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10 Commandments for Healthy Conflict

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There has never been a more important time for us, as a species, to learn how to have better conflict.

Disagreements today (especially online) take the tone of schoolyard taunts, name-calling and trading insults. Surely we can do better.

Because like it or not… life is full of conflict.

Unless you plan on being a tyrant or a pushover–you better get comfortable with it… you better get good at it.

And you better learn to pick your battles!

Not every conflict is worth having, but life will throw some at you that you can not avoid.

As your aging mother’s health fails, a decision needs to be made about her care. You and your siblings all have differing opinions on the matter, and so conflict arises. 

You’ve been assigned to a group of colleagues to work on a new project, but a few members of the group aren’t pulling their weight, and so conflict rears its ugly head. 

You can’t seem to do anything right in the eyes of your mother-in-law, who has just called you for the fourth time in an hour to make sure that you are not going to give a pacifier to her grandbaby, and yet again…you are faced with conflict.

Your spouse continues to put the toilet paper roll on the holder backwards…okay, maybe this isn’t conflict worthy. (I mean, we all know it should face forwards.) 

But, what about when something serious does come up, and real conflict arises?

Your boss’s new workplace strategies are proving ineffective in your department. You desire to share your thoughts, and so conflict has emerged. 

In families, in relationships, in the workplace…there will always be conflicts. 

The truth is, that problems and disagreements are a part of life. But, they don’t have to be feared, or agonized. 

When dealt with in a healthy manner, conflicts that arise can be opportunities for growth personally, relationally, and professionally . 

So, how can conflict be healthy? 

How can we deal with conflict respectfully and in a way that produces the best outcome for all involved?

What Is Healthy Conflict And Why Is Conflict Healthy?

As we just mentioned, conflict is inevitable. 

It occurs because, frankly, we all have a different set of priorities, principles, and perspectives. 

Place those differences in a relationship or work environment, and you are bound to have conflict. Set them on the world stage of the internet, and the stakes get higher.

But, due to the negative connotations surrounding confrontation and even communication, many shy away from conflict. 

However, avoiding it is not healthy and often results in a mess of uncontrolled emotions and otherwise preventable blow-ups. 

Steering clear of conflict can complicate or even end relationships, and it can be a cancer to a productive and peaceful work environment.

Conflicts can and should be addressed in a healthy manner, where disagreeing parties come together for the betterment of the situation or relationship. 

Healthy conflict, by encouraging respect for each party, takes disagreement and produces a helpful outcome.

Working through conflict in a healthy, productive manner can: 

  • strengthen bonds in relationships
  • build trust and a sense of security 
  • facilitate better decision-making
  • broaden your perspective
  • bring resolution to situations that may have otherwise been kept secret (thus creating discontentment, bitterness, anger, etc.)

Now, at this point, you might be thinking that the concept of healthy conflict sounds a little too “picturesque,” or a little like “wishful thinking.” 

If so, that’s no doubt due to the fact that we all know how ugly conflict can be! 

The thing is, for conflict to be healthy, it takes work. 

There are several things to keep in mind when seeking a healthy, positive outcome through conflict.

How To Keep It Cool When Conflict Arises

Let’s face it, by and large people are passionate. We bring a unique set of likes, dislikes, upbringings, experiences, and emotions to the table.

Those things are all a part of who we are as individuals, and this is why it’s hard to separate them when it comes to conflict. 

It’s hard to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes because, honestly, we’re used to walking in our own shoes…we like our own shoes, we’re comfortable in our own shoes.

But, when conflicts arise…and they will…coming to the table with those shoes tied so incredibly tight will cut off the circulation of the possibility of resolution in even the best of circumstances. 

So then, how can you keep your conflicts healthy?

How can you effectively communicate through conflict to facilitate trust, and open communication, and to reach a resolution that is favorable and beneficial for all parties involved? 

Consider the following ways to engage in healthy conflict: 

1- Do Not Wait Until Things Are Volatile To Address An Issue

While it is not necessary (or beneficial) to bring up everything you disagree about in a relationship or work setting, holding in frustrations, or hurt, and surrounding problems is not healthy. 

