111 Excellent Reasons for Exercising: Choose Life and Fitness

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

You already know, that fitness is good for you. But not just that. Fitness exercise is fun and it works:
There are all kinds of fitness exercise for both sexes, all ages, all levels and in  many forms; one and one fitness, two and two fitness, group fitness, soft fitness, hard fitness, indoor fitness, outdoor fitness, land fitness, water fitness, cold fitness, hot fitness, bodyweight fitness, equipment fitness, machine fitness.
There are no limits. So there should be no lack of motivation?
However, just in case, here are (not just the usual 10) 111 excellent reasons for doing fitness exercise. 

Fitness and exercise for health, performance and wellness

  1. Improves mood; increases happiness level.
  2. Increases energy level, more mental and physical strength.
  3. Improves sex; increases desire, agility and stamina.
  4. Reduces stress, eases tension short-term and long-term.
  5. Relaxes and calms you.
  6. Energizes you, reduces general fatigue.
  7. Fights depression.
  8. Trains your brain, creates new synapses, ‘nerve cell junctions’.
  9. Prevents cognitive deterioration, e.g. dementia.
  10. Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease (loss of brain function and memory a.o.).
  11. Reduces risk of Parkinson’s disease (slow movements, stiffness and shaking, because of lack of dopamine in the brain).
  12. Reduces neck pain, headaches and migraine.
  13. Improves concentration.
  14. Improves the ability to relax (mind and muscles).
  15. Sharpens your senses.
  16. Increases self-confidence.
  17. Improves self-worth.
  18. Improves creativity, because of more oxygen and clarity.
  19. Increases wellness.
  20. Increases longevity, e.g. strength training is superior for anti-aging.
  21. Prevents age related loss of muscles, maintains muscle mass.
  22. Helps maintain function in old age.
  23. Prevents overweight and obesity.
  24. Helps slimming in the right way; promotes fat loss.
  25. Assists weight maintenance; life long healthy weight.
  26. Improves body composition; better muscle to fat ratio.
  27. Shapes, tones and builds muscles for a better-looking body.
  28. Improves you skin; improved blood circulation and elasticity.
  29. Improves general stamina, mentally and physically.
  30. Improves immune defence (is, however, weakened after exercise, from 8 hours to 3 days, depending on intensity and duration).
  31. Prevents metabolic syndrome; Abdominal fat, insulin resistance, hypertension (high blood pressure) and hyperlipidemia (high lipid levels).
  32. Prevents and improves hyperlipidemia, too high concentration of cholesterol and triglycerides (fat) in your blood.
  33. Prevents atherosclerosis.
  34. Lowers ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol.
  35. Increases ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol.
  36. Increases blood vessel elasticity.
  37. Reduces the risk of blood clots.
  38. Strengthens your heart; a stronger heart pumps more blood.
  39. Lowers resting heart rate; less wear on the heart and arteries.
  40. Increases the number of capillaries (small blood vessels) resulting in better oxygen supply.
  41. Increases the number of mitochondria (small ‘energy factories in the muscle cells).
  42. Increases work capacity; increased capacity, when the body is under pressure, stress.
  43. Improves metabolic fitness.
  44. Improves cardiovascular fitness.
  45. Increases caloric expenditure during exercise.
  46. Increases caloric expenditure after exercise, afterburn (EPOC).
  47. Increases caloric expenditure during rest.
  48. Increases fat burning during endurance training and improves the ability to conserve energy, glucose, during endurance training.
  49. Improves insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake.
  50. Reduces lactic acid build up during submaximal training.
  51. Improves oxygen uptake.
  52. Strengthens the respiratory muscles; stronger breathing.
  53. Lowers blood pressure (reduces hypertension), which limits wear to the heart and vessels and reduces risk of disease.
  54. Strengthens your muscles.
  55. Improves power (explosive strength).
  56. Improves muscle endurance.
  57. Increases body awareness.
  58. Improves fine and gross motor skills.
  59. Improves coordination, control of arms, legs and core.
  60. Improves coordination of balls and equipment.
  61. Improves timing.
  62. Improves reaction (time).
  63. Improves rhythm.
  64. Improves spacial awareness.
  65. Improves general stability.
  66. Improves static balancing; e.g. standing on your toes.
  67. Improves dynamic balancing; e.g. stair walking or hopping.
  68. Reduces the risk of falling and having an accident, e.g. a fracture.
  69. Improves agility, reaction and quickness.
  70. Improves performance in all sports.
  71. Increases the enjoyment of all recreational activities.
  72. Increases the suppleness of the muscles.
  73. Prevents tightness and limited mobility.
  74. Increases range of motion, ROM, making all movements easier.
  75. Reduces pain, discomfort and disease due to limited ROM.
  76. Improves posture, gives a healthier, stronger, slender look.
  77. Improves sleep quality.
  78. Improves vision; not the lens, but the ability to use the eyes better; focus on things up close and at a distance and peripheral vision.
  79. Provides fresh air (during outdoor activity; preferably in clean air).
  80. Provides time and opportunity for self-development.
  81. Gives new experiences and variety.
  82. Gives something else to talk about than the weather and tv.
  83. You see, hear, feel (touch), smell (and maybe taste) something new.
  84. You have a good time with family and friends.
  85. You meet new friends.
  86. You find a boyfriend or a girlfriend (spouse).
  87. Prevent, cure or relieve type 2-diabetes.
  88. Improve general health and insulin sensitivity in type 1-diabetes.
  89. Prevent certain forms of cancer, fx colon, breast, prostate.
  90. Improves health and resilience during cancer disease.
  91. Prevents and relieves many cardiovascular diseases.
  92. Prevents, cures and improves chance of surviving ischemic heart disease, atherosclerosis.
  93. Prevents and reduces atherosclerosis of the legs (claudicatio intermittens).
  94. Improves the chance of survival and reduces fatigue following heart failure (various conditions).
  95. Improves function, gait, motor skills and tactile function following stroke.
  96. Prevents and cures osteoporosis.
  97. Prevents, cures or relieves many musculoskeletal disorders.
  98. Prevents, cures or relieves back aches or back pain (strengthens, stabilises and moves).
  99. Prevents, reduces or relieves many hip problems.
  100. Prevent, reduces or relieves many knee problems.
  101. Improves resilience and reduces pain of fibromyalgia, diffuse tendon and muscle pain of minimum 3 months duration.
  102. Prevent, reduces or relieves osteoarthritis.
  103. Improves resilience and relieves rheumatoid arthritis.
  104. Improves strength, stamina and insulin sensitivity, health (some evidence), of women with PCOS, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (multiple cysts in the ovaries), and related conditions.
  105. Improves function, gait, resilience and quality of life of sclerosis sufferers (disseminated or multiple sclerosis), an autoimmune disease affecting the the brain and nervous system; lack of muscle control, numbness and fatique.
  106. Improves resilience and relieves hypersensitivity (e.g. allergy).
  107. Improves resilience and and quality of life of HIV-infected (no impact on virus or immune system).
  108. Improves stamina, ventilation and quality of life of asthma sufferers.
  109. Prevents, cures or relieves certain mental disorders in different ways, e.g. anxiety and schizophrenia.
  110. Improves stamina and reduces fatigue in chronic fatigue syndrome, persistent exhaustion and various symptoms, e.g. fever, muscle pain, headache a.o.
  111. Improves resilience and ventilation, and relieves and reduces fatigue of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease sufferers.

