’re a quick study. You’re super alert and focused post-exercise. That’s because a good workout increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain, says Henriette van Praag, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical science at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

Within One Week of Regular Exercise…

Your risk of diabetes goes down. The more you work out, the greater your sensitivity to insulin. That, in turn, lowers your blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes.

You can push harder next time. Your VO2 max, a measure of your endurance and aerobic fitness, has already increased by about 5 percent, according to Olson. Translation: You can go a little harder and longer than you could before.

You’re slimmer (if that’s your goal). Cutting 500 calories a day through exercise and diet will help you drop one pound a week.

Within One Month of Regular Exercise…

You’re getting stronger. Those eight-pound weights don’t feel quite as heavy, because your muscular endurance is starting to increase, Bryant says. Ten reps is no longer a struggle; you can now do 12 or 13.

You’re blasting belly fat. After four weeks of regular workouts, your body is ditching flab and gaining muscle. Overweight people who took part in a four-week program of moderate aerobic exercise in an Australian study reduced ab fat by 12 percent.

You’ve got more brainpower. Working out activates growth-stimulating proteins in the brain that may help form new cells there.

Within One Year of Regular Exercise…

Working out is way easier. “Your endurance and aerobic fitness can increase by up to 25 percent after eight to 12 weeks of regular training,” Gordon says. In a year you’ll notice a big benefit of working out: Your endurance can more than double.

You’re a fat-melting machine. Your cells are now super-efficient at breaking down fat and using it as fuel, Olson says. That means you’re zapping more flab 24-7. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About Burning Fat and Building Muscle)

Your heart rate is lower. Thanks to regular workouts, your heart is pumping more efficiently. For instance, if your initial resting heart rate was 80 beats a minute, it will have dropped to 70 or lower. The less work your heart has to do, the healthier you’ll be.

You’ve cut your cancer risk. In a study of more than 14,800 women, those who had the highest levels of aerobic fitness were 55 percent less likely to die from breast cancer than those who were sedentary. Women considered moderately fit had about a 33 percent lower risk of developing the disease. Exercise may also help protect against endometrial, lung, and ovarian cancer, researchers say. (Some women are using working out as a way to reclaim their bodies after cancer, too.)

You’re adding years to your life. Fitness buffs have better telomeres, the DNA that bookends our chromosomes and protects them from damage, which can slow the aging process, studies show.

You feel fantastic. Just four months of exercise is as good as prescription meds at boosting mood and reducing depression, according to a study at Duke University. Keep it up and not only will your life be longer, it will be happier, too!

4 Tips to Get Even More Benefits of Working Out

As if all those benefits of working out weren’t enough, we scored a few bonus tips from the pros for how to turn up the volume even more.

  1. Strength train twice a week or more. It will supercharge your metabolism so that you’ll continue to burn calories for up to 38 hours. Make the most of this benefit of working out by turning up the intensity of your workouts to burn more fat and calories. Raise the incline on the treadmill, run up stairs or hills, crank the resistance on the stationary bike.
  2. Do fewer crunches and more planks. (Might we suggest our 30-day plank challenge?) To ace high plank form, begin on all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips, then lower forearms to floor and extend legs straight behind you, balancing on toes. Keeping abs engaged and back flat, hold for 30 seconds; do 10 reps three or four times a week. Limit crunches to no more than three sets of 15 at a time. Anything beyond that isn’t doing you much good, experts say.
  3. Add LBs. Once you can do 15 reps a set, switch to a weight that’s two pounds heavier and go back to 10 reps (the last two should feel hard). Work your way up to 15 again and then repeat the process. By increasing the number of pounds you lift, you’ll sculpt and strengthen better and faster. (Related: When to Use Heavy Weights vs. Light Weights)
  4. Try HIIT (or other interval-style workouts). You may feel even happier. Women who do interval training experience a bigger boost in mood immediately following their workout than those who exercise at a steady pace, Olson says.
  • By Alyssa Shaffer

The 20 Plus Biggest Benefits of Jogging

The benefits of jogging for physical fitness have been researched for years. Now it is pretty well all agreed that jogging is good for you. Jogging benefits include mind, body and spirit. Ask any jogger and you will find they gain more from the sport than just fitness benefits.

