Exercise 101


Exercise 101

I am sure all of us understand the importance of regular exercise since there are so many campaigns going on around the world to promote its importance.

This is especially true for countries with an aging population like Singapore, where I live. 🙂

In fact, I was trained since young to understand the importance of it in school.

I remember attending three 30-minute sessions of physical education (PE) classes during my primary and secondary school days.

I wonder if the same applies to my readers from other parts of the world? I would love to hear from you!

But, the question here is – how many of us continue to stick to this routine of regular exercise once we enter the work force?

I believed that most of us did not follow through on this routine since we did not see our parents doing it.

The same applies to me too.

My objective for writing this article would be to help you change your perspective about exercise and hopefully, give you some great pointers and ideas on how to get started on your fitness journey.

Let’s begin…

Why Should I Exercise Regularly?

Regular exercise has been shown to provide the following health benefits:

Improved sleep

Increased interest in sex

Better endurance

Stress relief

Improvement in mood

Increased energy and stamina

Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness

Weight reduction

Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness (1)

Reduces your risk of several chronic issues involving the heart, bones, joints, diabetes and depression.

In fact, it has been shown that people with increased physical activity lowered their risk of death from chronic issues by 20-35%.  (2)

Light to moderate exercise has also been shown to improve the cardiovascular health of patients with heart disease. (3, 4)

How Do I Get Started?

If you haven’t been exercising for ages, I would encourage you to consult your physician to see whether you are physically fit to engage in some form of exercise.

This is critical especially if you are struggling with other chronic health issues.

Do you have any existing injuries that is preventing you from exercising?

Your priority should be to rehab those injuries with the help of a sports doctor or therapist.

You shouldn’t put your health at risk by exercising even when you are injured. (5)

I think it will be more helpful for me to share with you what I did during my recover from stroke for this section.

5 Useful Exercise Tips

1. The key is to start gently then gradually build up the pace.

This helps to avoid unnecessary injury, especially for those who have not been exercising regularly.

2. If you’re going to be doing it regularly i.e. half an hour for at least 3 times a week, it better be something you will enjoy doing.

You will accomplish more by doing a little exercise regularly than to make a big effort just once in a while.

3. Fitness needs differ from one person to another.

So choose an activity that best meets your needs.

Example, try swimming to increase endurance or weight training for strength.

4. Having a partner will help keep you more motivated than exercising alone.

Pair up with a friend or join a team game.

5. Variety is the spice of life.

Choosing more than one type of exercise will keep your program more interesting and your enthusiasm from sizzling out.

Variety will also allow you to work on different parts of your body. (5)

My Fitness Journey

I remember when I was discharged from the hospital, I couldn’t walk well.

Therefore, I started out with some basic stretching and balancing exercises that focus on loosening my tight leg muscles due to a month of lying on the hospital bed.

After about a week or so, I started to walk short distances of about 1 to 1.5 km on a daily basis for at least a month or so while sticking to the stretching and balancing routine.

Then I continued this routine of walking for another month while increasing the distance to 3 km.

It took me about 30 to 45 minutes to complete this distance.

After walking for close to 2 months, I started to include light jogging as part of my routine.

So, I will switch between walking and slow jogging on alternate days while keeping the distance for another 2 months.

Presently, I am still alternating between jogging and walking but the distance has increased.

My weekly mileage for jogging is 10 km a week while my walking is 12 km a week.

On top of that, I have included strength training as part of my daily routine in the form of 20-minute kettlebell or Theraband workouts and bodyweight exercises like different variations of push-ups, burpees, planking and others.

On a weekly basis, I go for a yoga class.

aYou want to have a holistic approach to fitness.

That means your weekly exercise regime should cover the 5 key elements of fitness: Cardio/Aerobic, Strength, Endurance, Flexibility and Balance. (6)

Cardio/Aerobic – I did slow jogging and chi walking at least 6 times a week.

Strength – Daily 20 minute sessions of different strength training exercises.

Endurance – 5 km runs on Sundays

Flexibility – Yoga class

Balance – Yoga class

While this may sound overwhelming to people who are new to fitness, it is actually minimum wage for folks who are serious fitness enthusiasts. 🙂

I am not training to become a body builder or athlete.

