Want to stay healthy and fit? Then fill the number one prescription for health and wellness: exercise. This Provision suggests how you can find the motivation and the time, and then it describes some specific techniques for getting started with endurance and strength exercises. It’s not hard to work out working out.
People are sometimes surprised to learn that I do not watch television except for an occasional special event. They also wonder how I manage to exercise as much as I do even as I maintain an active professional life. Guess what? There’s a connection here!
According to the A.C. Nielsen Company, the average American watches almost four hours of television per day. According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, “lack of time” is the number one reason people give for not exercising at least 30 minutes per day. In addition, the U.S. Surgeon General reports that only 28% of Americans exercise regularly. That’s the bad news. The good news is that 59% of Americans say they would like to be more physically active.
Perhaps that’s because they’ve heard or intuitively know about the essential link between exercise and health. Simply put, if exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it. In study after study, a regular exercise routine has been shown to lower the risk of virtually every chronic disease and disability. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis are three of the best established, but it also lowers the risk of certain kinds of cancer, depression, and premature death.
In my case, I trade television time for exercise time. Others may choose to make other trade offs. However you figure it out, you can rest assured that a regular exercise routine will not only make you live a longer, healthier life; it will also make you happier. I enjoy how it gets me away from interruptions and gets me in touch with my own rhythms. No email, phones, pagers, alarms, or commercials to interfere with the strong, steady beat of life.
There are four basic types of exercise, all four of which need to be practiced on a regular basis in order to support and sustain health. This week we’ll focus on endurance and strength exercises; next week we’ll focus on flexibility and balance exercises.
If you exercise daily, you may want to do four days of endurance exercises and three days of strength exercises every week. Flexibility and balance exercises can be done daily, as bookends around the endurance and strength exercises. 90 minutes is an ideal length of time to warm up, exercise, and cool down, although it can certainly be done in 60. There’s nothing better than being able to exercise without any time pressure.
Nevertheless, even 10 minutes of exercise is better than no exercise at all, and studies have shown that three 10-minute periods of exercise per day generate the same health benefits as one 30-minute period. The point is to get moving, working, stretching, and balancing even if you have to squeeze it in around the edges.
Endurance exercises build the circulatory, respiratory, and, for high-impact exercises (such as running), the skeletal systems. Any exercise that increases your heart rate and breathing for an extended time period is an endurance exercise and the more vigorous the better. If you haven’t been used to doing such exercise, then be sure to start with a complete physical examination by a licensed healthcare professional. Although endurance exercises greatly reduce the risk of disease and disability overall, they slightly increase the risk of a cardiovascular event while performing the exercise. That’s why you want to understand your limits before you start any exercise program.
Assuming that you have no specific physical limitations, other than perhaps being overweight and out of shape, endurance exercises will do more to burn calories than any other exercise. And the longer you exercise the more fat calories you burn. That’s because your body has enough energy in the blood, in the form of glycogen, to get you through the first 30 minutes of exercise. After that, your body has to create its own energy by converting fat into glycogen.
So what’s a good way to start? There’s no better exercise than walking, and most people can do it without any instruction. Purchase a good set of shoes at a local running store, with salespeople who know how to fit not only your foot but also your stride, and start walking. Keep track of time rather than distance. Don’t worry if you can only walk for five minutes at first. That’s a fine place to start. It may take many months, but work up to where you can walk for 45 minutes, without stopping, and then start to think about pace. Power walking, above 4 miles or 6.5 kilometers an hour, can provide all the cardiovascular benefits you will ever need.
Many people find that it helps to have an exercise buddy. More than once, knowing that someone was waiting for me has helped me to get out the door. But you also need your own, internal reason for working out. Many times, it will be you and you alone. To share in the beauty of nature, to feel the movement of your body, to relieve stress and find inspiration, all these and more are yours for the walking • or any other endurance exercise you may enjoy doing. When you are done, cool down with stretching and balance exercises such as I will discuss next week.
Strength exercises build the muscular and skeletal systems. All the walking in the world is not going to build muscle mass and tone, which declines naturally and steadily as we age. The only antidote is strength exercises, such as weight lifting or isometric exercises. Without resistance training, there is no way to maintain let alone to increase our strength. Resistance training also helps to prevent injury.
To begin, it helps but is not essential to have a set of weights. If necessary, you can fashion your own weights from cans of soup and buckets of sand. Fortunately, a set of weights is not very expensive and much more convenient. Be sure to lift slowly and cleanly, with no jerking, gritting your teeth, or holding your breath. If you’re straining that hard to lift the weight, then you’re trying to lift too much. Heavy weight lifting increases the strain on the heart and can be dangerous, particularly if you have no one spotting you.
Light weight lifting is a better way to go. Done slowly, as slowly as 15 seconds per repetition, light weight lifting can produce significant gains in muscle mass, tone, and strength. Be sure to exercise the upper body, the abdomen, and the legs. Devise a circuit of exercises including arm raises, squats or chair stands, bicep curls, sit ups, tricep extensions, knee flexions, and leg raises. You can visit http://nihseniorhealth.gov/exercise/strength04.html to learn how to do these exercises.
Don’t worry if you have to start with a very light weight or no weight at all. Over time, your strength will increase. Keeping a record of your lifting not only documents your progress, it also lets you know where to begin the next time you lift. If you want to be healthy and fit, there’s no other way: you simply have to work it out.
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
For a good discussion of the relative merits of slow and fast lifting, you may be interested in checking out http://www.cbass.com/Slowfast(2).htm.
I have been to your site. It’s really a good one. I wish that you’ll send me more sites related to you. And thanks for making me a subscriber. (Ed. Note: Keep reading Provisions for related sites.)
Thank you for your great advice & guidance. You are so right in saying that one must have fun in whatever one does. Here in South Africa, I am a regular weight trainer & have fun in participating in other training programs, such as aqua aerobics, cycling & swimming. You get a complete body workout. You also get much fitter. Keep the good work up & keep us alive the fun way.
Thanks so much for your weekly Provisions. I really enjoy them. A tool I use to help manage my life is a software program called Life Balance. I think it’s a fresh coaching-oriented approach to to-do lists and calendars. Because I like Life Trek and I like Life Balance, I thought you might find the product interesting and possibly helpful for some clients. Here are their links:http://www.llamagraphics.com and for coaches: http://www.llamagraphics.com/coach/index.html. (Ed. Note: Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check it out.)
Great Provision! This is one that I am going to print out and put in my bring-up file for November. I hope that I am at my goal weight and that I will be working on maintaining my goal weight. I particularly liked the chopstick mention. I use this method, and it continues to make me mindful and thankful for my food.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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