Balanced Fitness and Health

Working out adds many new dimensions to your life — an important component of optimal human performance. Much like diet and nutrition, each person must find an individualized program to meet his or her particular needs. So start out as simply as possible. Then consider joining a group to get some psychological encouragement, as long as you can exercise within your own limits. Through this habit change, the exercise program becomes a positive addiction. Your routine will ultimately become a part of your day, like brushing your teeth.

There are a number of important factors to consider when starting or modifying your exercise routine:

  •   Scheduling. Create a realistic schedule of exercise that fits in with family, work and your other commitments. This will allow you to be more consistent, and help make it part of a new lifestyle.
  • Physical factors. Be sure you can withstand the minor stress of exercise. Do you have some physical imbalances that may be aggravated by exercise? Take into consideration a history of prior injuries or conditions. Consider your workout surface — blacktop, wood and carpet are preferable to concrete, marble and steel. Grass and dirt surfaces may be safe, but they also can be stressful if they are uneven or too soft.
  • Chemical factors. The proper nutrients, especially fats, are necessary for aerobic efficiency. High-sugar foods and drinks can be detrimental when consumed before workouts. Proper hydration is a must; drink water all day, not just after working out.
  • Psychological factors. Studies have shown that people who exercise in the morning find it easier to maintain a regular program. But whether you exercise in the morning, midday or evening, be consistent. Write out a simple exercise program, if necessary. You are more apt to follow something you can see. Keep a log on a calendar or in a diary to see your success as the days, weeks and months go by.
  • Goals. Set realistic goals. Some people merely want to progress to exercising 30 minutes a day. Be conservative, but don’t hesitate to dream. Running a marathon after six months of training may be realistic only for very disciplined people who can control their stress. You won’t break any records, and completing the marathon should be your only goal. I’ve worked with many patients who successfully, and in a healthy way, met that goal.
  • Habit change.Starting an exercise program is, first of all, a change of habit. And as we all know, a habit change can be the most difficult change to make — even more difficult than the exercise itself. Generally, there are two barriers. One is just getting started and the other shows up two to four weeks later, when your enthusiasm wears off a bit. (Although being aware of this is usually incentive enough to keep you going.)
  • Time.Most exercise should be measured in time, and not miles, laps or repetitions (except when performing your MAF Test). At the onset, a minimal time is best, since the purpose initially is to develop an exercise habit. The only exception may be if you progress to anaerobic workouts, such as weight-lifting, where a range of measurements should always be used. This gives you more choice, allowing for daily fluctuations in energy level and time restraints. For example, when using weights, the number of repetitions may be 10 to 15, rather than doing a predetermined exact number based on some program not meant for you.
  • Intensity. The intensity of your workout is an important consideration, as measured by the heart rate. Make sure you understand how to find your maximum aerobic heart rate using the 180 Formula. Base your exercise program on time and intensity (as per heart rate); e.g., 30

  A Word for Beginners 

Even if you’ve never been active, aerobic exercise is easy and simple. If you are in reasonably good health and have no serious problems or injuries, it can be done with a simple 30-minute walk a minimum of four to five times per week. You can do this on your way to work, or on your way home, as part of your lunch break or anytime. It can be performed walking indoors or outdoors. Or you can use a treadmill or stationary bike, either in your home or at the gym. Asimple aerobic workout will easily fit into your current work schedule and requires no special equipment, clothing or gear. Here is a typical starting program for a beginner:

  • 30 total minutes easy walking.
  • 12-minute warm-up period, 12-minute cool-down period.
  • Heart rate not to exceed the maximum aerobic level.
  • Monday through Friday schedule.
  • Saturday and Sunday off.

You can always fit in a 30-minute workout at some point during the day. Within that time, include at least a 12-minute warm-up period, where your activity level is very easy. For the next 6 minutes move at a faster pace, but not so fast that it becomes uncomfortable — there’s no need to break a sweat and you should be able to carry on a conversation. The remaining 12 minutes is your cool-down, another period of very easy activity. This is an optimal aerobic workout — one you can do in your work clothes during the course of the day.