Dr. Peter Schnohr, chief cardiologist of the Copenhagen City Heart Study, completed research (opens new window) to determine whether jogging at a slow to average pace was healthy or detrimental to health. He says:

“The results of our research allow us to definitively answer the question of whether jogging is good for your health. We can say with certainty that regular jogging increases longevity. The good news is that you don’t actually need to do that much to reap the benefits.”

Life expectancy increased for both men and women. Women lived an average of 6.2 years longer and men averaged 5.6 years. The study concentrated on jogging and not running. Do you know the difference between jogging and running?

Increased life expectancy from jogging of course is expected. In fact, you get much, much more. Jogging is like looking through amber colored glasses. Everything looks better, sharper, crisper. You begin to see the world as opportunities. Obstacles seem to disappear or just become little hiccups in life.

Does the world actually change just because you get some jogging exercise?

You change. You start seeing the benefits of jogging:

  • Self-confidence
  • Weight loss
  • Weight maintenance
  • You look younger
  • Odourless sweat
  • Increased stamina
  • Increased endurance
  • Improved emotional state-happiness
  • You experience “purpose”
  • You seek out challenges
  • You accomplish more
  • You get a nice tan
  • You become better able to cope with and handle stress
  • You get “me time”
  • Become more adventurous as you begin to see opportunities
  • Increased motivation
  • Improved fitness
  • Decreased heart disease risk
  • Decreased risk of osteoporosis
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Decreased risk of high blood pressure
  • Improved overall sense of well being
  • Increased lung capacity

Increased Muscle Mass

Muscle’s mass weights more than fat. Calories burned jogging is higher than other activities.

As you start jogging, you will probably see an initial quick weight loss depending on how much you do. Your muscles will become stronger. Muscle tone improves as you work on the proper running technique. You will see more muscle definition. Muscles require energy; they get that energy from calories. So you see, muscles are your little fat burning machines.

You will see an improvement in your appearance. You may drop a couple of dress sizes without any further change in weight at this point. This occurs because muscles weight is more than that of fat.

Therefore, even though you are losing fat, your muscles are increasing. These changes may not be evident as you stand on the bathroom scale and see the reading. However, looking up in the mirror will confirm the change in appearance. Find out how to calculate body mass index here and how BMI relates to your weight.

Benefits of Jogging – Reduced Risk of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the condition when the bones become increasingly porous and brittle. It can result in bone fractures and deformities. The cause is a lack of the component minerals and nutrients necessary for bone health.

Here is how the benefits of jogging come into play…

Muscles attach to tendons. Tendons attach to bone. As you move your muscles, they provide a pull against the tendon. This pull then moves the bones. Along with the benefit of overall health, running also provides the gentle stress necessary to reduce the bones tendency to surrender calcium. This action is reducing your risk of osteoporosis.

This is an important point…

You still need to obtain adequate amounts of nutrients. You are not eliminating the need for a healthy diet. What you are doing is helping your body to function optimally.

Improved Heart and Lung Function

The human body is supposed to be worked. Physical activity or exercise is required to keep the body running well. A healthy diet will not do it all alone. It is a team effort. You provide the food so the body can get the work done.

When you jog, you breathe deeper. Oxygen goes deep into the lungs and the heart pumps a little harder. The lungs provide the oxygen that is delivered by the heart and vessels deep into your working muscles. This makes jogging a near perfect antiaging exercise.

You are increasing your heart and lungs abilities by your regular jog. Deep water running can be a light way to begin jogging and get some of the benefits of jogging. The water supplies support and makes the bridge to physical activity easier for you if you have experienced previous injuries.

Social and Emotional Improvements

Social and mood improvements build one upon the other from the improved health and fitness you are experiencing. Then with all the changes that you experience, you start to see people change around you…

You become a magnet for positive change. You are happier. People are happier when they are around you. It becomes easier to get work done. You seem to draw out the cooperation and good will of others.