Communicate regarding important disagreements early on to avoid having things get emotional and out of hand. 

2- Take A Look Inside Yourself

Before ever confronting an issue, check yourself. 

Don’t seek a conversation regarding a conflict with the intention of changing that person, but instead, change yourself (your attitudes and emotions in particular) before addressing an issue. 

When there is an issue between two individuals, first evaluate the situation to see where you, too, maybe in error. 

Take the Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock approach and remember that “it takes two to make a thing go right,” and then humbly approach the situation accordingly. 

3- Always Approach Conflict With A Mutually Beneficial Solution In Mind

The goal of healthy conflict is to have something good come of the conversation…for all parties involved. 

The intended good, or the goal that you’re working towards should be clearly communicated and positively conveyed.

When a solution is reached, be sure to follow through.  

4- Try To Find The Root Of The Issue At Hand

Sometimes in conflict, simply understanding “where someone is coming from” or “why someone does what they do” goes a long way. 

Could it be that the problem you are experiencing is because of a lack of communication, understanding, or even skill (often in the workplace)? 

If you seek to find the root of the issue at hand, you are better equipped for coming up with an effective solution. 

5- Focus On Similarities

It is no secret that differences abound between individuals. Those differences are generally seen in neon lights when it comes to conflict. 

To promote productive conversation and respect for the other person, focus on the similarities you share. 

Seek to find common ground and amplify the areas that you can both agree upon. 

6- Show Respect By Listening

Listening actively during conflict is a matter of respect. Channel your inner Aretha Franklin and never omit “r-e-s-p-e-c-t” from any conflict.

When we listen to others, we learn. We learn more about the person, the problem, and can better arrive at a solution. 

After stating the facts of the problem or issue that has brought about the conflict you are addressing, ask for the other person’s thoughts or opinions concerning the issue.

Don’t approach listening as a waiting period for when you can respond, tuning out the other party when they are speaking.

Actively listen, then make sure you understand the feelings of the other party or person, acknowledging their position. 

7- Humbly Realize Your Viewpoint Is Not The Only One That Matters 

When we feel strongly about something, our passion surrounding the issue can make us blind to the views of others. This can hinder progress in a relationship. 

Try to understand the issue from the other person’s perspective. 

When we can share differing opinions or viewpoints without the risk of being stifled, this allows us to see that our point of view is valued. 

This can add depth to work groups and promote commitment in relationships. 

Being able to share opposing viewpoints allows a person to feel invested in the group or relationship. 

8- Control Your Emotions

Conflict is not healthy when emotions dictate the conversation.

Healthy and effective communication is almost impossible if you are emotional, closed-minded, or not thinking clearly. 

When we’re emotional, we tend to take things personally. 

Be mindful of how you are speaking. We can be prone to speak in extremes and get defensive when emotions are running high. 

You can foster respect by encouraging the other party to communicate the emotions they are feeling. 

But, if emotions steer the conversation off course, restate the intent or goal of why you came together in the first place. 

9- Remain Focused On The Facts

Don’t get sucked into the downfall of focusing on individual words or phrases in the conversation, but instead, always keep the context in mind and focus on the point as a whole. 

Remember to focus on the facts in front of you and do not let your opinion of a situation paint a different story than what the facts represent. 

Take an extreme example: Your spouse lies about their whereabouts and becomes increasingly secretive with their phone. 

Those are the facts. Those facts created suspicion that led to a confrontation. 

Your opinion is that he/she is having an affair, but you must remember that this is only a hypothesis. This isn’t fact. 

You may state your opinion, but be careful not to do so with conviction. 

When you allow your spouse the opportunity to reply, you may find that their secretive actions can be explained by the fact he or she was actually planning a surprise for you.

But, until you receive more information, veering away from the facts can lead to misunderstanding, put someone on the defensive, and cause emotions to override the situation. 

