By now we all know how important it is to be active. Inadequate exercise is cited as a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease. More recently, the simple act of sitting has been implicated as a potential modifiable risk factor. While it may appear as if the two are one-in-the-same, research suggests they are not. There’s evidently something about sitting for prolonged hours that works against heart health. This is apparently above and beyond any lost activity time while sitting. The exact details of this risk are still nebulous.
Move It or Lose It
While the relative risks of sitting as a stand-alone disease factor are still under investigation, there’s no controversy whatsoever regarding the importance of exercise. Research shows that we need a certain minimum amount of daily physical activity to achieve and maintain optimal health. People who exercise regularly tend to maintain a healthy body weight and enjoy reduced risks of everything from obesity and high blood pressure, to depression and type 2 diabetes, among other illnesses and conditions.
More than anything, exercise appears to be crucial for the maintenance of cardiovascular health. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States—and throughout much of the developed world. So engaging in a healthful behavior, like getting regular exercise, is not just about looking and feeling good. It’s also about investing in your long-term heart health.
The good news is many studies have concluded that every little effort you make to get up and moving throughout the day can contribute to your daily activity goal for that day. That means everyday activities like walking the dog, vacuuming the house, climbing the stairs, and even walking at the mall, can all count towards your need for activity in a given day.
Aerobic Exercise Versus Resistance Training
Most of those mundane activities are aerobic, however. Running, swimming, playing tennis, biking—all of these are examples of sports or activities that feature a strong aerobic component, but relatively little resistance training. Resistance training includes anything that involves moving your muscles against significant resistance. Think weight training, doing Pilates, pull-ups, or other types of exercise that may not involve a lot of motion, but which definitely engage the muscles and even force them to grow in response.
Research indicates that people essentially need to do both types of exercise on a fairly regular basis to reap the full benefits of a physical activity program. This is especially true as we age. Older people tend to lose significant lean muscle mass over time. Only regular resistance training can thwart this downward spiral.
Many people prefer to exercise alone. Swimming laps can be done in a group setting, for example, but it’s ultimately an individual pursuit. Even weight lifting can be done on one’s own. But many people find they benefit most from enrolling in a group training class. Whether it’s an issue of motivation, or social interaction, group classes work better for some people than trying to exercise alone.
Group Fitness Classes
Group fitness classes can be a great option for anyone who doesn’t entirely trust himself to set aside adequate time for exercise. Having a scheduled class means your heart health maintenance is carved out on your schedule. Classes of all sorts can help you fulfill your need for exercise. From yoga at a local studio, to tai chi at the YMCA, to tennis leagues, to Zumba classes, to spinning, to kick boxing, to any formal class that involves significant activity (ballroom dancing, anyone?). It hardly matters what you do, only that you make the effort to sign up and go.