Exercise is so important that if I could give only one health study, it would probably be on exercise. There are many disorders that can be neutralized by lots of vigorous exercise. As exercise is increased, degenerative diseases of all kinds are decreased, life span is extended, various minor infections such as colds are reduced, and perhaps best of all, the quality of life is significantly enhanced.
The best exercise should be characterized as "vigorous though not violent." Jogging and running are for the few. Most individuals do not maintain a high enough level of athletic training to make jogging or running a safe exercise. For these individuals, walking and useful outdoor work will avoid many physical problems that can arise from violent exercise--painful joints, ligaments and muscles; excessive menstrual bleeding; headaches; and chest pain are some of these problems.
Competitive sports are not the best forms of exercise. During youth and early adulthood, competitive sports may be a major form of exercise. At this stage, a fixed program is not essential to induce one to exercise. But, at about age 35, when one really begins to need the exercise, both because of the fixing of the attention on other matters, and because the health begins to deteriorate at that age if exercise is neglected, one begins to lose skills and interest in competitive sports, and there goes his exercise. If, however, one has learned sports that are non-competitive, especially sports that can be enjoyed if done alone, one has his exercise assured. About one hour each day should be spent in vigorous outdoor exercise; and another hour spent indoors in activities requiring considerable muscular work or energy expenditure is desirable. Most people think that they get more exercise than they actually do. In a recent article in Sportsmedicine, young adult "weekend athletes" who played tennis or golf two or three times a week were studied. Their physical condition was only slightly better than completely sedentary individuals.
In order to get cardiovascular training effect, 15-30 minutes of vigorous exercise, without stopping is required. During this exercise period, one should have a few minutes, perhaps 2-5 minutes to warm up, after which one should exercise sufficiently to increase the pulse rate to about 2/3 his maximum heart rate, and maintain the pulse at this high level for 15-30 minutes. A rule of thumb in determining the predicted maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. For example, the predicted maximum heart rate for a thirty-year-old would be 190. Two-thirds of this figure would give about 127, which is the approximate exercise pulse level to aim for. After the exercise period, a "cooling down" is advisable. Most deaths that have been reported from heavy exercise have occurred immediately after stopping the exercise where the subject promptly sat down or laid down to rest. A cooling down period will prevent the sudden congestion of the heart and lungs that occurs from abruptly becoming immobile after ceasing heavy exercise.
For middle-aged and older people, there is some good news. Work done in Dr. Cooper's laboratory in Dallas indicates that if one does moderate exercise, such as fairly brisk walking, for as little as 30 minutes a day for four days a week, the life span will be increased almost as long as someone who does very vigorous exercise.
All of one's exercise should not be done indoors. Muscular building has been shown to be more steady and of greater degree if some exercise is done out-of-doors, particularly if the sun is shining. If one uses sports or useful labor as exercise, occasionally one should take a brisk walk to stretch out one's legs; probably once a week would be sufficient for this type of workout. Remember the benefits, and discipline yourself to daily exercise.
The majority of this content is taken from Dr. Agatha Thrash of Uchee Pines Institute, printed with permission by Wildwood Inn Health Retreat.