10- A List of Don’ts

  • Don’t interrupt or speak over the other individual.
  • Don’t “correct” someone else’s opinion or viewpoint. 
  • Don’t hog the conversation, allow ample time for the other party to share their thoughts and feelings. 
  • Don’t be a butt…I mean, don’t interrupt with “but…” in response to the other party’s thoughts or feelings. 
  • Don’t speak in an antagonistic or combative manner.
  • Don’t insist on being right. It’s okay to simply understand one another, without agreeing. 
  • Don’t be brutally honest, but instead practice necessary honesty.
  • Don’t keep pushing. If things get out of control, take a break, step away for a period of time, and revisit the issue when both parties are calm and refocused on seeking resolution. 

In the words of Ronald Reagan, “peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” 

When we can value other viewpoints, thoughts, practices, and opinions we grow individually, professionally, and in our relationships. 

When seeking the betterment of these relationships, conflict can be healthy. 

And who knows, being assertive and presenting your point might be the very thing that is needed to solve a problem, change a mind, or right a wrong. 

Keeping your mind and emotions calm is difficult when dealing with difficult people and difficult situations…

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And keeping calm during “healthy conflict” is just one practical example of when this might actually matter in your life.

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FITNESS

Discover the Beauty of Hiking: Why You Should Start Today

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Are you seeking a refreshing way to reconnect with nature, improve your physical health, and rejuvenate your mind? Look no further than hiking. It’s not just a walk in the woods; it’s a transformative experience that offers numerous benefits for your overall well-being. So, why should you start hiking? Let’s delve into the compelling reasons:

  1. Physical Health Benefits:
    • Engaging in hiking regularly can significantly improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen your muscles, and enhance your overall fitness levels.
    • The varying terrain and inclines of hiking trails provide an excellent opportunity for a full-body workout, targeting different muscle groups.
    • Studies have shown that regular hiking can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and boost metabolism, aiding in weight management.
  2. Mental Well-being:
    • Connecting with nature through hiking can have a profound impact on your mental health, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
    • Spending time outdoors surrounded by natural beauty can clear your mind, increase mindfulness, and promote a sense of calm and inner peace.
    • Research suggests that exposure to green spaces during hiking can improve cognitive function, creativity, and mood, leading to greater overall happiness and well-being.
  3. Exploration and Adventure:
    • Hiking opens up a world of exploration and adventure, allowing you to discover hidden gems, breathtaking vistas, and unique ecosystems.
    • Whether you’re trekking through lush forests, scaling mountain peaks, or traversing coastal trails, each hike offers a new and exciting experience.
    • Embarking on hiking adventures can ignite a sense of curiosity and wonder, fostering a deeper appreciation for the natural world and its wonders.
  4. Social Connection:
    • Hiking provides an excellent opportunity to bond with friends, family, or like-minded individuals who share your passion for the outdoors.
    • Joining hiking clubs or group excursions allows you to meet new people, forge meaningful connections, and build a supportive community.
    • Sharing experiences and creating memories together on the trail can strengthen relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie.
  5. Budget-Friendly Activity:
    • Unlike many other recreational activities, hiking is relatively inexpensive and accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels.
    • You don’t need expensive equipment or memberships to enjoy hiking—all you need is a sturdy pair of shoes, some water, and a sense of adventure.
    • With countless trails ranging from easy strolls to challenging treks, you can tailor your hiking experience to suit your preferences and abilities.
  6. Environmental Stewardship:
    • By immersing yourself in nature through hiking, you become more aware of environmental issues and the importance of conservation.
    • Hikers often develop a deep respect and appreciation for the natural world, inspiring them to become advocates for environmental stewardship and sustainability.
    • Practicing Leave No Trace principles, such as packing out trash, staying on designated trails, and respecting wildlife, ensures that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty of our natural landscapes.

In conclusion, hiking offers a multitude of benefits for both body and mind, making it a worthwhile activity for anyone looking to lead a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your backpack, and hit the trails—it’s time to embark on an adventure of a lifetime!

Published Resources:

  1. “The Health Benefits of Hiking: A Systematic Review” – link
  2. “Nature Experience Reduces Rumination and Subgenual Prefrontal Cortex Activation” – link
  3. “The Economic Value of Trails” – link
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FITNESS

Muscle Strengthening Found To Lower Risk Of Death From All Causes

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Do you incorporate practices into your daily or weekly routine for the benefit those things bring to your health and well-being? 