It sounds almost too good to be true, but it is true.

Requirements: It is dream fitness, according to needs and desires (possible following ‘basic training’) and healthy fitness, individually adapted to health, form, physique and goals, e.g. specific in relation to frequency, intensity, time (duration) and type in order to elicit the expected results.

Fitness for all.


Fysisk aktivitet – haandbog om forebyggelse og behandling
Sundhedsstyrelsen (2011)

Pedersen, Bente Klarlund (2003): Recept paa motion – motion som forebyggelse. NNF.

Pedersen, Bente Klarlund (2005): Motion paa recept – motion som behandling. NNF.

Aagaard, Marina (2006): Fitness – i bedre form på kortere tid.

Aagaard, Marina (2012): Fitness og styrketraening – oevelser, programmer og metoder.

Stretching: Should You Stretch? Would You Like To Feel And Perform Better?!

Hamstring stretch

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Is it really necessary to stretch? Yes. Over time your muscles will shorten due to muscle action during exercise and every day activities.
That means, that the muscles become tighter and reduce your range of motion.

American College of Sports Medicine recommends, that you stretch two to three times a week, or more (ACSM, 2011).

Many people do not stretch, because they think stretching does not work. This notion is typically based on by articles with misinterpretations of research.
Many newspaper and magazine articles have had headlines and fact boxes with text, which can easily lead exercisers to believe, that stretching is irrelevant. This is not so.