You not only see improvements in you. Your little world changes. It gets better. It gets bigger. The answer to my earlier question as to whether the world actually changes because of your running or jogging is yes. Find out how to start running jogging here.

The benefits of jogging are spreading out from you, the center of your universe. To that degree, you are influencing our world.

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Health Benefits of Jogging Everyday: How It Affects Your Mind and Body

Running is more than just a physical act. It involves mental exercise that can be just as difficult as the actual act of moving. In fact, this is often the area that challenges people the most. The good news is that the health benefits of jogging everyday encompass both the physical and mental as well.

If you are struggling to find the motivation to get out of the house and go for a run, then hopefully this list of amazing rewards that jogging will bring to you is enough to get you moving.

Physical Health Benefits of Jogging Everyday

Improves Heart Health

It is not surprising that one of the best health benefits of jogging everyday is that it is good for your heart. As running is an aerobic exercise, it decreases the risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease and can even improve longevity.

Enhances Lung Capacity

Working alongside the heart is the lungs. When you jog, you need substantially more oxygen than if you are sedentary, let’s say, sitting on the couch. If you want a way to improve and strengthen your respiratory function, getting up and moving is the way to do it.

With consistent jogging, you will increase the lung’s intake capacity over time, meaning that eventually, you will be able to complete the same amount of exercise with less effort.

Weight Loss

Compared to the other physical health benefits of jogging everyday, losing weight is one that you can visually see for yourself over time. Jogging is a great way to manage and lose weight, as it gets the body moving and your heart pumping on a regular basis.

Not only will your body burn calories during your run but also for up to 48 hours afterwards. So you will still be reaping these physical benefits of jogging even after you finish, speeding up your metabolism.

Increase Fitness

By jogging everyday, you will most certainly become fitter. It is one thing to lose weight but it is another to become fit and healthy.

As I mentioned previously, your respiratory function will substantially improve meaning that you will be able to complete the task at hand with less effort and exertion. When it comes to running, this may be being able to run that 5km distance in a faster time than before or making to to 10km when you couldn’t before.

Your endurance levels will grow, which is a great health benefit of jogging everyday.

Mental Health Benefits of Jogging Everyday

Relieves Stress

Jogging is a great stress reliever. It can work two ways. You can use the time in your running session to focus on your nagging issues and sweat it off.

Alternatively, you can escape it for a little while and give yourself some much-needed space. Instead, you could use the time to clear your mind and think about something else for a bit.

Either way, jogging is an efficient way to relieve stress and to help you gain some perspective on things.

Grows Confidence

Maybe you weren’t all that great at running when you first started. Maybe you could only manage to walk the distance on your first try or gave up halfway. That may have been the case in the beginning but after consistent sessions, how much progress have you made?

Chances are, you would have improved. Even if it is by the slightest margin, this can increase your confidence dramatically.

A boost in confidence is a great mental health benefit of jogging. It is even better because this morale can then be applied in all other areas of your life. So you won’t only be improving your fitness but also the way you approach other areas in your life.

Boosts Happiness

Ever finished a run and felt happy? You have experienced a common phenomenon known as the “runner’s high”.

The runner’s high is what makes jogging addictive to some people. It helps to release endorphins that bring you to a state of euphoria.

So next time you are dreading that running session, just know that at the end of it, you will be very happy that you did it.

As you can see, the health benefits of jogging everyday not only encompasses physical results but also mental ones. As well as training your body, you will be able to train your mind. Whether you prefer the treadmill or fresh air, as long as you commit to training, you will be able to reap the benefits.

If you want to get started with running sessions, then enlist in a running app that can help ease you into it. Zen Labs Fitness offers a range of apps that help runners with all experience, from complete beginners (Couch to 5K) to those looking to go the distance (Couch to 10K). For even more support, make sure you join our community with like-minded individuals who see that value and health benefits of jogging everyday.

You Asked: Is Intense Exercise Better For Your Health?

