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Why Exercise?

Exercise lowers blood pressure. In fact, it may be one of the most effective non-drug therapies for lowering blood pressure. When researchers studied the effects of walking in people with normal blood pressure.   
They found that a regular program of walking lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 6 to 8 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury, the unit by which blood pressure is measured) and diastolic pressure (the bottom number) by 7 mm Hg. Regular exercise lowers heart attack risk. A Finnish study involving nearly 1,500 men revealed that men who exercised regularly slashed their risk of heart attack by about one-third. Exercise raises HDL-cholesterol, the good cholesterol fraction that helps clear bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. Stepping up your pace increases functional capacity, or the ability of the heart to use oxygen more efficiently. In the long run, this means that each physical effort requires less work from the heart. Staying active helps prevent the onset and progression of type 2 or non-insulin dependent diabetes (NIDDM), often called adult-onset diabetes. Exercise is a great stress reducer. Reducing stress helps you cope with life better, work more efficiently, and look at life's cup as half full rather than half empty. Come to think of it, we could even put this reason in the weight loss ones. Some people eat out of stress, and often indiscriminately so. Perhaps you've even done it yourself: stopped at the bakery or vending machine after a particularly harrowing day, hoping that a candy bar or doughnut would ease the stress. Usually, though, eating this way just adds to your stress level. So, change to a tried and true way to eliminate stress (and stress-related eating): exercise. Exercise improves self-esteem, mood and even the ability to think clearly. This reason, too, could be placed back up in the list of reasons to exercise for weight loss purposes. Putting a positive spin on your self-esteem is an exceptionally effective way to give yourself the encouragement you need to keep up with the efforts of losing weight.

What Type of Exercise Should You Choose?
Many people ask why we have to devote time to exercise today -- unlike in so many years gone by. Just take a look around you at the multiple and endless energy-saving devices that allow us to conserve calories so well. It's easy to understand why we have to make an effort to burn calories!As you choose a regular form of exercise, keep enjoyment first in mind. Do you hate exercise equipment? Then stay away from it, and go for the walking, swimming, and hiking you love. If you choose a type of exercise that you enjoy, you have a better chance of sticking with it over the long haul. Remember, you need exercise not just to lose weight, but for several other reasons: to keep the weight off, to make your heart and lungs stronger and fight off the stress that is so damaging to your health. We cannot stress enough how important it is to really enjoy the exercise you choose. Cross training, or engaging in a number of different activities, works exceedingly well to fight boredom and to keep a wider variety of muscles strong. For instance, you might walk briskly on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and on Tuesday you participate in a tennis league. Thursdays could be your heavy cleaning job day, where you knock off at least one of the those projects on that never-ending list. On the weekends, enjoy bicycle rides, canoeing or ballroom dancing, or a combination of all three. Sure doesn't sound much like work anymore, does it.

How intensely should you exercise?
As a rough rule of thumb, you should break a sweat, but still be able to carry on a conversation (although perhaps a little winded). Officially speaking, you can exercise at your target heart rate. Here's how to calculate your target heart rate:
  • Subtract your age from 220:
    For example, a 45 year old person would calculate thusly: 220 - 45 = 175
  • Determine a safe target heart rate, which is 60 to 70 percent of the number you calculated in step one:
    175 x (0.60) = 105
    175 x (0.70) = 122
The heart rate at which you should exercise most strenuously is 105 to 122. If you have not been exercising, it is imperative that you check with your physician before starting to exercise. Your heart may not be strong enough for you to exercise at this maximum heart rate, and you may have to work up to it. Be safe, and see your physician first! Just to give you some comparisons of how many calories you can burn, we've run the numbers. The actual number of calories you burn is dependent on your current size and gender. Smaller women, for example, burn fewer calories than a larger man. The numbers we present here performed by an average for a 150 pound 40 year old woman:
  • bicycling, strenuously, 226 calories burned .
  • walking (4 mph), 122 calories burned .
  • swimming, moderately fast, 173 calories burned.
  • tennis, singles played at a moderate pace, 188 calories .
  • golfing, carrying your own bag, 202 calories.
  • gardening moderately, 145 calories

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