The myths about stretching are also keeping quite a few from stretching. A.o. 1) no pain, no gain, 2) stretch a lot to make it work and 3) all major muscles should be stretched.

In reality, most people can have a positive effect by doing just a few, pleasant and short stretches. Because often it is not necessary to stretch all that much. Generally it is not a good thing to be too flexible; your body needs to be strong and stable.
However, strength is not of much use, if you lack mobility.
So a certain amount of stretching is recommended, e.g.:
2-3 times per week, 10-30 seconds per stretch, 2-4 repetitions.

Focus on the tight muscles, typically calves, hamstrings, hip flexors and chest muscles.

The method and duration of your stretch can vary, it all depends on your purpose and your health and fitness status.

There are many good reasons, purposes, for stretching:


  • In warm-ups to prepare the muscles for load and end-ranges of motion, which may occur during the activity. For warm-ups: Active dynamic stretching is preferred.
  • In cool-downs for better recovery and injury prevention “Slow, controlled stretches makes it easier for muscle cells and tendons to keep even tension, which is of importance for local injury later on in a period” (Michalsik, Bangsbo, 2002).
    For (the end of) cool-downs passive static stretching is preferred.
  • Improve performance; improve muscle efficiency related to accelleration via greater stiffness; obtained by slow, even stretches (Boysen-Møller, 1998) and prevent tightness, so performance in sport and every day life over time is improved (indirectly).
  • Improve general mobility; the ability to use the optimal joint range of motion, ROM, so every day movements are easier.
  • Improve sports-specific mobility. The stretches should be selected specifically according to the demands of the sport and the health and fitness of the athlete.
  • Prevent injury. A great number of injuries cannot be prevented by stretching, but some can …
    Here and now: Prevent muscle strains: “There is evidence that pre-participation stretching reduces the incidence of muscle strains …” (McHugh MP, Cosgrave CH, 2010).
    Over time: Reduce difference between passive and active range of motion, so there is less of a risc of strains during sports activities.
  • Treatment of injury – professional treatment, e.g. physiotherapy (not on your own).
  • Improve health and wellness. Stretching facilitates mental and physical relaxation – with the right stretching – and can, together with breathing exercises, reduce stress and lower the blood pressure.
    Increased mobility can reduce the risk of tight muscles causing back problems.

Click on this link for an easy health and wellness stretching program (3 min.).

Use stretching sensibly for your purpose and needs and forget about the myths and misinformation about stretching.
Stretching works and is good for you, when you choose the right stretches and methods.
Enjoy your stretching!


Alter, MJA (1996). Science of Flexibility, 2nd Edition. Human Kinetics.Behm DG, Chaouachi A (2011). A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. Eur J Appl Physiol.
Boysen-Møller F (1998). Stræk og udspænding – sådan er effekten. Puls. Garber et al., ACSM (2011). Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Vol 43. 1334-1359.
Holt LE, Pelham TW, Holt, J (2008). Flexibility: A Concise Guide To Conditioning, Performance Enhancement, Injury Prevention, and Rehabilitation. Humana Press.
McHugh MP, Cosgrave CH (2010). To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Apr;20(2):169-81.
Michalsik L, Bangsbo J (2002). Aerob og anaerob træning. DIF.

10 Top Tips: Get The Most Out Of Your Training

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Don’t waste your time! Check these 10 expert tips, based on motivation theory and advanced sports science, and get the most out of your training time.

Få Mest Muligt Ud af Din MotionFå Mest Muligt ud af Træningen      Få Mere Ud af Din Træning og motivation

1. Find your internal motivation, find out what’s fun and meaningful in training: 1) It feels good working up a sweat and feeling the muscles work, 2) you get to know your body, 3) you get more energy, perform better and can do things, you couldn’t do before.
Alternatively for external motivation: Put up a photo on your fridge of training or an athlete, that inspires you or give yourself a reward for reaching one of your training goals.

2. Enjoy your favourite form of training: Try different things; dance, martial arts, fitness, group exercise, individual exercise, ball games, racket sport, water sport. What motivates you the most, gives you the greatest chance of starting, committing and adhering to it.

3. Do cross training, mix different training modalities and activities; mix cardio, strength, coordination and balance, flexibility, indoor and outdoor, in the water or on the ground, with or without equipment, with or without music. The body and mind loves variety. It improves your motor skills and provides all-round fitness.

4. Do strength training, e.g. 3 times a week, 20-30 min. pr. time: It improves your metabolism, increases energy expenditure during workouts and recovery. It reduces the risk of injury and improves everyday and sports performance. And it’s easy!

