My Fitness Program: Reflective Essay
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My plan to improve my health and fitness is to try my best to stay consistent with my exercise and meal plan. Being consistent in any plan is very important because it allows you not to be so strict with yourself and teaches you how to do things in moderation.
I always find that if I jump into any meal plan or exercise plan too quickly, I never follow through with it. Therefore, my goal is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and I can do this by consistently eating healthier and exercising more regularly. But the first thing that I need to do is develop the habit of a healthy lifestyle slowly so that I can get used to the pace and keep up with it. I plan to do this by having short exercise sessions and occasionally adding in a few longer sessions.
This plan offers many opportunities as it can help me to improve my mental health, my well-being and my fitness. However, there is a risk that I can become bored with the exercise that I do or even become lazy. It is also hard for me to eat according to a diet because I find it difficult to stick.
The main threat for me is that my days at school are so busy and I attend extra lessons and extra murals, so by the time I get home I am generally too tired to exercise, or I do not have enough time to do a lot of exercises. My goal is to make more time for exercising because it will benefit me and reduce my stress levels. I also want to try and mediate more often because it really does clear my head and help me focus rather than panic.
Interpretation of My Current Fitness Levels
After having exercised for 18 consecutive days, I generally feel like I have a lot more energy, and I am proud of my fitness progress. At the beginning of my fitness plan, my resting heart rate was 73bpm, and it has now decreased to about 70bpm on average. My maximum heart rate was always quite different, depending on how intense my workouts were. I noticed that my recovery pulse rate began to return to the resting heart rate a little bit faster. When I did low-intensity workouts, I did not compare my recovery heart rate to my high-intensity workouts because my heart rate did not increase a lot when I did these workouts.
How These Activities Improved My Stress Levels
I suffer from anxiety badly, so when I exercise, it helps me push out my frustrations and clear my head from all the pressure on my mind. Because I am a very busy person with a lot going on, I do not usually get the time to exercise and release all my stress. That is why these activities have been so helpful to me. They have allowed me to get rid of stress daily without building up and making me have panic attacks due to stress. When I exercise, it also helps me sleep much better and wake up the next morning instead of feeling drained.
Impact These Activities Have Had on My Emotional and Social Well-Being
It is proven that when you exercise, your body releases hormones that make you feel happy and these are called endorphins. As tired as I am after my workouts sometimes, I always feel content, and when I exercise, I feel more worthwhile. When I feel good from exercising, I feel that I have more purpose and that I can have more confidence and achieve more emotionally and socially. This fitness program has helped me realise the strain that is put on me emotionally when I do not get the chance to exercise. I become moody and anxious when I do not get the change to exercise, and I am happy that I have now realised what is important for my body. From now on, I will try to exercise as regularly as possible to prove my strengths and determination to myself and definitely to boost my confidence emotionally and socially.
The Success of Self-Set Goals at the Beginning of the Program
At the beginning of this program, I made sure to set goals that were challenging but at the same time, were not unattainable. I managed to complete my exercise program and will continue to record my exercise because I get extra motivated when I see and feel progress in my mind and body. I would do long and challenging sessions that were longer than an hour, but then the next day, I would do something with a low intensity that was not too difficult. I did this so that I would not get exhausted from all my workouts, and it seemed to have played off because I was able to finish the program and I did not get tired of doing it.
The Importance of Exercise
We all know that exercise is important in our daily lives, but we may not know why or what exercise can do for us.
It’s important to remember that we have evolved from nomadic ancestors who spent all their time moving around in search of food and shelter, travelling large distances on a daily basis. Our bodies are designed and have evolved to be regularly active.
In the same way that a sports car is designed to go fast, we are designed to move. If the sports car is taken out once a week for a 3 mile round trip through a town centre then it would probably develop engine problems fairly quickly.
Over time people too develop problems if they sit down all day at a desk or in front of the TV and minimise the amount of exercise they do.
The Benefits of Exercise
There are many benefits of regular exercise and maintaining fitness and these include:
Exercise increases energy levels
Exercise improves both the strength and the efficiency of your cardiovascular system to get the oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. When your cardiovascular system works better everything seems easier and you have more energy for the fun stuff in life.
