“I feel like a slob when I’m not active. I feel fantastic when I’m active. So I make a point of feeling fantastic as often as I can. Why not? I deserve it!” That’s my philosophy.
I pass this good news on to everyone. When you work out, not only do you feel fantastic, you know you’re leading a healthy lifestyle. What a bonus! Americans want to be healthy, active people. Statistics show that in the past only ten percent of adults were active for twenty minutes, three days per week; now it’s twenty percent. Things are looking up. The question is, are you one of the inactive eighty percent? Let’s increase the active percentage and become one of the lucky ones! If physical activity has not been a regular part of your life, and you decide to increase your level of activity, check with your physician first. Make sure your exercise regimen is consistent with your stamina. Exercise should be fun and not painful.
When is the best time to feel fantastic and develop an active routine? Now! Start planning your agile lifestyle immediately. Why put a wonderful life on hold? If you have time to read or watch television, then you have time to go for a walk. Mark this page and put down the book. Get up and put on your sneakers. Go for a walk around the block. If the weather is bad, walk on the spot with your arms swinging vigorously at your sides. Feel good? Now walk up and down stairs for ten minutes. Wow, this feels even better. A little flushed? A warm glow on the face? Great! Do it now! Develop the new exercise habit.
ANY TIME, ANY PLACE
When should you exercise? Anytime! When you’re bored or stressed, go for a brisk walk. Concentrate on walking fast and let your mind wander. Swing your arms to propel you quicker. You’ll feel so invigorated; you will want to walk regularly.
Start now. And next time, walk a little faster. Slowly increase your level of exercise. Time yourself. Increase the minutes. Most importantly, make sure there is a next time. Besides walking, try other activities. This way, you’ll prevent yourself from becoming bored. Avoid taking the elevator or escalator. Stairwells can be quite grubby sometimes, but you’ll still feel good afterwards.
Limit the use of your car. Walk, bike and use public transport more often. Take the subway with two ten-minute walks plus four long flights of stairs to climb - it’s not much, but it’s better than just sitting or driving.
Other activities are also fun, such as running, biking, exercise videos, yoga, weight training, gardening. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as it’s exercise. You need to approach your exercise regimen in steps in order to achieve a full "exercise routine." Start with twenty minutes of activity three times per week, then slowly increase the time to thirty minutes, forty minutes, and so on.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, be physically active for at least thirty minutes per day. To prevent weight gain, about sixty minutes a day; and to prevent regaining weight for the formerly overweight, at least 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity most days.
If you exercise for thirty minutes at a low intensity, you’ll burn 200 calories, 100 of which come from fat. If you exercise at a high intensity you’ll burn 400 calories, 160 of which come from fat. You burn more fat when working out intensely, but any working out will promote weight loss.
ACTIVITY - WHAT, WHEN AND WHERE?
What can you do? When can you do it? Where do you go? You know it’s good for you. You know you’ve always wanted to do something active. But what, when and where?
Your choice of activity is important. The activity that you love is best for you because it’s the one you’ll do regularly. Many people say they hate exercising and refuse to do it. But when asked if they like walking, they say yes. I then plan with them the best time to walk every day. Slowly they develop the active bug.
Do you find it difficult to juggle work, family responsibilities and still find time to exercise? It’s worth finding a way to do it, because a healthier you is better for your work attitude and for your family. Perhaps a lunchtime walk with a colleague will do the trick. Your kids “quiet time” can be your exercise time. You know that talk you have with your spouse about your day at work, why not walk together while you’re doing it? Be creative and you’ll find time to exercise.
You may argue that you have no place to exercise. If that’s the case, workout in the family room with exercise videos/DVDs made for minimum-space usage. How about riding on bicycle paths or going to a nearby gym? You may even find your local school offers activities in the evening, gratis. Take advantage of these. Where there’s a will there’s a way. You can find a place to exercise if you want to.
On a tight schedule? Exercise daily – it is easy to fit in four ten-minute bouts. Try ten minutes of brisk walking to work, ten minutes of stair climbing at breaks during your workday, and ten minutes walking in the evening.
Activity charts, which purportedly show how many calories you can burn over a certain number of minutes are not always accurate (even exercise machines that calculate the number of calories you burn can be inaccurate.) There are too many variables that can affect these values, for example, age, body fat and fitness level. Keep track of calories burned if it appeals to you, but don’t take the numbers too seriously. Just keep moving and enjoy it.