When it comes to your fitness levels—or the amount of work your heart, lungs, and limbs can perform—there’s no doubt that a good, hard sweat is great for you. Vigorous exercise like running, swimming or playing tennis leads to greater improvements than easy or moderate workouts, like brisk walking, ballroom dancing and slow bike-riding.

But fitness and health, while closely related, are not always aligned. Research is now finding that you don’t have to put yourself through punishing workouts in order to optimize your health.

In a study last year, scientists from the U.S. and Europe found something surprising: the more moderate exercise people do, the more their cardiovascular health improves and their mortality risk drops. When it comes to vigorous exercise, smaller amounts seem to be linked with maximal health benefits.

A 2016 study even found that moderate exercise may beat vigorous when it comes to reducing risk for diabetes. “We have found that moderate-intensity activity improves insulin sensitivity more than vigorous-intensity activity in both obese and overweight individuals and in those with pre-diabetes,” says Dr. Robert McGarrah, a cardiologist and medical instructor at Duke University School of Medicine. It’s possible that moderate-intensity exercise may be superior when it comes to “clearance of fat deposits in the muscle,” he explains.

Some studies have linked vigorous exercise to stronger hearts, but those may not have taken into account the fact that people who engage in hard exercise may also expend more energy throughout the day—not just during their workouts, says McGarrah. He says total energy expenditure may be more important when it comes to your cardiovascular health, regardless of how hard you push yourself during exercise.

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Findings like these are important because many people still believe that exercise has to be excruciating in order to provide big benefits. Not only is that untrue, but it’s also harmful, says Michelle Segar, director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center. This sort of thinking leads people who can’t stick with regular rigorous workouts to think of themselves as failures, and in some cases to give up on exercise altogether, she says.

Segar is the author of a new study showing that many people avoid exercise because they assume it will be unpleasant or time-consuming. “Most people have the old ’80s and ’90s view that physical activity means going for a long run or doing a hard gym workout,” she explains. “But we know exercise doesn’t have to be intense or uncomfortable to be good for you.”

MORE: Men Who Prefer High-Intensity Workouts Have a Less Active Sex Life

She blames public misconceptions on a “barrage of marketing” from fitness companies, gyms and TV shows and adds that medical researchers and journalists, though well intentioned, also play a role. Though exercise can act like powerful medicine in the body, there is not necessarily a calibrated dosage. “There are ideal targets, but even if you can’t hit them, a little is much better than nothing,” Segar says. “The old success-or-failure, hit-or-miss model of exercise is unhelpful.”

“The true value of exercise is in just getting off the couch,” says Catrine Tudor-Locke, chair of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a researcher of the impressive health benefits of walking. She explains that almost all of the health perks research has linked to exercise—from a stronger heart and lungs to more energy and clearer thinking—increase the most when people move from a sedentary lifestyle to a modestly active one. “You continue to get benefits from exercise, but the returns are increasingly diminished,” she says.

If you’re the type who enjoys vigorous exercise and feels crummy if you miss your daily five-mile run or CrossFit session, then keep it up. “But you can still congratulate yourself if you only have time and energy for a 10-minute walk,” Segar says.

There’s no shame—and plenty of payoff—if easy exercise is more your speed.

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What are the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT)?

Research suggests that HIIT workouts may be better than moderate intensity exercise for “maximizing health outcomes.”

HIIT offers many benefits, including:

Reducing body fat

According to a 2012 study, HIIT may decrease body fat more than steadier types of exercise, such as jogging.

The study looked at the effects of HIIT on 46 males with overweight. The participants, who had an average age of 25 years, took part in three 20-minute HIIT sessions a week.

After 12 weeks, those in the exercise group had a significant decrease in abdominal fat compared with those in the control group.

A more recent study found that HIIT workouts using a hydraulic resistance system may burn more calories than equal periods of steadier forms of exercise. These findings suggest that HIIT may help people burn more calories in less time.

Improving cardiovascular and metabolic health

HIIT may help improve heart health in people with good health, as well as in those with cardiovascular conditions.

