Fitness and Exercise

You don’t have time for exercise. You are too busy and it is hard to fit one more thing in the day. Well, I’ve got some comforting news for you: each day has 1,440 minutes. Try to fit 30 minutes for a physical activity, call it exercise, workout, detox and de-stress. That is 2% of your daytime.

So how much exercise do you need to be healthy?  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average adult needs at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, minimum of 5 days a week. This is the amount you need to stay healthy.

You need a ”moderate”  degree of exercise  which is done through what are referred to as “cardio” or ” aerobic” workout.  This kind of workout makes you breathe harder and gets your heart beating faster. Doing daily chores like going shopping and washing dishes are considered “light” exercise. If you are not used to exercising, build up your tolerance slowly.

Besides aerobic workout, you also need “muscle-strengthening activity,” which is done in repetition. One set is about 8-12 repetitions. Try to do 1 to 3 sets for a specific muscle group (lets stay biceps curls) and with time, as you get better,  build up the weight till it gets hard to continue. You get the best results when you reach what is called muscle fatigue. If you are doing this for the first time, it is best that you get a trainer to show you the techniques. For  muscle training, you can also lift weights or use bands. Sometimes, you can use your own body weight.

Don’t forget to stretch for 5 minutes before and after exercise to prevent injuries.

According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need two types of physical activity: Cardio and muscle-strengthening.

The minimum needed for health maintenance for adults 18-64 years old and 65 and older:

  • A total of 2 hours and 30 minutes a week. This comes up to be 30 minutes, 5 times a week. You can break it into three 10 minutes chunks for each day. You can also do 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week (running, jogging). You can break that one into two sessions, 30 minutes and 45 minute for example.

Plus (hold on, you are not done)

  • Muscle-training for at least 2 days a week.

For even greater health gains for adults, try the following:

  • A total of 5 hours each week of moderate intensity exercise. Or 2 hours and 30 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week.

Plus

  • Muscle-training for at least 2 days a week. Remember to balance your major muscle groups (back, upper and lower body).

What are the benefits of exercise?

  • You can actually live longer
  • Get extra energy, vitality
  • Strengthen your body systems including muscles, bones and joints
  • Helps you sleep better. Helps you stay awake, too
  • Improves your thinking, memeory and concentration
  • Ward of depression and anxiety
  • Prevent or delay chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancers
  • Burn off calories and prevents weight gain

    Here are examples of exercises that can be fun:

    • There is always the gym. You can put on MP3 player or watch a TV show or movie.
    • You can join one of the classes offered at your gym. This will give your workout an added social twist.
    • Gardening, vacuuming the house, mowing the lawn. Here you hit two birds in one stone.
    • Walking, hiking, running, bicycling.
    • Dancing.
    • Yoga and stretching.
    • Join a sports team.
    • Swimming or water aerobic.

      Here is an exercise that helps you burn extra calories:

      Consider “Interval  training” to jump up your metabolism.  The term HIT (high intensity training) refers to short periods of high intensity exercises (bursts) alternating with periods of low intensity workout, repeated during the typical session (fast-slow-fast-slow etc).  During this burst of exercise, you want to reach a state of exertion.

      We now know that interval training is extends the aerobic capacity and benefits. Let’s say you are jogging. You will burn more calories if you change your path from peaks to flats to peaks and so one than just running on one flat surface.  In fact, you can burn more calorie by running 6 miles for 20 minutes than walking for an hour. Another benefit of HIT is that is saves time. You can lose extra fat in less required time.

      There are no specific guidelines for HIT. You can construct and design it in your own way applying the simple rules described above. But here are few more tips:

      • Don’t do it with every workout. It can make you fatigue early and put strain on your joins if overdone.
      • If you are a novice, spend less time on the fast or high burst portion and more on the slow or recovery phase. With time and improve tolerance, increase the period you spend in the high intensity portion.

        A little caution here: Interval training is not for everyone. Care must be used if you are a beginner or have a history of heart disease, stroke, overweight or a smoker. It is best to consult your physician before starting this program.

        *Reference: Jason L. Talanian, Stuart D. R. Galloway,George J. F. Heigenhauser, Arend Bonen, and Lawrence L. Spriet. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women.

        How to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule:

        • Keep moving. Don’t sit still for long. Squeeze your calf muscle (flex and extend your feet) or your hands if you sitting in that boring office meeting. Take 5 minute walks or stairs during breaks. Break your day with some moving skills.
        • Get a pedometer. It will give you measurable way to know your activity level. It is difficult to stay how many steps are needed to stay healthy. The 10,000 steps a day is not proven by any studies to be the magic number. Also, take into account your age (youth versus elderly versus athletic).  2000 to 3000 steps per day is what a sedentary person would take. A Harvard study showed 6000 steps a day correlated with lower deaths. A moderate-intensity walking is equal to 100 steps per minute. Therefore, if you want to get your recommended 30 minutes a day for sustained health, you are encouraged to walk a minimum of 3000 steps day on 5 days a week. You can break this into three session of 1000 steps a day  (Reference: Marshall SJ, Levy SS, Tudor-Locke CE, Kolkhorst FW, Wooten KM, Ji M, Macera CA, Ainsworth BE. Am J Prev Med. 2009 May;36(5):410-5). Remember, these steps are to be added to your daily routine activities. For example, you know that on an average day, your pedometer registers 3000 steps. Your job is to add that 30 minutes-worth of fast paced, walking or jogging steps to get your workout. So your need to aim for 3000 steps a day.

          How to stay motivated:

          • The hardest part is in the beginning. The first 4 to 6 weeks is when you need to muster your will and stay disciple with your almost daily workout schedule. It gets easier afterwards because your will see the benefits, feel better all of which increase your will and drive and gives you momentum.
          • Use the Kaizen principal. It is a Japanese concept that was created about 60 years ago and means “continuous improvement”.  It was used widely by successful companies such as Canon and Toyota.  One if its ideas is to make big changes by focusing on the small changes. For example, you plan your workout in 20 minutes/day; then build up to 30 minutes/day; then incorporate an additional 10 minutes of muscle training exercise/ a couple times a day. The Kaizen principal calls for success in increments. Focus on those little daily goals.  The other ideas call for improvements in your life or job performance even if you are doing well. Keep improving is the message.  Kaizen even advocates for improvements in all aspects of your life, including your social life.
          • Make a visual schedule for your workout. Post it on your fridge. At the start of each week, let’s say Sunday, make a calendar for the next 7 days. With each day, mark in your workout plan (aerobic and weight training) including a day off for rest. Maybe your want to make your Saturday workout a family hike in the wood. Also include any classes. Your job is to cross out what your finished. This will make your feel better.