We’re bombarded by adverts and articles these days to move our bodies, get on the fitness treadmill and do some exercise. All well intentioned, of course, but what really constitutes ‘good exercise’? Do you have to be a marathon runner to demonstrate good fitness?
I had a very tough personal trainer many years ago who was determined to turn me into a marathon runner, even if the process killed me! I can remember asking him through the haze of pain, sweat and breathlessness if the training programme was actually good for me. In retrospect, I’m not sure that it was. We now know that extended cardio workouts are not necessarily good for the body. Evidence suggests that we can strain muscles and joints, placing an unnatural burden on our bodies, if we over-emphasis cardio training.
According to latest research studies, the better way to promote physical fitness is to combine resistance exercises with shorter cardio routines. Lighter weights reduce the risk of injury and allow us to use all the body rather than small groups of targeted muscles. But the most important element in the exercise equation is undoubtedly flexibility. We cannot emphasise this enough.
Keeping your body as supple and flexible as possible is the most natural way to avoid pain, strain, injury and excessive, unnatural wear on the joints. It’s so important that it must become an essential ingredient in our daily routines, whether or not we follow a physical fitness programme. As our physical muscular strength declines with age, we can compensate by developing greater levels of flexibility. This allows the body to move without pain or discomfort and enables us to exercise throughout our lives. That’s a winning formula for fitness, health and longevity.
So whether you’re a dedicated runner, a regular participant in exercise classes or someone who avoids exercise whenever possible, learning to stretch gently and comfortably will work wonders for your health and well being. Be patient and never force the body to stretch to the point of pain. Little and often will serve you better. If you learn to listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs and keeping it active, flexible and strong will pay you dividends for the rest of your life.