If we all agree that exercise is vital to health, then let’s figure out the best routine. The right mix of exercise can: Reduce the risk of premature death, reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce high blood pressure, reduce high cholesterol, reduce the risks of many cancers, including colon and breast cancer, reduce the risk of developing diabetes, reduce fat and optimize body weight, build and maintain healthy muscles, bones, and joints, reduce depression and anxiety, enhance performance in work and sport.
Believe it or not, running every day, won’t cut it. Going to the gym every day and working out with weights every day won’t cut it. The ideal exercise program includes cardio/aerobic exercise, strength training, weight-bearing exercise, stretching, breathing, and balance.
Cardio/aerobic exercise. This has to be some movement that is brisk enough that requires the heart and lungs to work harder to meet the body’s increased oxygen demand. Basically you are forcing the heart and lungs to work harder, and yet of low enough intensity to facilitate adequate oxygen transfer to the muscle cells so that no buildup of lactic acid is observed. Think repetitive movement of the arms, legs, and hips. Take your pick from running, jogging, and fast walking. Biking (either road or mountain), and swimming are also good. If you belong to a gym or have home equipment, there are treadmills, elliptical trainers, spin cycles, and rebounders.
Strength Training involves the use of free weights, kettlebells, weight machines, resistance bands or some other form of resistance to build muscle and increase strength. Its benefits include: Increased muscle strength, increased tendon and ligament strength, reduced body fat and increased muscle mass, better balance, lower blood cholesterol, improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. The key to strength training is to choose one you can do easily and are willing to do regularly.
Every patient of mine that wants to lose weight, I make sure that they are doing circuit weight training. Strength training builds muscle which increases your resting metabolic rate.
Weight bearing exercise is actually a subset of certain aerobic and strength training exercises. It helps slow down the rate of bone loss and osteoporosis. It is exercise in which you force your body to support weight (your own included) while exercising. The best weight bearing exercises are: weight-lifting, jogging, hiking with a back pack, stair-climbing, step aerobics, racquet sports, and other activities that require your muscles to work against gravity. Swimming and simple walking don’t do the trick. One exceptionally useful form of weight bearing exercise is rebounding. The act of rebounding makes use of g-forces, just like astronauts training in a centrifuge.
Stretching is the most over-looked area of fitness I have seen lately. Stretching reduces muscle tension and increases range of movement in the joints. I see tremendous tightness and restrictions in most clients bodies from a lack of variety of movement. Tightness and constriction cause a reduced blood flow to the muscles and soft tissues, this leads to a lack of oxygen to the tissues and this is a very painful situation. Yoga has become one of my pewrsonal favorites for stretching. Pilates works well too. If nothing else, just do 5-10 minutes of simple stretching after your daily exercise routine as part of your cool down time.
Proper breathing is often over-looked as much as stretching. The concept is simple: putting a device in your mouth that restricts (in a controlled manner) your inhalations and exhalations, which forces your lungs to work harder. This, in turn, strengthens the muscles that makes your lungs work and increases their capacity.
The last area is Balance. Balance diminishes with age unless we consciously exercise it. If you fall down and break your hip or wrist, the odds are you will have a long-slow recovery, if you fully recover.
The most simple balance exercise is to practice standing on one leg. If you need to hold on to a chair for support, with one hand, that’s fine. Slightly bend one leg so that the foot of the bent leg is projected out behind you. Get used to balancing on the one leg holding a chair or wall. Then take the hands off the chair and balance with one eye closed. Build up to balancing with your eyes closed for 30 seconds.
Please remember that you can not exercise your your way out of a bad diet. Increase your quality protein to build the muscles you are exercising. Avoid sugar but enjoy high quality fats such as Omega-3s.