Over the last month, no matter what North American City I found my self in, I made one observation common to all. Bars and coffee shops had their TV’s tuned to the soccer matches and enthusiastic patrons went wild when their favorite team scoured. Walking between terminals in Louisville, KY, taxicab drivers waiting in their parking lot, had their radios blaring the game and several were kicking a soccer ball around while they waited for a fare.

One could not help but notice how fit the players appeared, hardly an ounce of body fat, even when they were lying on the ground, feigning an injury. This world event has had an interested aftermath for certain individuals. They have become inspired to “get into shape again.” Great news, but what should you know before starting your exercise program. First I would caution, get in shape to play rather then playing to et in shape.

Yes exercise is good for your health, every health practitioner may tell you to get more exercise, as there are significant benefits for you. The benefits of exercise include: decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and stroke; decreased risk of colon and breast cancer; decreased risk of diabetes, osteoporosis; and decreased risk of depression and dementia.

Exercise also improves your metabolic processes; improves movement of joints and muscles; improves sense of well-being and improves strength and endurance.

Perhaps the most important aspect for success in exercising is your motivation. If you align your interest in exercising with your purpose in life, you are much more likely to be successful in maintaining a regular exercise program and receive the benefits you not only deserve, but you desire.

Exercise can be thought of as a menu rather than a diet. Choose physical activities that you enjoy personally, sports, dancing, or swimming. Develop an interest or hobby that requires physical activity. Plan to exercise with friends. You can adopt routines such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the store for milk or parking your car at the farthest end of the parking lot when you are shopping. Use an accountability process to confirm your progress. Pedometers worn daily with a 10,000 step target, are an accurate way of accessing your cardio exercise.

What is the best exercise for you? It is the exercise you enjoy and the one you will do. However, an exercise program that includes aerobic exercises, strength, flexibility, and balanced training provide you with the best health benefits.

Aerobic exercise is any activity that makes your muscles use oxygen. You heart has to work harder to get oxygen to your muscles and this makes your heart stronger. Aerobic exercises decrease your blood pressure and your resting heart rate which puts less stress on your heart. This type of exercise will also increase your “good” cholesterol (HDL), burn more calories and help you lose weight. Individuals who complete 10,000 steps a day for a year, on average will lose between 11 and 14 pounds.

Strength or resistance training builds muscle strength, helps maintain bone density and associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Isometric training, pushing against a wall, does not lengthen the muscle but eccentric contractions, the down phase as weights are lowered, do. Concentric contractions, a bicep curl, shorten the muscle. Strength or resistance training can benefit individuals well into their 90s.

Flexibility or stretching can be particularly useful for yore back. This can prevent cramps, stiffness and injuries and improve joint movement. Flexibility practices such as YOGA, Tai chi and Pilates also involve breathing techniques that reduce stress.

Using balance accessories such as balls, Bosu ball or a balance board will strengthen your core muscles and help prevent injuries particularly from falls.

There are three ways to mea sue your exercise: frequency, duration and intensity. Try to get 150 minutes of exercise per week to enjoy the benefits for regular exercise. A goal is to exercise at least 30 minutes at a time. The intensity provides a good measure of your aerobic exercise. Maintaining your target heart rate for 20 minutes is a good goal. Your target heart rate can be calculated my figuring out your maximum heart rate. (MHR)

MHR = 220 – age. An example, if you are 40 years old your MHR would be 180 beats per minute. (220 – 40 = 180). Your target rate should be between 60 to 80 percent of your MHR. ( 60 % of 180 = 108, and 80% of 180 = 153) During your exercise, if you heart rate is below 108, you need to speed up and if your heart rate is greater than 153 you need to slow down.

Don’t forget to cool down after your exercise and let your heart rate and breathing return to a normal level. This is a good time to stretch the muscles you used for about 10 minutes.

Well you may not be ready for the next world cup, but you will enjoy the health benefits you desire.