It may also help improve measures of metabolic health, including blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol.

A 2015 study found that a 10 week program of HIIT workouts produced cardiovascular and metabolic benefits that were similar to those of moderate intensity workouts.

In the study, 90 participants who were previously physical inactive completed either a HIIT program or a traditional moderate intensity continuous training (MICT) program. The average total exercise time of 55 minutes per week for the HIIT program was less than half of that for the MICT, which took the participants an average of 128 minutes per week.

Improving mental health

Although all exercise may benefit mental health, HIIT training may be especially helpful.

The authors of a 2019 review suggest that HIIT can provide a range of benefits for people with mental illnesses, including reducing the severity of depression.

Although the review looked at 12 studies, the authors stated a need for further high quality trials to support these findings.

A 2015 study looked at the effects of HIIT training on people with chronic schizophrenia. The research found that many people with psychiatric conditions had low motivation to exercise and felt that exercise was too time consuming.

Short HIIT workouts could help overcome difficulties with motivation and finding time to exercise. The study recorded the effects of an 8 week program of HIIT workouts in people from a psychiatric day care unit.

The program consisted of three workouts a week, each of which was 15 minutes long with 5 minutes warming up and cooling down either side.

Of the 20 participants, 18 completed the program. The results showed the following mental and physical improvements:

  • decreased body mass index (BMI)
  • lower resting heart rate
  • lower pulse pressure
  • decreased body weight
  • improved mental health scores, including reduced levels of depression and social avoidance

Time efficient

Despite the benefits of exercise, not everyone is keen or able to commit to regular sessions. One of the most common barriers is a lack of time.

HIIT is an efficient way to exercise, and it may, therefore, be a good choice for people who find it difficult to fit physical activity into their schedule.

According to a 2014 study, a commitment of just 30 minutes three times a week could be beneficial.

The researchers found that each of these 30 minute sessions had to include just 10 minutes of intense exercise for the person to gain the following benefits:

  • improved heart and lung health
  • improved metabolic health, which includes cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • increased oxygen supply to the muscles
  • improved exercise tolerance, which is how well the heart responds to exercise

Researchers saw these benefits after just a few weeks in both healthy participants and those with cardio and metabolic conditions.

Swimming is a great example of a low-intensity workout. (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

We’ve all heard of high-intensity interval training. It’s all the rage at the moment.

Overwhelmingly quick, brutal, punishing classes that have you working explosively and using every muscle group in your body.

While the benefits of HIIT are widely recorded, it’s also good to note that it doesn’t work for everyone. And too much high-intensity exercise can actually put pressure on your joints and leave you at risk of injury.

That’s why it’s a great idea to mix things up and try a low-intensity workout.

Low-intensity, or steady state workouts are perfect for people who are coming back from injury, older people or if you’re looking for an active way to recover on your day off.

Low-intensity workouts aren’t cheating – far from it, they actually have loads of beneficial effects of your fitness, strength and over health.

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The benefits of low-intensity exercise

It can be more enjoyable

If the thought of punishing your body with endless burpies makes you feel queasy, low-intensity fitness could be the answer.

One of the biggest motivating factors to get you to exercise consistently is enjoyment – so if you don’t enjoy high intensity workouts, you’re less likely to go back, simple.

It is easier on your joints

Throwing yourself around the gym might be great for your heart, but it’s no so kind on your knees.

If you suffer with joint problems or recurring injuries, slower, controlled fitness might be the best way to protect yourself.

Improves balance and stability

Taking the speed down a notch means every move you complete needs to be controlled and steady. For that, you need great balance.

Regularly working on your core and slower movements with weights will help you build on your stability.

Give your joints a break and try something gentler. (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

To prove that low-intensity workouts aren’t just a cop-out for people who don’t want to get sweaty, we asked Jason Bristow, group exercise manager at Virgin Active to tell us more about why it can be brilliant.

‘Low intensity workouts are exercises that are little to no impact but they still raise the heart rate,’ Jason tells Metro.co.uk.