5. Surprise your body. Your body reacts especially well to unfamiliar training, so dig out forgotten exercises and activities, e.g. hula-hooping or football. Or vary your advanced strength exercises with basic, heavy training.

6. Change your program regularly, every 4-6 weeks, to keep the motivation and stimulate the muscles to respond even better.
The exception: If you still progress and is happy with your program.

7. Organize your training in your calendar or a training log. Set time aside for training, get into a good rhythm. This is the basis for lasting result-oriented training habits and gives an overview of your training pattern; indicates if you undertrain or (rare) overtrain.

8. Set goals, a dream goal is fine, but split it up into realistic smaller goals: Taking small steps ‘Small Increment’ technique is brilliant and doable. See to, that your goal setting is SMART, Specific, Measurable – e.g. from 0-1 mile in 5 weeks – Accepted, Realistic and Timed. And in particular: Test yourself to see how you progress, fitness testing is a very motivating activity.

9. Train with a partner. Training with one or more people, e.g. group exercise, has proved to increase exercise adherence and a partner can support you and help you to increased (heavier weight, higher speed) performance.
If you prefer to work out on your own, then let your heart rate monitor, training log, training app or your workout music be ‘your partner’.

10. Make your diet and lifestyle enhance your training. Drink approx. 2 liters of water every day throughout the day. Eat in moderation and eat healthy, whole-grain, vegetables and healthy proteins and oils (e.g. oily fish).
Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night. You get more out of your training and faster.
Also: See to that your training clothes and shoes have a comfortable fit, let you move with easy and are sweat-transporting (and lay it out ready for use).
This makes a difference and enhance your training experience.

Periodize: Perfect Your Short-term Plan

Styrketraening Mikrocyklus USWeek plan, microcycle, example (Aagaard, 2012)

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Top Tip 

First a super workout, then of course recovery. 
A nice mix of work and rest, wouldn’t you agree?
That’s the way to maximize results for all to see
and avoid fatique, overtraining, stress and injury.

In periodization the long-term plan, the macrocycle, and the mesocycles (1-3 month plans) provides the framework for more detailed short-term plans, plans for your weekly training.

A (very) short-term plan is called a microcycle. A microcycle can last from 1-14 days, but a typical fitness microcycle is 1 week, 7 days.

Your plan for the week (can be changed from week to week or repeated for several weeks) is a plan of all training activities; cardiovascular, strength, coordination (balance, agility, etc.) and flexibility training.
A complete plan – as shown in the figure – makes it easier to detect, if your training is planned in the right way with regard to volume and recovery.

You can use the ‘FIT-formula‘ as a guide for your week plan or program; consider this:

Frequency, number of workouts per week
Intensity, how hard you work at each workout
Time, or duration, how long you train for at each workout

When your weekly training program involves different types of training, it can be somewhat of a puzzle to 1) arrange the workouts in relation to each other, so they do not interact in a negative way and 2) get sufficient recovery, rest.
Also when you have a large volume of training within one training modality, eg. strength training, you need to plan your training week carefully, so you get the right amount of variation and recovery so you get the desired results.

Recovery time
In general you need about 48 hours of rest following moderate intensity strength training (3 x 10 reps at ~75 % of 1RM) and approximately 24 hours of rest after moderate intensity cardiovascular training.

For beginners with a relatively low volume of training (eg. 3-4 times ½-1 hours or less a week), it is fairly easy to make a week plan and training programs, whereas programming for advanced fitness and sports programs with daily workouts can be a challenging task.

Guidelines and variation and motivation
To maintain motivation and keep progressing it is beneficial to change the week program within 4-6 weeks. However, many (novice) exercisers will continue to get results and feel quite happy with the same program for longer periods; this also allows for stable adaptation and improved exercise technique.

Listen to your body and mind and move on, when you feel the need for it.

Advanced, skilled and strong, exercisers may change their programs more frequently for instance every third week, but even a change of program from week to week is possible.

When planning an allround fitness week program, you can look to the American College of Sports Medicine’s, ACSM, basic guidelines for physical exercise:

Cardiovascular training: 3-5 times per week, 60-90 % of heart rate, 20-60 minutes

Strength training:
 2-3 times per week, minimum 1 [-3] sets of 8-12 repetitions, 8-10 exercises for the large muscle groups (equals approx. 30-50 minute workout).
Note: If you do split training, eg. upper and lower body work on alternating days, you can train more times per week.

