Exercises to meet your health goals

Long-term goals motivate us to succeed and keep us on track. Here are a list of health goals and how to reach them with exercise.

Exercises to meet your health goals

An exercise prescription

  • Having trouble getting started with a more active lifestyle? Ask your doctor to write you an exercise "prescription"—a formal, detailed order from the doctor to get moving.
  • A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that when a doctor wrote an exercise prescription for people over age 65, they improved their fitness levels by 11 percent in six months and by 17 percent after a year. In contrast, another group that got no special Rx barely budged.

Move to feel good

  • In the summer of 1966, five healthy 20-year-old men went to bed for three weeks. They weren't tired; they were participating in what would become known as the Dallas Bed Rest and Training Study, a landmark study on the effects of exercise (and the lack thereof) on our bodies.
  • After three weeks of complete inactivity—the men even used wheelchairs to get to the bathroom—their muscle function deteriorated to the point where they could barely stand. As researchers later noted, "Those three weeks of bed rest had a greater effect on their aerobic fitness than 30 years of aging."
  • After the bed rest part of the study, the men completed eight weeks of intensive exercise training that included treadmill workouts and long-distance running. The results? They completely reversed the damage from the bed rest, proving conclusively the amazing power of physical activity.

Match goals to your exercise

If you want to lose weight: Walk slowly but for longer distances. A study at Colorado University in Boulder found that obese people who walk a mile at a leisurely pace burn more calories than if they walk a mile at their normal pace. And there's a bonus: The slower pace puts less stress on your knee joints. Another approach is to tackle your cardio workout before breakfast, forcing your body to break into fat reserves for fuel.

If you want to prevent diabetes: Add strength training into your life. By building muscle, you increase the ability of your cells to take in glucose, reducing insulin resistance and your risk of diabetes.

If you want to prevent falls: Do 10 minutes of balance training four or five days a week.

If you want to prevent osteoporosis: Get some form of weight-bearing exercise that forces you to work against gravity. This could be endurance or resistance. It includes activities such as walking, running, dancing, climbing stairs, weight lifting, and calisthenics. And don't forget gardening! One study found that gardening was second only to weight training when it came to reducing the risk of osteoporosis in 3,310 women age 50 and older.

If you want to rid yourself of back pain: Try a program that focuses on your core, like Pilates, yoga, or tai chi. These programs stretch and strengthen all the muscles in your trunk, including the abdomen, back, and shoulders, which can relieve an aching lower back.

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