‘They are great for people who are starting to get into exercise or are coming back from injury – and also for those who are keen for a rest day and want to complement their higher intensity workouts.

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‘Low intensity workouts can be accessed anywhere and at any time with little need for equipment or a large amount of expense.

‘There are many benefits from doing low intensity workouts, but the most significant one is a gradual increase in strength and muscular endurance without putting stress on the joints. There has also been studies that prove that at a low intensity, you could burn up to 20% more when compared to HIIT training.

‘If you are a regular gym goer, it is sometimes a good idea to slow things down but still get a great sweat on – this will reduce your risk of injury while keeping your fitness up. It will also aid your muscles in recovery after a more intense session.

‘Great examples of low intensity workouts include walking, cycling and even swimming.

‘If you wanted a low intensity interval work out in a gym, a long walk on a treadmill at a steady pace followed by a low resistance cycle on a watt bike.

‘As long as your heart rate does not raise too high then this will count as LISS – this of course all depends on your fitness level and where you are in your fitness journey.’

Walking on the treadmill – we definitely like the sound of that.

I am Team GB

Toyota has teamed up with Team GB to re-launch the hugely successful participation campaign ‘I am Team GB’.

Inspired by the achievements of Team GB athletes and the amazing efforts of local community heroes, Team GB has created ‘The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day’, which will take place on the 24thAugust.

Over the weekend, there will be hundreds of free and fun activities across the country, put on by an army of volunteers; the ‘I am Team GB Games Makers’.

To Join the Team and be part of The Nation’s Biggest Sports Day sign up at: www.IAmTeamGB.com

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8 Things I Wish I Knew When I First Started Working Out

If you’re getting ready to kick-start your journey into fitness—whether it’s starting a strength training workout for the first time, finally lacing up your running shoes and hitting the pavement like you’ve talked about all these years, or taking a group fitness class like kickboxing or yoga—there’s likely a little voice in the back of your head giving you doubts.

The voice might make you wonder if you can really do this—are you really prepared? Do you really know what you’re doing? Will you really see success?

Very often, these doubts simply come from the fact that you don’t have experience with what you’re about to do and are worried there’s too much you don’t know.

To help ease these doubts and make the transition into fitness easier, here are a few of the big things I’ve learned throughout my 15-year journey to fitness.

1. THERE WILL BE DAYS YOU JUST DON’T WANT TO

First, let’s start with what you likely don’t want to hear: You won’t always be motivated. Inspiration comes and goes, even for the most fit individuals, and that’s completely OK. Normal even.

Embrace it. Realize that you can’t expect motivation to carry you through this journey. You need to trust the process and know that if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, results will eventually come. In fact, your ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other during this time is what will make you stronger mentally—just as your workouts make you stronger physically.

Even on those days when you just aren’t feeling into it, do something active. Something will almost always be better than nothing (unless you really do just need to rest, and then it’s time to listen to your body—more on this later).

2. FINDING YOUR “INNER REASON” IS KEY

Why do you want to exercise? Does it make you feel more confident? Does it give you more energy? Do you want to be active with your grandkids?

Find an inner reason—something that isn’t about impressing others or looking good at your reunion. Those reasons just won’t stand the test of time.

3. PROGRESS WON’T ALWAYS BE LINEAR

It would be great if your results were just a straight line that went up, up and up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Understand that you’ll progress much faster at certain times than others. Again, this is natural. Don’t give up the fight. Just as things seem to slow, you need to trust that they’ll pick up again.

Learn the difference between slow progress and stagnation. If it’s been four weeks or longer without any results, it’s time for re-evaluation. Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result. If after four weeks you aren’t seeing progress, then it isn’t coming.

READ MORE > 12 WORKOUT MYTHS THAT JUST NEED TO GO AWAY

4. REST IS KEY

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the great changes that are taking place, and you might want to work out every single chance you get. Unfortunately, this will likely result in slowed progress, burnout, illness or injury.

Rest is a vital component in the process of getting fitter. Learn this now or you’ll be forced to learn it later when you’re sidelined due to fatigue or injury. The choice is yours.