If you’re male or female, heavy or light, work out strenuously or casually; your calories burned will be different. When I look at these tables, I know that if I do an aerobics class I burn up 270 calories per hour. When I jog, 600 calories per hour are used and strenuous swimming will burn 500 calories per hour. However, I can only jog for ten minutes, then walk rapidly for ten minutes, then jog for ten minutes. I can swim for only twenty minutes, and am I swimming fast? How do you judge “fast?” (These figures are useful but must be adjusted to your activity level.)
The tables also tend to forget everyday activities. Anything active is good. Household chores such as mopping, shopping, ironing and vacuuming burn 250 calories per hour. And scrubbing floors burns even more. You can almost feel yourself sweating the calories off. In the winter, shoveling snow, the biggest calorie burner of all, will make you feel fit and flushed, and you will have made everyone else happy.
Take aerobics classes and go ice-skating for fun. Cross-country skiing burns the most calories and it’s invigorating. Take care not to become obsessive about exercise, but take pleasure from being an active person and you’ll have a healthier mind and a healthier, fitter body.
HOW MUCH ACTIVITY?
The minimum amount of exercise recommended to keep fit and strengthen your heart is twenty to thirty minutes, three times per week. Start gently with five to ten minutes of walking, cycling, dancing, swimming or house cleaning. Steadily work up to thirty minutes of vigorous exercise by six weeks. If you can talk while exercising, you’re not overdoing it; if you’re panting and unable to hold a conversation, you’re exercising too hard. If you exercise too hard, you’ll become exhausted and no longer burn fat - so slow down!
Susie Langley, RD, from Toronto cautions about excessive exercising. “Restrictive eating and chronic fatigue often go unnoticed until over-use injuries, hair-line bone fractures, even infertility occur. People become experts in the numbers game - weight on the scale, grams of fat consumed, calories burned on the treadmill or number of miles run per week. These tired and poorly nourished bodies are starving for fuel, making them a perfect set up for bingeing and later using exercise as a form of purging. Anemia, constipation, mood swings, brittle bones, amenorrhea and a weakened immune system are often the result. A healthy approach to eating and a healthy amount of physical activity gives you a more energetic feeling - even weight loss!”
BALANCE ACTIVITY AND FOOD INTAKE
Your food intake has to suit your activity. One of my clients is a competitive swimmer. He burns nearly 1,000 calories per hour when swimming! That’s a huge amount, so his meal plan has to suit his schedule to enable him to have the energy to burn up these calories. He cannot be hungry yet he cannot be too full before his training session. He came to me to help him balance his meals. Since then, he has found that his confidence in his food choices has increased and his energy level has improved considerably. (If you’re embarking on the elite category of your sport - more than two hours per day - get professional help to balance your meals.)
If you’re not a competitive swimmer, it’s good to know that crawl or freestyle is the fastest and most efficient way to swim.
A report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that exercising while you diet may not only help you lose weight faster and boost your mood, it may also help you stick to your diet. In this study, women who exercised lost more weight and chose to eat fewer calories than the non-exercisers. Another study showed that people who exercise have less of an appetite than those who do not.
SUPPLEMENTS ARE NOT NECESSARY
Exercise increases the body’s requirements for vitamins and minerals, which is met with the active individual’s increase in food intake - at least five fruits and vegetables per day. There is no evidence to support the use of supplements for improving performance. (University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter) Get advice from a registered dietitian if you really want to take supplements.
HOW DOES EXERCISE AFFECT THE BODY
“Steady exercise helps us lose fat,” is what you’ll often read in the media. This is true, but you need to understand the process. When we move our muscles, the fat in our bodies is activated and dumped into the bloodstream. Blood takes the fat to the muscles being used. The muscle then uses the fat to provide energy to work. This process takes quite a while to get into action. That is why we need to have constant activity for about thirty minutes. Quite simple really! Muscles need energy to move, fat supplies the energy; it just takes time.
“Fat burning is something that many want to do, but most are not quite sure how to go about it properly,” says Dr. Douglas W. Stoddard, a sports and exercise physician. “Furthermore,” he says, “there are plenty of misconceptions about this. Is there a magical exercise, or a magical exercise intensity, that one must practice to achieve fat loss? The answer is a resounding no! The truth of the matter is that as long as the energy an individual expends during a day is greater than the energy he/she ingests, fat loss will result. Any form of exercise and any exercise intensity can help. The more energy needed to perform the exercise, the greater the effect on fat loss, regardless of whether the body uses more fat or carbohydrate for fuel. Contrary to popular belief in the fitness community, ‘fat burning’ or ‘low intensity’ exercise in not more beneficial for fat loss, except when considering safety and compliance issues.” Bear in mind that fat loss will not occur unless calorie intake is reduced.
