We’ve talked a lot about nutrition the last 3 days because that’s the quickest way to lose weight and feel better. But, if you’re looking for a healthy body, you have to exercise too! You really can’t have one without the other. They both work together to make you a fat-burning machine that is strong and lean. Similar to how we have been discussing proper nutrition– it’s not the amount of calories, it’s the type of calories you eat that matters—fitness is more than just how many calories you burn in a workout. The type of calories you burn and the type of response your body has to a particular exercise is what matters. You need to create a stronger body so that you can perform your daily tasks with ease and still have energy to play. And yes, you may want to burn some extra fat stores in the process as well.
The Good News:
You’re in for a great message today! You don’t have to log endless hours on the stair master or treadmill to get in shape. You heard me! The days of dragging yourself to the gym and sweating puddles on the cardio equipment for an hour or more everyday are over. There are much more effective things you can do with less time invested.
#1 Aerobic Activity:
Actually, you only need 30 minutes to an hour of easy to moderate level aerobic movement most days. Accumulate 3-5 hours each week. This can include brisk walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, etc. This low level activity has many benefits!
- This is the ideal intensity for fat-burning
- Better performance—improves oxygen use during exercise which is the best predictor of endurance performance.
- Stronger immune system: Exercise helps increase the number of macrophages and T-cells. Increasing these “fighter” cells increases your protection against diseases like cancer.
- Increased resistance to fatigue: With exercise, your heart becomes a better pump. This allows your heart to supply more oxygen-rich blood to the body more effectively.
- Lowered risk of heart disease: lowers blood pressure and total serum cholesterol
- Decreased tension and aid in sleeping: Exercise improves balance in the body. Hormones are in better balance and tension is reduced creating a better environment for rest.
- Increased general stamina: The stronger the heart is, the less work it has to do over time to produce the same cardiac output. With less work comes greater endurance.
- Psychological benefits: It is well documented that 30 minutes of exercise each day improves mood, reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress.
- Increased cardiac output: When the left ventricle of the heart becomes stronger with exercise, it is able to pump more blood with each heartbeat, increasing the amount of blood delivered to the body per minute.
- Increased quantity and size of blood capillaries: The capillaries are what deliver blood and oxygen to the rest of the body.
In order to gauge your intensity, you can use perceived exertion or a more specific measurement of heart rate. Perceived exertion describes your intensity subjectively in terms of how you’re feeling physically. Examples include increased heart rate, increased respiration or breathing rate, increased sweating, and muscle fatigue.
The Borg Scale is a great tool for measuring your perceived exertion. The following link has more information on how to use this scale: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/measuring/exertion.html
6 No exertion at all
Extremely light (7.5)
9 Very light
13 Somewhat hard
15 Hard (heavy)
17 Very hard
19 Extremely hard
20 Maximal exertion
9 corresponds to “very light” exercise. For a healthy person, it is like walking slowly at his or her own pace for some minutes
13 on the scale is “somewhat hard” exercise,.
17 “very hard” is very strenuous. A healthy person can still go on, but he or she really has to push him- or herself. It feels very heavy, and the person is very tired.
19 on the scale is an extremely strenuous exercise level. For most people this is the most strenuous exercise they have ever experienced.
Borg RPE scale
© Gunnar Borg, 1970, 1985, 1994, 1998
So, using this scale, light to moderate intensity would be an 11-14. If you found yourself at a 9, you would increase your pace or add resistance.
Determining Heart Rate Zones:
Heart rate, on the other hand, is measured using a percentage of your maximum heart rate. Low to moderate intensity would equate to 55%-75% of your maximum heart rate. The simplest way to figure these numbers out is to start with determining your maximum heart rate (MHR). For women, determine 226-your age. For a 40 year old woman, her MHR is approximately 186 beats per minute. And then multiply 186 by 50% and 75% to determine the heart rate zone for the low to moderate intensity. This woman would want to keep her heart rate between 102 and 139 beats per minute. For men, you would subtract your age from 220. A 40 year old man would have a MHR of approximately 180 beats per minute. Then continue to figure out the percentages of his MHR. This man would have a heart rate zone between 99 and 135 beats per minute.
While exercising, you can periodically monitor your heart rate by checking your pulse on your wrist at the radial artery for 15 seconds and multiplying by 4. Or you can invest in a heart rate monitor. This monitor gives an instant reading so you can just glance down quickly to see if you are in your heart rate zone without having to do the math. If you are in your zone, just keep on going. If you are below your zone, add some speed or resistance to bump up your intensity a little at a time until you reach your desired heart rate. If you are above your zone, simply slow down or back off on your resistance slowly until you reach your desired heart rate.
#2 Interval Training and Sprints
Once or twice a week you need to perform an all-out effort. This can also be called sprints. This is anaerobic training and the benefits include increasing your aerobic capacity, natural growth hormone production, and increased insulin sensitivity. This also helps build muscle.
Sprints can be running, jumping rope, cycling, swimming, mountain climbing, etc. The best part about this section is it only takes around 10-20 minutes each week and you’re done. The best way to do these sprints is in intervals. Begin with a warm up and get your muscles loosened up. Do 2-3 form sprints where you are not concerned with speed, but form. Then move into your intervals. Sprint for 15-30 seconds. If you’re new to this, for the first 3 weeks, don’t do this at an all-out effort. Keep it fast, but not as fast as you can go. After a few weeks, you can progress to the full sprints. After your sprint, rest and recover for at least 2 minutes. Then repeat your sprint. When you are first starting out do 3-4 sprints. As you feel comfortable, add one more on until you can do up to 8 sprints in a workout.
Important: If at any time during this workout, you feel any pain in your leg muscles, cool down and stop the workout. Don’t push through this because you’ve most likely pulled a muscle. If you’ve warmed up sufficiently and worked up slowly to the sprint you shouldn’t have any trouble.
#3 Weight-lifting: Perform basic movements that make your body stronger as a whole
Build and maintain muscle mass, insulin sensitivity, and growth hormone release with dynamic strength-training sessions. 2-3 days per week spend at least 20-30 minutes lifting heavy things. Focus on foundational strength moves which include squats, pushups, pullups, and planks. You can do other movements, but the ones I mention here are your foundation. If you cannot perform these movements there are progressions where you begin with an easier version of the movement and progress to the full movement.
You may have noticed you don’t need any equipment for the foundational strength moves. That is because you should be able to use your own body weight for resistance.
#4 Stretching and mobility
When we sit at a desk all day in front of a computer, we get some muscle imbalances that may impair our ability to move correctly. Our posture is affected, our hamstrings and hip flexors get tight, and our core gets flabby. These problems will cause pain and injury if not corrected and stretching is the best way to help. It is best to perform stretches every day after a workout or at least while the muscles are warm.
Here is a list of great stretches
- Doorway stretch for chest
- Bicep stretch
- Shoulder stretch
- Hip flexor stretch
- Quad stretch
- Calf stretch
- Low back stretch
- IT band stretch
- Hamstring stretch
This link has a slide show of good stretches to incorporate: : http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stretching/SM00043&slide=9
That’s it! That’s all the components of a great fitness program to get you started. If you have any specific goals or injuries, they will change what you do slightly but the concept is the same. The best way to know if you’re on the right track is to get with a fitness professional that can show you exactly how to perform the exercises and how to progress if you’re having trouble.
Go ahead and get moving!
See you tomorrow for more components of a healthy lifestyle!
Best of Health,