Therefore, this is a schedule that I can stick to.

It may or may not be the same for you.

Hence, I urge you to choose activities that you really enjoy doing for a start.

Even a simple walk to make up for 10,000 steps a day can make a huge difference to your overall health.

You can do the tracking with the help of a pedometer. (7, 8)

Calories Burned During Physical Activities

[table id=8 /]

*Healthy man, 175 pounds (80 kg); healthy women, 140 pounds (64 kg).

Metric conversions: 1 pound = 0.45 kg; 1 mile = 1.6 km.

Adapted from: McArdle WD, Katch VL. “Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition and Human Performance”. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lea & Febiger; 1991.


Pick an activity that you really enjoy doing from the list that I have provided above.

Set aside at least 30 minutes a day to work on it.

If you don’t know want to do, why not start walking? It is known to change the life of many people by improving their mortality. (9, 10, 11)

Why I Love Walking?

If you really don’t know what exercises to do, I would encourage you to go for walking.

It is the most accessible form of exercise that anyone can do.

Since we have been taught since we are babies to learn how to walk, it is something that comes naturally to us. 🙂

All you need is a pair of good quality shoes to get started.

The style of walking that has impacted me the most is chi walking.

You can get a gist of the walking technique in the following videos:

Benefits and Intro To Chi Walking

Chi walking is a system of movement that keeps your body aligned and relaxed while you are walking.

It is a mindful way to pay attention to how you move by utilizing the concepts in Tai Chi.

More importantly, it is a safer and more efficient way to walk.

This program involves more than just going out for a stroll, clocking miles or counting your steps with a pedometer.

In fact, you will learn to move your body in a mindful way.

Key benefits of chi walking include: –

1. Loosens your joints such as your shoulders, spine and hips.

2. Strengthens your core muscles

3. Walk at a consistent pace for a longer period of time to increase aerobic fitness

4. Increases heart rate and strengthens your heart

5. Develops mental focus since you are paying attention to your movement

6. Have better body awareness

7. Form of practice that makes you fit through mindful movement

8. Tones your whole body

9. Reduces stress and impact on joints while moving

Lesson 1 – Posture

Hold yourself vertical by following these steps while walking:

0:34 – Feet must be pointing in the direction of your head.

1:13 – Lengthen your neck to keep your body upright while walking.

2:11 – Engage your core muscles by leveling your pelvis.

3:27 – Putting it all together.

Lesson 2 – Upper body

Follow these steps for a full body workout:

0:25 -Have a good arm swing.

1:11 – Putting it all together.

Lesson 3 – Lower body

0:11 – How most people walk?

1:01 – The difference with Chi Walking: Lean your body forward and ensure that your knees remain bent.

Lesson 4 – Cadence

0:08 – Using a metronome to control your pace to build aerobic capacity.

1:36 – Planning your cadence for weight loss, longer and slower is better for burning fat.

1:58 – For cardiovascular health, you can put up the beats to 70 or anything above 65.

2:35 – Summing it all up, transforming your program into a real fitness program, anything more than 30 minutes, paying attention to your movement.

Lesson 5 – Warming up for your walk

0:14 – Shaking out your ankles

0:32 – Ankle rolls

1:21 – Knee circles

2:03 – Hip loosening

3:15 – Pelvic circles

3:55 – Spine rolls

5:14 – Shoulders and upper back loosening

6:21 – Pelvic rotations

7:07 – Spinal twist

For more information, you can visit their official website at http://www.chiwalking.com/

Want to join me for a walk in Singapore? Feel free to email me here. I normally go for walks in the morning at Bishan Park.

Types of Exercise and Their Benefits

In this section, I will discuss about the various forms of exercise and what benefits they provide.


Any exercise that makes your heart and lungs work harder.

Some examples would be running, swimming, biking and many more. (12)

These exercises are known to improve heart related diseases, play an important role in weight loss programs, lower anxiety, depression and stress levels.

Lastly, it plays an important role in the management of issues like diabetes, aging and pregnancy. (13)


Exercises that are used to build muscle mass.