Take coffee, for instance. Many folks enjoy their daily cup of joe knowing it can improve cognitive functioning and decrease the risk of certain diseases, even lowering the risk of mortality from all causes. 

Or, what about your sleep habits? Do you aim to get a specific number of hours of restful sleep each night for the purpose of improving cardiovascular health, even adding length to your life? 

Those are only a few examples of both foods and practices that, when incorporated into our lives, can improve our health and may even allow us to live longer. 

And, according to the experts, upon analyzing research spanning more than three decades, muscle strengthening can be added to the list of things we can easily incorporate into our lives to add length to our days!

Spoiler alert: adding just 30 minutes of muscle strengthening activity per week can help you reap this reward!

So, let’s take a look at the benefits of muscle training (strengthening) and then we’ll look at the science and discover some simple, practical ways you can boost your health and lower your overall risk of death.

Benefits Of Muscle Training

Muscle training, or strengthening, exercises offer a wide variety of benefits to your health, so before we dive into the research, let’s quickly explore just a few of those benefits…

1- Improves Bone Density

Studies show strength training to be capable of significantly increasing bone mineral density. 

This is explained by a few things that occur as you increase the strength of your muscles:

  • Weight-bearing exercises done while standing cause gravity to pull downward on the body, slightly stressing bones and muscles, thereby causing them to strengthen. 
  • Each time a muscle contracts throughout exercise, it pulls on the bone where it is attached. This pulling essentially mimics a trauma, causing the cells in the bone to stimulate the production of structural proteins which work to build up and strengthen the bone. 

2- Improves Mental Health

Strength training has been shown to improve symptoms of both depression and anxiety. 

Some believe, as in the case of high intensity aerobic exercise, that these improvements are linked to a release of endorphins or increased endocannabinoid levels. 

And, according to research findings from the Harvard School of Medicine, “strength training provides an opportunity to overcome obstacles in a controlled predictable environment, increasing mental resilience.” 

3- Raises Basal Metabolic Rate

When you do strength or resistance training, your body requires specific amounts of energy based on how hard you are working. 

Then, your body continues to burn calories at that rate as it returns to a state of rest even after you’ve finished exercising, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. 

In the case of strength training, after you’ve put in a particularly intense amount of work, this amount is essentially amplified as you then continue to burn calories at this high metabolic rate through recovery. 

Then, as you build lean muscle mass through your efforts, the physical activity that you engage in will require your muscles to burn even more calories as each kilogram of lean muscle mass increases your metabolic rate by upwards to 100 calories per day. 

Mathematically stated: 

  • great efforts put into strength training equal great caloric burn post workout session
  • lean muscle mass built through strength training equals greater calorie burn in your workouts 

4- Helps Maintain A Healthy Weight

Now this may seem obvious after the last point, but those gains in muscle and potential extra calorie burn kick in to aid you as you seek to maintain a healthy body weight.

Not only can you shed pounds with those calorie burn gains, but studies have shown resistance training (one type of muscle strengthening exercise) works to help dieters keep those pounds off, with a weekly commitment to muscle training activity preventing weight gain as well as keeping visceral belly fat at bay. 

5- Controls Blood Sugar

Studies have shown that as you build muscle this also improves the uptake and use of glucose within the muscle. 

Transporters within the cells of the muscle travel to the bloodstream to get glucose and then bring it back to the muscle. When you strengthen the muscle, this makes that process more efficient, bringing more glucose into the muscle thereby lowering blood sugar levels. 

For this reason, people with type 2 diabetes are encouraged to incorporate muscle strengthening exercises into their weekly routine. 

Research, Muscle Strengthening, And A Lowered Risk Of Death

As we just saw above, and as we’ve known for some time, the benefits of exercise are great, but did you know (aside from the title and intro of this article) that this benefit list includes the ability to reduce the risk of death from all causes? 

However, those benefits can seem vague. After all, how much exercise brings these benefits? 

What type of exercise benefits you the most? And, how much benefit are we talking about here? 

Well, a group of scientists at Tohoku University in Japan have recently analyzed multiple international studies, spanning over three decades, to bring us those answers. 

