Important rules of exercise

Exercise refers to any structured activity undertaken to develop and maintain fitness. Activity while performing daily tasks is not exercise, though it may cause exertion. Exercise may be undertaken to either improve health, lose weight or may be targeted towards improving performance in a specific athletic or sport-related activity.

Whatever the form of exercise, there are some important principles involved. These are some general rules that must be followed in any exercise program.
· Choose your type: Which form of exercise you take up depends on your individual objective and preferences along with some practical considerations. Aerobic exercises like walking or swimming are good for maintaining health. Strength training with resistance bands or weights are good for toning muscles and losing weight.
· Be specific: Each exercise targets a specific muscle or muscle group, and aims to either increase strength or flexibility, or burn excess fat. So before undertaking any exercise, be specific about your objective and plan the program to achieve your specific goal.
· Progress gradually: Start by exercising for short durations, and gradually increase them. For example, you can begin by walking briskly for 15–20 minutes and increase this by 10 minutes every week. This can help to avoid tiredness, muscle soreness and injury if your body is not accustomed to exercise. Also gradually increase load. So if you run, increase speed or cover longer distances as you go. Or if you are into resistance training, increase the load by a few kilograms, or number of repetitions with the same weight, every week.
· Warm-up and cool-down: Always begin exercising by a warm-up routine lasting 5–10 minutes. Walking at a slow pace can do this or, if doing weight training, do the same exercise with lighter weight. Similarly, cooling down is important too. Stopping abruptly can cause pooling of blood in the legs. You can avoid this by tapering down the activity towards the end, like slowing down your pace to end a walking session.
· Know when to stop: Typically, for exercise to be effective, a minimum level of intensity needs to be maintained. For instance, at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity walking 5 days a week is recommended for cardiovascular health. But overdoing it can lead to injuries and must be avoided. Optimum intensity of exercise can be measured by maximal heart rate (MHR), or the maximum number of times your heart can beat in a minute. This can be approximately calculated by subtracting your age from 220. Exercise that helps you achieve 50–65 percent of your MHR is generally effective. Another way is to gauge your level of exertion, so if you have a thin film of sweat on your forehead, you are probably doing fine. The walk-and-talk test can be used while walking – if you can talk while walking, you are within safe limits.
· Recognize limitations: Remember that individuals differ in the way their bodies function. If you try to emulate somebody, you might end up injuring yourself! People differ not only in endurance but also their choice of exercise. Also, you might like running while your friend likes swimming. Choose a program that you like and are comfortable with, or else you may be likely to drop out.
· Remain hydrated: Drink enough water before, during and after exercising to avoid dehydration. It is best to have sports drinks or drinks like nimbu pani (with salt and sugar) to replace the salt and sugar lost by sweating. Also avoid exercising in warm temperatures, and wear comfortable clothing.
· Take expert help: Incorrectly done, exercise can be harmful. For instance, you may end up with muscle, bone or joint injuries. Also, since exercise makes increased demands on the heart, people with heart disease or at risk (those with high blood pressure, diabetes or cholesterol, or smokers) may be at risk. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program and seek advice from a professional trainer.
The right kind of exercise will keep you healthy, enthusiastic and on the go. All you require is motivation, targets and an enduring interest.

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