They can be done at home or at the gym with the help of equipment like resistance tubing, machine weights, free weights and body weight. (14)

Regular strength training has been shown to provide better movement control, improve the functionality of your body, enable a person to walk faster and enhance overall physical performance.

Other benefits include better bone density, management of type 2 diabetes and arthritis, stronger cardiovascular health and fewer lower back discomfort. (15)


They refer to exercises that increase your breathing and heart rate over an extended period of time.

Some great examples would be jogging, swimming, dancing, raking and sports like tennis. (16)

Various studies have concluded that the combination of strength training and endurance exercises will improve the maximum oxygen intake of your body, improve muscle movement among the elderly, and enhance your respiratory health. (17)

In addition, it also improves your visual memory as noted in a study involving young adults. (18)


These exercises are meant to warm up your muscles to prevent injury and make your body more flexible.

They are commonly known as stretching exercises and can be classified into 7 categories.

Source: (19)

Some examples of flexibility exercises would be yoga, Pilates, side lunges, forward bend and many others. (20)

All forms of stretching exercises are effective in improving your range of motion.

PNF-type of stretching will provide immediate gains compared to others.

You should focus on dynamic stretching exercises before any activity to avoid the loss of strength and performance.

It is recommended for folks over the age of 65 to incorporate static stretching exercises in their fitness regime. (21)


As the name suggests, they are exercises that aim at improving your balance.

Some examples include standing on one leg, placing your heel in front of your toe, doing Yoga and Tai Chi and many more.

It is one of the best ways to strengthen your core muscles and reduce your lower back pain.

Besides improving your back, it can be used to improve other joint related health issues like arthritis too. (22)

Finally, it lowers the risk of falls among the elderly. (23)

Is There A Best Time To Exercise?

The best time is the time that you can commit to.

I mean there is no point scheduling for a workout in the morning if you know that you are an evening person.

Personally, I choose to exercise in the morning because it allows me to get some sun exposure which will help me to sleep better at night.

In fact, research has shown that your body adapts better to the timing at which your exercise is regularly performed. (24)

Dealing With Soreness and Pain?

Pain and sore muscles are common symptoms associated with frequent exercise. To speed up the recovery process, I started practicing Myofascial Release.

This is a safe sports therapy technique that you can do on your own to release tightness in your muscles and joints by applying gentle pressure on the connective tissues that hold your muscles together. (25, 26)

All you need are 2 tennis balls to get started. You can refer to the video below for specific positions to put the tennis ball to treat your body.

Your ONE Thing

Set aside 30 minutes a day, at least 5 times a week for some moderate form of exercise that you love doing today. (27)

Reference List

1. Ashish Sharma, M.D., Vishal Madaan, M.D., and Frederick D. Petty, M.D., Ph.D., 2006. Exercise for Mental Health. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, [Online]. 8(2), 106. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/ [Accessed 5 September 2016].

2. Darren E.R. Warburton,Crystal Whitney Nicol, andShannon S.D. Bredin, 2006. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal, [Online]. 174(6), 801–809. Available at:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1402378/ [Accessed 5 September 2016].

3. Wannamethee, SG,Shaper, AG,Walker, M., 2000. Physical activity and mortality in older men with diagnosed coronary heart disease. Circulation, [Online]. 102(12), 1358-63. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10993852/ [Accessed 5 September 2016].

4. Jolliffe JA1, Rees K, Taylor RS, Thompson D, Oldridge N, Ebrahim S, 2001. Exercise-based rehabilitation for coronary heart disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, [Online]. (1), CD001800. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11279730/ [Accessed 5 September 2016].

5. BodyBuilding.com/Bill Geiger. 2016. 61 Fitness Tips to Make 2016 Your Year Of Change. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.bodybuilding.com/content/61-fitness-tips-to-make-2016-your-year-of-change.html. [Accessed 10 September 2016].

6. Mayo Clinic Staff. 2014. Fitness training: Elements of a well-rounded routine. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness-training/art-20044792. [Accessed 5 September 2016].

