Exercise is a critical component of good health, especially as you age. Exercise will help you:
Sleep betterLose weight, gain weight, or maintain weight, depending on your needs
Improve your resistance to fight infections
Lower your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes
Help your brain work better, making you smarter.
The key to obtaining the benefits of exercise is to find a program and stick to it. Of course, it is useful to have a guide, and toward that end I offer the recommendations below — and an exercise table you can print out and use to help you track your progress.
Listen to your body - You must be careful with your exercise as if it is done improperly it may actually worsen your health. So, if exercise worsens your symptoms, modify your program or, if need be, stop. Because even though your body desperately needs exercise to improve, you will only get worse if you violate your current limitations. So you may have to start with as little as one or two minutes a day, and work your way up from there. As your energy and health improve, you will be able to tolerate larger amounts of exercise, which will lead to weight loss and increased energy. Exercise is simply one of the most powerful tools available to drop your insulin levels, and elevated insulin levels are one of the primary drivers for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and weight gain. It is my belief that properly performed exercise is far more powerful for controlling these symptoms than any drug yet developed. It helps to hire a personal trainer who can guide you through the specifics of a good exercise program. If you do use a personal trainer, please be aware that many don't understand the nutritional principles discussed on this site, and it is useful to ask them to read the nutrition plan to understand the path that you are on.
Try running - If you feel ambitious you can advance to running, which is my personal favorite -- I have been a runner since 1968. It is one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways to stay healthy; the only equipment required is a good pair of shoes. Please read my article "How to Go From Sedentary to Running in Just Five Steps" for simple step-by-step instructions that can help turn you into a runner. If you do decide to run, please recognize that most shoes will not last more than six months. If you use them longer than six months you will increase your risk of injury. One of the downsides of running is that you must depend on the weather to cooperate. You can always use a treadmill, of course, but that adds the expense of a health club or the equipment for your home. If you are elevating your program to this level and will invest in equipment, I believe that an elliptical machine is, for reasons explained below, far superior to the treadmill in providing an optimal aerobic exercise experience.
Do anaerobic training - There is abundant new scientific evidence, like this 2007 study, that clearly demonstrates there are enormous benefits to interval-type training. I now firmly believe that although endurance cardio training is important, it really needs to be part of a more comprehensive program that includes short bursts of activity at very high intensity, individualized for your specific fitness level. The new evidence suggests that this may actually provide MORE protection against heart attacks than long durational aerobic type exercises. Another major benefit of this approach is that it radically decreases the amount of time you spend exercising, while giving you even more benefits. For example, intermittent sprinting produces high levels of chemical compounds called catecholamines, which allow more fat to be burned from under your skin and within the exercising muscles. The resulting increase in fat oxidation increases weight loss. So, short bursts of activity done at a very high intensity can help you reach your optimal weight and level of fitness in a shorter amount of time. It would be wise to have clearance by your physician if you are not in good shape before embarking on a program like this. However, you could start simply by walking and progress at your own pace.But this is a technique that should help nearly anyone who uses it.
Exercise correctly to optimize weight loss - If you are going to use exercise for weight loss, consider a weight bearing exercise. It has been my experience that non-weight bearing exercises, like swimming and bicycling, are not as efficient or effective for weight loss. You will typically need to exercise four times as long in these activities to receive the same benefit of running or using the elliptical. Since most of us are seriously pressured for time, these exercises become less practical.. Additionally, to maximize your weight loss efforts, make sure you include high-intensity interval exercises in your program (see segment on anaerobic training above) and strength training.
Stick with it - The fact that we need to exercise is not news to anyone. For those who don't exercise, it's not a matter of understanding its benefits, but more so finding the motivation to start -- and stay -- on a program. The big breakthrough is that we now have techniques like EFT, a form of psychological acupressure that can facilitate your ability to start and successfully stick with a long-term exercise program.