The studies reviewed included research conducted over the course of 2-25 years on adults who were healthy (lacking any major health concerns), with a centralized focus on 16 particular studies from the United States, England, Scotland, Australia, and Japan. 

These studies involved a large number of participants, both men and women, from samples with as few as 4,000 to as many as nearly 480,000 people, including ages ranging from 18-97.

Participants in each study did a variety of physical activities, including aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises. 

And, as the team analyzed the data, one thing stood out: you don’t have to exercise for hours and hours each week to improve your health and reduce your risk of death!

Incorporating just 30-60 minutes per week of muscle strengthening exercises proved to lower the risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, by 10-20%. 

Even better, when strength training activities were combined each week with aerobic exercise, the risk of death decreased by 40%, the threat of cardiovascular disease dropped by 46%, and the risk of death by cancer reduced by 28%. 

Another bonus? The types of muscle-strengthening exercises that will allow you to reap these rewards aren’t only those typically done in a gym setting. 

Muscle strengthening activities are beneficial due to their (positive) impact on your musculoskeletal health. 

And, while those types of activities certainly include lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges, they also include practical work such as heavy gardening and shoveling.

Furthermore, according to the physical health guidelines in the UK, even yoga, pilates, and tai chi, as well as wheeling a wheelchair, lifting and carrying children, and carrying heavy shopping bags are considered to be worthy muscle strengthening exercises as they work to benefit the musculoskeletal system. 

While there were limitations to the analysis done here, such as limited data, a lack of diversity in the population of participants, and data collected through observation as opposed to clinical trials, there is still much to be gleaned from the information reviewed. 

But, this new analysis of data can serve to add to what we’ve already known concerning a reduced risk of death with muscle strengthening exercise, now giving us precise “doses” or prescriptions for how much time we should spend engaging in such activities to reap optimal rewards. 

And, as we mentioned above, that prescription reads: 30-60 minutes spent weekly doing muscle strengthening exercises to lower the risk of all causes of death (by 10-20%), with added benefits to be reaped when including aerobic exercise alongside your muscle strengthening routine. 

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FITNESS

Why Exercise Rather Than Dieting May Be More Effective In Promoting Long Life

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It is no secret that being overweight or obese increases your risk for a multitude of concerns when it comes to your health. 

Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and gallbladder disease are only a few of the life-threatening consequences of obesity. 

But, the solution to this problem may be different than what we’ve typically heard for many years now. 

I mean, if you’re overweight and at risk for such health concerns, the obvious solution is to lose weight, right? 

Maybe…maybe not. 

While weight loss certainly possesses real benefits to your health, scientists have explored this notion a bit further, and what they’ve discovered may shock you! 

Diet Vs Exercise: What Does The Science Say

It seems that in the last several decades, as a society we’ve openly promoted the notion that being overweight means you’re unhealthy while being thin means a person is healthy (at least for the most part). 

When you read the above sentence, the absurdity of this notion stands out quite a bit, doesn’t it? 

However, whether we consciously realize it or not, it’s true. Weight is often thought of as a measurement of health. 

But, the fact of the matter is, you can be healthy, or unhealthy, at almost any weight (within reason, obviously). 

How?

Fitness, that’s how! 

Most of you are probably familiar with the BMI chart or the body mass index. The body mass index factors the weight and height of an individual to determine whether or not they are at a healthy weight. 

Well, in recent studies, scientists have found that exercise, not diet, has proven more effective at lowering the risk of health concerns associated with obesity in those individuals who are categorized as overweight or obese in accordance with this chart.

That’s right…fitness, not fatness, is what made the ultimate difference in disease risk and lifespan! 

Now, we’re certainly not saying that health can be gained by ignoring nutrition, but let’s consider the reality associated with what most of us are accustomed to hearing and acting upon when it comes to weight loss. 

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve heard that calorie restriction and increased activity are two necessary parts of the weight loss equation. 

But, raise your hand if you know just how challenging it is to restrict calories for the long haul. 

Due to the difficulties associated with caloric restriction, this popular method of weight loss often leads to what is known as weight cycling. 

And weight cycling, or the continual loss and gain of weight over the course of one’s life can actually be more detrimental to your health than simply being overweight or obese. 