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8. Mercola.com/Dr. Mercola. 2015. Will 10,000 Steps a Day Make You Fit?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2015/07/03/walking-10000-steps-daily.aspx. [Accessed 12 September 2016].

9. Lee, IM andBuchner, DM, 2008. The importance of walking to public health. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, [Online]. 40(7 Suppl), S512-8. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18562968 [Accessed 12 September 2016].

10. Paula, Diehr, and Calvin, Hirsch, 2010. Health Benefits of Increased Walking for Sedentary, Generally Healthy Older Adults: Using Longitudinal Data to Approximate an Intervention Trial. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, [Online]. 65A(9), 982–989. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920578/ [Accessed 12 September 2016].

11. Zhao W, Ukawa S, Kawamura T, Wakai K, Ando M, Tsushita K, Tamakoshi A, 2015. Health Benefits of Daily Walking on Mortality Among Younger-Elderly Men With or Without Major Critical Diseases in the New Integrated Suburban Seniority Investigation Project: A Prospective Cohort Study. Journal of Epidemiology, [Online]. 25(10), 609-16. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26155815 [Accessed 12 September 2016].

12. WebMD/Heather Hatfield. 2004. Kick It Up With Cardio Exercise. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/kick-up-with-cardio-exercise#1. [Accessed 12 September 2016].

13. Mersy, DJ, 1991. Health benefits of aerobic exercise. Postgraduate Medical Journal, [Online]. 90(1), 103-7, 110-2. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2062750 [Accessed 12 September 2016].

14. Mayo Clinic Staff. 2016. Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/strength-training/art-20046670. [Accessed 12 September 2016].

15. Westcott, WL, 2012. Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Current Sports Medicine Reports, [Online]. 11(4), 209-16. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22777332 [Accessed 12 September 2016].

16. NIH Senior Health. 2016. Exercise: Exercises to Try. [ONLINE] Available at: https://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseandphysicalactivityexercisestotry/enduranceexercises/01.html. [Accessed 12 September 2016].

17. Eduardo Lusa Cadore, Ronei Silveira Pinto, Martim Bottaro, and Mikel Izquierdo, 2014. Strength and Endurance Training Prescription in Healthy and Frail Elderly. Aging and Disease, [Online]. 5(3), 183–195. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4037310/ [Accessed 12 September 2016].

18. Stroth S, Hille K, Spitzer M, Reinhardt R, 2009. Aerobic endurance exercise benefits memory and affect in young adults. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, [Online]. 19(2), 223-43. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18609015 [Accessed 12 September 2016].

19. BodyBuilding.com. 2015. WHAT IS THE BEST WORKOUT FOR INCREASING FLEXIBILITY?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/wotw80.htm. [Accessed 12 September 2016].

20. American Heart Association. 2015. Flexibility Exercise (Stretching). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Flexibility-Exercise-Stretching_UCM_464002_Article.jsp#.V9alG5h97IU. [Accessed 12 September 2016].

21. Phil, Page, 2012. CURRENT CONCEPTS IN MUSCLE STRETCHING FOR EXERCISE AND REHABILITATION. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, [Online]. 7(1), 109–119. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/ [Accessed 12 September 2016].

22. WebMD/Stephanie Watson. 2014. Balance Training. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/balance-training. [Accessed 12 September 2016].

23. Shubert, TE, 2011. Evidence-based exercise prescription for balance and falls prevention: a current review of the literature. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, [Online]. 34(3), 100-8. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22267151 [Accessed 12 September 2016].

24. Chtourou H, Souissi N, 2012. The effect of training at a specific time of day: a review. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, [Online]. 26(7), 1984-2005. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22531613 [Accessed 12 September 2016].

25. Myofascial Release – John F. Barnes, PT. What is Myofascial Release?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.myofascialrelease.com/about/definition.aspx. [Accessed 13 February 2017].

26. Beardsley C, Škarabot J, 2015. Effects of self-myofascial release: A systematic review.. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, [Online]. 19(4), 747-58. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26592233 [Accessed 13 February 2017].

27. World Health Organization. Physical Activity and Adults. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_adults/en/. [Accessed 12 September 2016].

Published on 14 Sep 2016

Last Updated on 13 Feb 2017