EXERCISE REDUCES DISEASES
If you are overweight, and your father, who had high blood pressure, died from a stroke, you could be at risk too. Being active can reduce the risk of certain diseases; it especially helps to prevent heart disease and diabetes, and to reduce blood pressure. If you’re at risk, see your doctor for advice on suitable exercising and then get active.
Did you know that heart disease is related to your body shape? Have you heard about the apple- or pear-shaped bodies? Picture yourself. Do you have large hips and a small waist? This is a pear shape, more common in women. We complain about our thighs, hips and bottom. We want them to have smaller dimensions, but this is actually a healthier shape. That doesn’t bring us joy, but it is a minor compensation.
The apple-shaped body is more common in men with increased weight around the waist and smaller hips - a “beer” belly. Unfortunately, the apple-shaped body is associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain kinds of cancer. To reduce the risks of contracting these diseases, weight loss and increased activity are crucial. Exercise can actually increase your good HDL cholesterol. So please work hard to get rid of the fat around your waist. Aerobic activities are the best exercises to achieve this. Sit-ups and stomach exercises won’t be enough; you have to get moving and keep active.
High blood pressure puts a strain on the heart and kidneys, so have your blood pressure checked. If it is high, it is possible to lower blood pressure simply by losing weight and reducing alcohol intake. Try taking these steps before relying on medications, which can have many side effects.
“I’m healthy, but my sister has osteoporosis.”
Osteoporosis occurs when the bones lose their density and become brittle. This makes a person more susceptible to bone fractures. You can recognize the advanced from of this disease with elderly people who have a stooped back. This disease is more common among women and the incidence increases with age, race (Caucasian and Asian), low body weight, a low calcium diet, inactivity and smoking.
Exercise is important in the prevention of this debilitating disease. For men and women, weight-bearing exercises such as walking, low-impact aerobics and dancing, can strengthen bones and prevent an unhealthy older age. Strength-training increases bone mass, reducing the risk for osteoporosis. It also increases muscle mass and provides for better balance, decreasing your chances of falling and fracturing bones.
My brother, Dr. Scott Haldeman, from the University of California Irvine, has degrees in medicine and chiropractic, specializing in neurology. He is an authority on back pain, has written textbooks for chiropractors and published over a hundred articles in medical journals. He shares his findings with us here: “Lack of fitness impacts on back pain more than weight. Everybody can expect to have back pain at some time in his or her lives. The determination as to whether the back pain will become disabling and affect your life is dependent as much upon psychosocial factors as the amount of injury you suffer. Disability is much more likely if you have a poor self-esteem, poor work environment or poor home environment. If you hate your life or hate your job, your back pain can become intolerable. You are likely to become increasingly depressed, stop exercising, eat more and make your back pain worse.”
If you have back problems, it seems that the first thing you have to do is love your job and enjoy your life. Then lose weight and do exercises that won’t aggravate your back condition.
HOW DO I LOSE MY STOMACH?
This is a common question. Continual aerobic activity will burn fat everywhere in the body, including the stomach. Sit-ups and abdominal exercises will strengthen the muscles, but some people will always have a bit of a tummy. The best you can do for yourself is to eat healthy and keep active. If you hear of quick and easy ways to lose your tummy, they’re probably quick and easy ways to lose your money. Beware of “miracle” machines.
You can’t spot reduce. A flat stomach depends in large part on genetics - whether or not your body tends to store fat around your midsection. A study at the University of Massachusetts showed that men who did lots of sit-ups had no significant loss of fat in the abdominal area. Aerobic exercises that burn up calories, such as running or cycling, will trim your waist more than sit-ups would. Sit-ups can make your stomach feel firmer as strong abdominal muscles provide better support for the back.
EXERCISE AND MOOD
“My child used to be sullen. She was teased by her friends because she was slightly overweight. Now she is smiling and looks forward to being active.” - mother of a 10 year old daughter.
This child would come home in the afternoon, watch television and eat. Changing “continuous snacking time” to “planned snack and active time,” has resulted in her losing weight and becoming a happier child. She smiles and laughs more often and her personality has changed. Activity makes her feel marvelous and she looks forward to her time after school. Being active causes the endorphins in the brain to be active. These are mood enhancers, so get them active. It makes life so much easier.