Remember, your basic beginning program should be tailored to your specific needs. While most people are capable of at least 30 minutes of walking, perhaps 45 minutes is a good starting point. The maximum starting point for any beginner is an hour. Still others may benefit starting with 20 minutes per session. If you are recovering from a chronic illness, or have been very inactive all your life, you
should consider only 15 minutes of exercise, or even 10 minutes, as a start, and also consult your doctor

Case History

Alice was about to celebrate her 50th birthday, and thought it was time to get into shape. She was never physically active in sports, although she raised four children. She began a simple program of walking for 20 minutes, Monday through Friday, taking Saturday and Sunday off. After two months, Alice was ready to increase to 30 minutes each day, and after another two months progressed to 45 minutes. After a couple of years, Alice had the desire to take a couple of long walks a week, gradually working up to about 90 minutes each time.

How rapidly you increase the time period depends on your response. Whatever the starting point, assuming the proper time is chosen, maintain that time for at least three weeks. Listen to your body; it will tell you if and when you can increase. This is also true for any change: Maintain the new time for at least three weeks before increasing it if that’s desired and there’s no difficulty.

Don’t increase more than 50 percent at any one time in a program of up to 45 minutes, and not more than 15 minutes when the program is 45 minutes or more. Some people are quite content remaining at 45 minutes. This is fine, since you can obtain many benefits when exercising at this level five times per week.

Perform the MAF Test every three to four weeks. If any problems develop, stop. A professional may be helpful in determining what’s wrong.

What type of exercise should you do? When starting out, do almost anything, as long as it’s aerobic. This may include, besides walking, riding a stationary bike, dancing, rebounding (trampoline), outdoor biking, swimming, hiking, cross-country skiing, and using various exercise machines, such as rowing and skiing. Jogging, or running, when done aerobically, is a healthy exercise. There is no universally accepted scientific distinction between running and jogging. For the purposes of this book, I refer to jogging when I mean a much

slower pace. Running occurs with progression and more speed, and involves a slightly different gait. Any combination of these activities is also acceptable, as long as your heart rate doesn’t exceed your maximum aerobic level. If you wish, do two or three types of exercise throughout the week, or even in one workout. For example, you can walk for 15 minutes, ride a stationary bike for 20 minutes and dance for 15 minutes. This “cross-training” routine is actually healthier than doing just one exercise each session.

Anaerobic activities, including any type of weight-lifting, sit-ups, pushups or activities that raise the heart rate above your maximum aerobic heart rate are not acceptable substitutes for aerobic exercise. They shouldn’t be started until after you have developed your aerobic system. For the beginner, my recommendation is to wait at least six months, and for those modifying their program, wait at least three to four months before performing any anaerobic work.

Tennis, racquetball and similar sports often end up being anaerobic for the beginner, because of the type of muscle fibers used and the high heart rates produced. They’re fun to do, but should be considered “games” and not exercise unless they’re performed regularly; e.g., if you walk four times per week, play tennis once a week, or 18 holes of golf once a week. In that case, a proper warm-up and cooldown is important, as well as regulating aerobic and anaerobic levels.

Once you have progressed through a certain number of weeks without any problems, you may want to further develop your health and fitness. The following section is for people who wish to take their fitness to another level

What type of exercise should you do? When starting out, do almost anything, as long as it’s aerobic. This may include, besides walking, riding a stationary bike, dancing, rebounding (trampoline), outdoor biking, swimming, hiking, cross-country skiing, and using various exercise machines, such as rowing and skiing. Jogging, or running, when done aerobically, is a healthy exercise. There is no universally accepted scientific distinction between running and jogging. For the purposes of this book, I refer to jogging when I mean a much

slower pace. Running occurs with progression and more speed, and involves a slightly different gait. Any combination of these activities is also acceptable, as long as your heart rate doesn’t exceed your maximum aerobic level. If you wish, do two or three types of exercise throughout the week, or even in one workout. For example, you can walk for 15 minutes, ride a stationary bike for 20 minutes and dance for 15 minutes. This “cross-training” routine is actually healthier than doing just one exercise each session.

 

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