Then, aside from weight cycling, many individuals who primarily focus on weight loss alone often never reach their goal weight in the first place. 

Recognizing the bigger picture here, scientists looked deeper into the notion that physical fitness, not weight loss alone, is more effective at reducing the risk of disease and mortality.

In other words, this research explored the question: can most individuals be healthy, at any weight, if they are physically fit?

The short answer to that question (according to their findings): yes! 

Researchers found that physical fitness was, at the very least, just as effective as weight loss when reducing one’s risk of mortality due to obesity. 

While some studies show there are benefits to be obtained through weight loss in regards to reducing one’s risk of death, other research has concluded that there is no such association between the two. 

In fact, there seems to be more evidence showing cardiorespiratory fitness to be the greatest factor in lowering one’s risk of mortality, especially among obese individuals. 

One review of multiple scientific studies found that “fit individuals with excess body weight had a lower risk of all-cause mortality than unfit individuals with a weight in the healthy range.” 

Even ordinary physical activity has been observed to lower a person’s risk of disease and death, though not as profoundly as cardiorespiratory fitness (we’ll further detail these differences in a moment).

The bottom line is that numerous studies have now shown physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness to reduce one’s risk of death with or without weight loss. 

Some examples: 

  • Resistance training and aerobic exercise have been shown to reduce blood pressure in similar ways to weight loss. 
  • Exercise has been shown to improve blood cholesterol, blood glucose, and vascular function similar to, and independent of, weight loss. 
  • Exercise, or more specifically cardiorespiratory fitness, has been shown to reduce fat storage in the liver. 
  • Visceral fat, the harmful type of fat that surrounds your organs in your abdomen, is effectively reduced through exercise (even in the absence of weight loss). 

Though these findings do not indicate that we should discard the importance of weight loss, they do signify the need to increase levels of cardiorespiratory fitness as an effective means of reducing one’s risk of disease and death associated with obesity. 

In fact, a side-by-side comparison of diet vs fitness-promoting exercise showed dieting and weight loss to produce a 16% reduction in risk of death, while improving fitness levels produced a 30% reduced risk of premature death. 

So then, let’s take a deeper look at the type and amount of activity that proves to be most effective. 

Fitness Vs Physical Activity

Physical fitness seems to have become a term synonymous with physical activity and this just isn’t true, as being active isn’t the same as being fit. 

While it is clear that exercise boasts just as many, and in many cases more benefits in regards to reducing the risk of death and disease, it’s important to note that not all physical activity provides the same amount of benefit. 

Increasing the amount of time you spend being physically active can definitely benefit your body, but improving your fitness level, specifically your cardiorespiratory fitness level is the most effective way to reduce your risk of disease and promote a long life. 

Glenn Gaesser, professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State University, examined the benefits of physical activity in obese individuals. 

In his study, he found that sedentary individuals merely adding physical activity in the form of a walking routine incorporated in 30 minute intervals, 3 times a week, saw little benefit to their health, and some participants actually gained weight. 

However, in other studies involving overweight and obese individuals with severe health problems, Gaesser found that adding in exercise and improving fitness in these individuals produced significant improvements to life-threatening health conditions (with or without weight loss).

So, the goal is to increase the intensity of your physical activity to improve your body’s ability within your circulatory and respiratory systems to aptly supply oxygen to your whole body throughout physical activity. 

And, this doesn’t happen overnight. 

Beginner aerobic workouts, walking, jogging, swimming, or hiking are all great places to start, implementing a few minutes of easy to moderate activity 2-3 times per week. 

Resistance training also works to improve your fitness levels, as improving muscle strength requires work from your cardiorespiratory system to supply energy to your muscles as you train. 

The key is consistency and gradual increases in the amount of time spent in, and the intensity of, your exercise sessions. 

And, the more you exercise, the easier it is to increase your activity level. 

Improving your fitness levels through such activity helps your heart, lungs, and muscles work together, and effectively reduces your risk of disease and death, promoting a long healthy life…yes, even if your weight doesn’t “measure up” in accordance with typical body mass index guidelines! 

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