What Do You Know About Exercise?

Exercise seems to be such a common word. Especially, nowadays with people so health and fitness conscious. With all of the exercise that is occurring, how much of it is specific and purpose-orientated?

Exercise & Medication

“Exercises” to physical therapists are like medication to doctors. They are prescribed for a condition, with a particular purpose behind it, and with a specific dosage. As with medicine, use of one exercise may be helpful for one condition but, maybe, harmful for another. And the intensity of an exercise is like the dosage of a medication people take. Too much can cause more harm, and too little will be ineffective. It's true that some people experience good results after doing some exercises they learned from television. This is because some exercises, like ibuprofen, have more general effect for a wide range of condition. However, the effect is usually limited.

Types of Exercises

  1. Stretching
    This is the exercise designed to lengthen a tissue, usually muscle. Quite often, muscles get tight for a number of reasons. It can be an adaptation to a posture or a habit of doing things. For example, a person works with computers all the time with a head forward posture will find it difficult to straighten his body or to bring his head back to the upright position.

    The characteristic of stretching exercises is the holding component. In order for the muscle to set into the new length, it needs time. The stretching should be held in a position where the muscle feels the most pull but is not painful. Therefore, the stretching should be steady and slow, with the amount of force used always under control. A lot of injuries happen when the movement is jerky and out-of-control.

  2. Strengthening
    This is the exercise designed to build up the strength of a muscle. Quite often, it requires weights to load and challenge the muscles.

    Strengthening exercises can be divided into two main categories according to the purpose. The first is the maximum strength. It is measured by the amount of load you can move once, where you would be too exhausted to do it again. It stresses on how much you can do. and is usually associated with the increase of muscle mass. The second is endurance. This exercise is measured by the number of repetitions performed in lifting a particular weight. It stresses on how long you can go. It is usually associated with energy.

These are the two most common forms of exercise. There are so many others for various purposes, such as for cardiopulmonary function, relaxation, agility, breathing, balance, etc.

I hope this gives you a different perspective of exercise. Next time, when you pick up a new exercise, ask yourself what you are doing it for. Is it to lengthen a shortened muscle? To gain more stamina? If you cannot answer it, you would better to consult a professional. Injuries happen often when people are working out. Exercise safe.

Peggy Hau, PT, MscPT is a licensed physical therapist at Mettler Center. Have questions about exercise? Ask an Expert. If injury is keeping you from exercise, call 217-398-9800 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with a physical therapist or request an appointment online.