Everything inside your body is moving. Your heart pumps, blood flows, lungs expand and contract, eyes roll, eardrums vibrate, atoms dance, and neurons fire. As a result, you walk, reach out and touch the world around you, stretch yourself, and dance. Movement is a sign of life. Seriously inhibit the movement of limbs and organs, and you encourage illness. Stop motion altogether and you are dead. Allow yourself to move as fully as possible both within and without, and you realize wellness.
Since the Industrial Revolution, life has changed dramatically. People no longer chop wood and carry water. Earning a livelihood generally involves sitting for long hours at a computer terminal or in an automobile, or standing behind a counter or at an assembly line. With rare exception, people’s requirements to move vigorously are few. Cars, buses, trains, planes, telephones, computers, overnight parcels, and fax machines do it for them.
Is the U.S. leading the Western world into an international culture of overweight couch potatoes?
The labor of the human body is rapidly being engineered out of working life.
John F. Kennedy
Statistics indicate that the average eighth grader in the U.S. can't pass a minimal fitness test, and many people think nothing about driving their car to a destination a few blocks away instead of walking. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in most developed countries, and lack of exercise is one of its primary risk factors.
Without exercise at all, as happens when you are confined to bed, the muscles lose 15 percent of their strength for every week of inactivity. So if you lead a sedentary life, chances are that your muscles are weak and therefore more injury prone. But the good news is that this strength can be regained, and the heart can be reconditioned. The body is amazingly resilient. Even years of neglect can be compensated for by a regular program of aerobic physical exercise.
Not Just Jogging
Aerobics is any system of conditioning exercises that increases heart and breathing rates for a sustained period and thus increases the flow of oxygen and blood to all parts of the body. To be effective, the exercise must raise the pulse rate to a certain level (see the following chart) and keep it at that level for not less than twenty minutes. (Note: People who are not in good physical condition should start out with ten minutes at the minimum heart rate and build to twenty minutes at the maximum heart rate.)
Aerobic conditioning benefits the body in many ways. It will decrease intramuscular fat and increase lean muscle, leading to a firmer, stronger body. Aerobic exercise improves circulation; a trained heart is a more efficient pump and therefore doesn’t have to work so hard. This lowered heart rate preserves the heart and lessens its chance of fatiguing prematurely. Aerobics improves absorption and utilization of food; provides overall increases in energy and stamina; encourages more restful sleep; and decreases dependence on addictive substances such as alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Most exercisers report a decrease in nervous tension and depression. And it is now known that exercise causes the release of certain brain chemicals (endorphins and enkephalins) that increase an overall sense of wellbeing.