Flexibility training
: 3 times per week, 1-4 repetitions/stretches lasting 10-30 seconds, stretches for the large [tight] muscles.

Enjoy planning your new improved program.

Phenomenal Phitness Periodization

Fitness Periodization model

Bio-psycho-social fitness planning,
model for periodization (Aagaard, 2012)

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Make a holistic plan; bio-psycho-social fitness periodization
Inspired by the bio-psycho-social model, in which “the health of the individual is considered a product of dynamic interaction between its biological, psychological and social circumstances (Roessler, 2002)”.

Step 1: Holistic thinking
Think – before preparing your fitness plan aimed at positive results – about the fact, that:

Social and mental aspects affect physical aspects – a.o. it is important to be motivated for exercising and to have support from family and friends – and physical aspects affect mental and social aspects – a good health and physical power have a positive influence on mental and social aspects.

Step 2: Check your options
Remember that an all-round fit body, strong, stable and mobile, provides a solid foundation for good health and advanced training:

Many exercisers, novices as well as advanced, focus primarily on either cardiovascular, strength or flexibility training. The above model is a tool for reminding fitness professionals as well as recreational exercisers; consider – and preferably test – all of the potential areas for developing an all-round fit body; for better, balanced fitness periodization improving health as well as performance.

Step 3: Make a (better) plan
Use periodization: “A systematic approach to training that involves (progressive) cycling of the various aspects of a training program during a given period”.
Periodization can be either simple or complex; start by making a diagram or timeline for organizing and displaying goals for each period along with general training program content, this will get you started.

Note, that volume and intensity of training of the four areas typically differs markedly:

Strength – stability, endurance, maximal strength, explosive power
Cardiovascular fitness – aerobic and anaerobic capacity
Coordination – motor skills and balance (static/dynamic)
Flexibility – mobility, general and specifik flexibility (static/dynamic)

Normally each area is targeted differently; e.g. the four areas are not trained with equal intensity or volume (which could be implied by the model).
Volume and intensity depend on

1) you and your biological age (‘body age’), training age (the number of years you have been training regularly 2-3 times per week), health and physical shape, and if you are a novice or advanced exerciser, and

2) your goal, primary goal and goals for each period, and

3) present period, initial phase, basic training, advanced training or specific training for sports performance.

Holistic bio-psycho-social fitness periodization is a meaningful method for more motivating balanced fitness long-term training plans.
Good luck with your fitness periodization.

Read much more about periodization in my blogs and this brilliant book:

Look See! Top Performance Tip!

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Who doesn’t want to perform better? Who doesn’t want to attain optimal results in minimal time? It can be done! Even if it sounds too good to be true …

In 1 minute with just 3 supereasy exercises you can improve vision, concentration, strength, flexibility and balance by 10-30 %!

Top Tip 

Don’t watch that, watch this.
Exercises so easy, it’s a bliss. 
Yet so powerful, you can see it is!
Eyes circle left, eyes circle right.
In ‘H’, up’n’down, far’n’near, ‘high as a kite’ …
for amazing performance, what a sight!

To see just how effective vision training is, you can test yourself. Or, even better, have a partner test you; because from the outside, you can clearly see how the body reacts; if you are new to vision training, your head and body often move instead of the eyes.

Try these two tests, before you do the exercises and after each of them:

  • Stand with feet together. Bend over and see how close the hands get to the floor.
  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Arme straight and forward with hands together. Lower body does not move. Rotate the torso to the side, right and left. See how far your can turn.

Performance Exercises
Starting position:
 Seated or standing. Supine if balance is very poor.
1 ballpoint-pen or similar.
Movement:: All three exercises: Hold the pen with one hand in front of the face.
Focus on the tip. Keep your head, neck and body motionless. Only the eyes should move.
Perform each exercise 3-4 times – you can re-test after each exercise.
Note: Initially, when you are not used to vision training, you may get tired and perform worse, so progress slowly. 

Exercise 1
Move the pen in a large circle, first one way, eg. 3-4 times. Then the other way.

Exercise 2
Move the pen in an H-pattern, up and down at one side, up and down at the other side, and then from side to side in horizontal plane..

Exercise 3
Hold your pen in front of your nose. Move the pen straight forward and back, in and out. Start as far out as possible and move the pen (close) to the nose. Keep focusing.

The results are phenomenal. Try it for yourself, try it today.

Learn more about performance and vision training here: Z-Health.