5. PERIODIZATION IS IMPORTANT

Periodization, meaning focusing on different goals at various points, is also a must. During some months, gaining strength may be a goal. Over the next few months, you might choose to work on losing fat instead.

Change things up. This will not only keep you more mentally interested in your sessions, but also give your body a break from the repetitive nature of the exercise you’re doing.

Over the long run, this can go a long way towards preventing injuries.

6. COMPARISONS WILL NEVER HELP

One of the worst things that you can do as you go about this journey is compare yourself to others. There will always be someone out there who is fitter than you, leaner than you, stronger than you, and so forth.

Don’t pay attention to them. This is your journey so the only person you need to worry about is yourself.

Are you better than you were yesterday? That is the question you need to be asking.

7. SEEKING ASSISTANCE WILL HELP

Don’t be afraid to ask others for support. Benefit from the experience of others, whether this is a personal trainer, friend who’s more fit than you, or someone you know online who is an expert in the area you’re trying to improve.

Failing to get the help you need could be the one thing that causes your progress to stagnate. Don’t be shy or embarrassed about it. Reach out and you’ll be glad you did.

8. HAVING FUN SHOULD BE PRIORITIZED

Finally, it’s a must to focus on having fun. If you don’t have fun during your workout, you’re unlikely to stick with it over the long haul. Nothing says you have to lift free weights or that you have to go for a run. If you don’t like it, don’t do it.

There are plenty of ways to get fit, so choose one that you’ll look forward to doing. When you enjoy the activity, it won’t feel like work and you’ll naturally want to exercise regularly.

Find something that brings you an inner sense of joy—something that makes you feel alive when you do it, and that’ll be the workout that changes the way you view fitness.

So keep these quick tips in mind. As a beginner, you’re forming the foundation upon which you’ll view fitness and everything involved with it. Make sure you make that foundation a positive one.

Most people think you need to spend endless hours at the gym in order to get in shape. But, you can actually get better results faster, in as little as 30 minutes per week.

If you’re not seeing results despite spending a lot of time at the gym, it can be very discouraging – it might even turn you off to the idea of going to the gym at all. But here’s the thing – the reason you’re not seeing results is because everything you’ve been taught about exercise is wrong.

People spend endless hours in the gym hoping they are burning lots of calories. But, exercise is not just about burning calories. In fact, exercise is pretty ineffective for that purpose. We do not burn nearly as many calories through exercise as we think we do – certainly not enough to make much of a difference. Pus, burning calories just makes us eat more! Exercise is about creating a reaction in your body that leads to physiological improvement. If we exercise effectively and follow the correct plan, it does not take a lot of time to create this reaction.

And here’s where the 30 minute per week workouts come in. 30 minutes is more than enough time to thoroughly fatigue your muscles. And if you fatigue your muscles thoroughly enough, you wont have to fatigue them again for days.

These workouts will elevate your metabolism. Not only will this assist with fat loss but it will lead to improved cardiovascular health. And, in the days following your workout, your muscles will grow and become stronger, leading to a more toned, more functional, more capable body.

In other words, if you work hard enough, but also strategically, your body will respond by becoming more fit and healthy BETWEEN workouts. These benefits are not linked to how long you exercise – they are linked to how efficiently you exercise. So, not only will you see better results in less time compared to conventional workouts, but you will experience less joint wear and tear. Think “quality over quantity!”

At Set Fitness, we utilize an approach to strength training that delivers maximal results in a minimal amount of time. We have clients from all walks of life. People as young as 13 and as old as 85. People who are brand new to exercise and, on the other end of the spectrum, people who are competitive athletes. The majority of our clients are busy professionals or young parents who do not have endless hours to devote to exercise. Or retired people who would rather spend their time on leisure activities, like golf, rather than spending hours in the gym. We develop a customized plan tailored to your specific goals and work with you 1 on 1 to achieve them. Regardless of your situation or your physical condition, we have a program for you to achieve maximum results.

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