Exercise improves muscle strength
Staying active keeps muscles strong and joints, tendons and ligaments flexible, allowing you to move more easily and avoid injury. Strong muscles and ligaments reduce your risk of joint and lower back pain by keeping joints in proper alignment. They also improve coordination and balance.
Exercise can help you to maintain a healthy weight
The more you exercise, the more calories you burn. In addition, the more muscle you develop, the higher your metabolic rate becomes, so you burn more calories even when you’re not exercising. The result? You may lose weight and look better physically which will boost your self-esteem.
Exercise improves brain function
Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen levels in the brain. It also encourages the release of the brain chemicals (hormones) that are responsible for the production of cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning. This, in turn, boosts concentration levels and cognitive ability, and helps reduce the risk of cognitive degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
There is overwhelming evidence that people who lead active lifestyles are less likely to suffer from illness and more likely to live longer.
Exercise is good for your heart
Exercise reduces LDL cholesterol (the type that clogs your arteries), increases HDL (the good cholesterol) and reduces blood pressure so it lowers the stress on your heart. Added to this, it also strengthens your heart muscle. Combined with a healthy diet, exercise lowers the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Regular exercise lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Regular exercise helps to control blood glucose levels, which helps to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Additionally exercise helps to prevent obesity, which is a primary factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.
Exercise enhances your immune system
Exercise improves your body’s ability to pump the oxygen and nutrients around your body that are required to fuel the cells that fight bacteria and viruses.
Staying active reduces the likelihood of developing some degenerative bone diseases
Weight bearing exercise such as running, walking or weight training lowers your risk of both osteoarthritis and osteoporosis – the adage of “use it or lose it” really does apply to bones.
Exercise may help to reduce the risk of certain cancers
Being fit may mean that the risks of colon cancer, breast cancer and possibly also lung and endometrial cancers are reduced. Studies by the Seattle Cancer Research Centre have suggested that 35% of all cancer deaths are linked to being overweight and sedentary.
Exercise not only makes you physically fitter but it also improves your mental health and general sense of well-being.
Active people tend to sleep better
Physical activity makes you more tired so you’re more ready to sleep. Good quality sleep helps improve overall wellness and can reduce stress.
See our page The Importance of Sleep for more information.
Exercise improves your mood and gives you an improved sense of well-being
Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins which make you feel better and more relaxed. These in turn improve your mood and lower your stress levels.
Exercise can help prevent and treat mental illnesses like depression
Physical activity can help you meet people, reduce stress levels, cope with frustration, give you a sense of achievement, and provide some important “me time”, all of which help with depression.
Keeping fit can reduce some of the effects of ageing
Exercise can be fun!
Getting fit is not just about running on a treadmill for hours in your local gym, it can be a dance class or a new hobby like fencing or mountain biking. It could be a group or team activity like football or a karate class.
Whatever form of exercise you choose, you’ll almost certainly meet new people and may make new friends.
How Much Should you Exercise?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, current guidelines suggest that to stay healthy, adults between 19 and 64 should try to be active daily and follow these recommendations:
Cardiorespiratory exercise, often abbreviated to ‘cardio’, is any exercise that increases the heartbeat and breathing rate.
Such exercises include walking, running, swimming, cycling, dancing and team sports such as football, hockey, basketball etc.
You should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
These recommendations can be achieved through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five times a week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three times a week) or a combination of both types.
One continuous session combined with multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) is also acceptable.
For those starting out, gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended. You are more likely to stay on track and avoid injury if you start gently.
Even if you can’t reach these minimum targets you can still benefit from some activity.
Resistance exercise is concerned with working the bodies muscle groups and building strength.
It is recommended that adults train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment.
Very light or light intensity resistance training is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults new to exercise
- Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power.
- For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, while 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance.
It is recommended that adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.
Moderate vs Vigorous Intensity
There are a number of different ways to classify the intensity of any exercise, some based on heart rate, some on perceived exertion and some on how the exercise affects your metabolic rate.
Moderate-intensity activity should raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and make you feel warm enough to start to sweat.
Vigorous intensity exercise will make you breathe hard, increase your heart rate significantly and make you hot enough to sweat profusely.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggests that moderate-intensity activity allows you to talk but not to sing, whereas more vigorous activity results in an inability to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.
Examples of moderate intensity exercise include:
- Brisk walking (100 steps/minute)
- Swimming or aqua aerobics
- Gentle cycling (5-9mph)
- Badminton or doubles tennis
Examples of vigorous intensity exercise include:
- Power walking at 5mph or more, or walking uphill briskly
- Cycling faster than 10mph
- Martial arts
- Competitive sports (football, basketball, rugby etc.)
- Skipping/jump rope
Overall though, any activity that gets you moving, gets your heart rate up and gives you enough pleasure to do it regularly and often is good for you in almost every way.
Have fun, be healthy and feel good!
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Understand and Manage Stress in Your Life
Learn more about the nature of stress and how you can effectively cope with stress at work, at home and in life generally. The Skills You Need Guide to Stress and Stress Management eBook covers all you need to know to help you through those stressful times and become more resilient.
Exercise in Our Daily Life
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Exercise is the cheapest and most useful tool for not only stress, but for many other things. For me, when I exercise, I get a feeling of comfort and relaxation. My whole body changes into a more calm and care-free ‘structure’. Exercise makes life more enjoyable and fun. True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united. This task has taught me both activity of the mind as well as exercise of the body.
Before I started this task, I exercised on a regular basis but my exercises were short and intense. Through this task, I learnt to be patient and exercise for longer as well as to give my body a break once in a while with a low intensity training session. At the moment, my fitness levels are extremely good. I am never out of breath when walking at a fast rate and go to the gym feeling fit and healthy. I am more flexible and stronger. My resting heart rate has decreased and therefore I feel more fit.
I am usually extremely stressed and often have a melt down about how much work I have and about school in genera. Before this task I felt as if I never had time for myself and time to just relax and enjoy myself but through the past 3 weeks, I have learnt to make time no matter how busy I am to exercise as well as 15 minutes a day to meditate. This has definitely helped my stress levels and I feel like a completely different person. Over the past 3 weeks, I have not cried about school once or even felt the need to. I have learnt now to manage my time correctly and how to make time for everything because exercise as well as alone time is equally important as school work and getting good marks. I have learnt that in order to achieve and maintain good marks, you need a few minutes of relaxation time every single day. These activities have definitely improved my stress levels.
While doing these tasks. I met a few people at the gym with whom I became very friendly with. The gym is very sociable and this is one of the aspects that make me excited to go to the gym. I am a lot less stressed and therefore I am more interactive and sociable with friends. I went many times with my friends to the gym and we were able to spend time together while doing something productive and fun at the same time. I am emotionally more stable and relaxed. I am laughing and smiling more and I am generally a happier person. I am less anxious and actually achieving better marks in school. I have not shouted or fought with any of my siblings. I have more energy and I am sleeping throughout the whole night where as I used to have many sleep disturbances. I have more self esteem and I am more confident within myself. I no longer worry about the future or focus on the past , I work with the present and move forward from there. I can concentrate for longer and feel healthier. I tolerate a lot more people and find it easier to communicate and connect with others. I have taught myself how to make time for other things besides for work and therefore I have made time to do voluntary work and go socialize with elder people as well as less fortunate children in schools. I am more independent and my relationships with numerous people have definitely matured and progressed.
I have definitely succeeded in the goals that I set myself at the beginning of the programme. I am eating healthier , I have lost weight and become much more fit. I am enjoying life more and appreciate everything a lot more then I used to. I never thought that exercise would have such a major impact on my life especially on my emotions and social skills. It has taught me to make time for everything no matter how busy I am and just to take every day as it comes. I have grown more and more each day and learnt something new at every session. I set myself realistic goals that I was really determined to achieve and therefore I set my mind on it and got started. I really felt that I needed a change in my life and wanted to make a difference.
My lifestyle has changed and I am looking forward to setting and achieving new goals as well as improving the intensity of my exercises. From this programme in general I have learnt that exercise improves physical health, reduces risks for serious illness, increases energy and vitality feelings, helps people perform activities of daily life more easily, helps people to lose and maintain weight, improves your mood, improves self-confidence, and provides socialization opportunities. Everyone should exercise at least 3 times a week. I have absolutely loved this programme and can not wait to continue my excercises. My journey is definitely not over.