There’s a new fascinating theory that certain sports affect your moods differently. The ones that supposedly decrease stress, increase self-esteem and heighten sexuality are aerobics, running, swimming, speed walking, yoga, tai chi, dance, synchronized swimming and belly dancing - we’ve got to try them! (The treadmill is not a sexy activity.)
EXERCISE MAKES YOU FEEL GREAT
There are many excuses not to be active. See if yours is listed, then read how to overcome them.
Excuse #1: “I don't have time”
Change: Your priorities.
There are hours in the day when you might be bored, feeling restless or down. These are the hours when you should plan to be active. Office workers are well advised to spend half an hour enjoying a brisk walk at lunchtime. Many people feel much better after this activity because they have cleared their minds. Convince a colleague to walk with you. You’ll motivate each other. After that, it’ll be second nature, part of your new lifestyle.
While I was writing this book, I was tempted to continue without stopping, in other words, skipping my exercises, but developed lower back pain. I tried stretching exercises or walking every fifty minutes. This gave me more energy and made me feel creative.
Excuse #2: “I don't lose weight when I exercise”
Change: Your philosophy.
Do not exercise to lose weight, exercise to feel better. If your sole reason is to lose weight you’ll feel terrible if it doesn’t happen. This is a negative attitude. Muscle weighs more than fat, so even if you’re feeling slim it may not show on the scale. Feeling good, an immediate benefit, is reason enough to continue with your exercise program. Research has shown that regular exercise is the key to maintaining weight loss. Because I love to eat, I need to work out five times a week for one hour, plus walking, swimming and jogging on other days to stay in shape. I cannot eat too much before being active, and I always plan a low fat snack for immediately after any activity.
Excuse #3: “My gym is too far from me”
Change: Your gym.
Choose a gym near you. No matter how much you like your gym, if it includes one hour of traveling time, you simply won't go as regularly as you should. Some of my dedicated clients are willing to travel because the class instructor is excellent, so it’s worth it. Or work out while watching TV.
Excuse #4: “I feel intimidated in a gym”
Change: Your gym.
Make sure the gym you decide to frequent suits all your needs. Investigate the gyms in your area and have a good feeling about the one you choose. Take a tour and check out the clientele. Don’t worry if the women look amazing in their fashionable leotards or the men look like body builders. You’re not joining a health club to impress or compete with anyone; your intention is just to feel good. Make sure the gym’s staff are concerned with your interests and understand your needs. They should offer to assess your level of fitness and flexibility and keep your record on their files, giving you a copy to take home. The staff should gear your exercises and activities to whatever suits you at the time, and a reassessment should be done every six months.
Excuse #5: “I feel like a klutz in my exercise class”
Change: Your reaction to other people
When you start an exercise class, it does take a while to assimilate the routine, become familiar with the people in the class and feel comfortable. Remember; everyone in the class felt clumsy at first. To minimize this feeling, take a place in the back row. Look around; no one is looking at you. They’re all enjoying their workout and don’t care about anyone else. Concentrate on your steps and the fun you get out of moving. Get the feet to follow the steps before adding arm movements. It’s difficult to concentrate on getting both right at the start. After five or six classes, you will move better and feel coordinated.
Excuse #6: “Exercise hurts my knee/back”
Change: Your type of exercise.
When I do step class, I’m the only one working with the lowest step, but I don't care. If I use a higher step, my knees hurt. Some of my clients have admitted they are too embarrassed to use the lowest step. What they don’t realize is that the others are too focused on their own workout to notice anything. If certain exercises hurt your back, try other forms of activity. I know what hurts my back; the stair machine and certain stretch exercises. I am reminded each time I hobble into my chiropractor’s office. So instead of climbing the stairs, I use the stationary bike with a backrest. Be careful and try to find ones that suit you and strengthen you.
Excuse #7: “I feel too lazy”
Change: Your attitude.
If you’re not motivated to go to the gym, put on an exercise DVD or video and watch it. This requires very little energy. Once it’s playing, you will find you want to try the stretching. Once you start stretching, your energy increases rapidly, before you know it, you are into the one-hour workout. Don’t underestimate yourself. Push the “play” button now!
Excuse #8: “Exercise cuts into family time”
Change: Your time management.
Do not separate exercise from your family. Be active with family members. Go walking/running/skiing with your spouse or kids. Do things together. The results of your exercise will benefit your whole family. When my children were young, I took them with me to the gym. There was always someone to look after them. Otherwise, they would play in a corner, which meant I would not concentrate fully on the class, but I was still active. Now they’re adults and have left home. When they visit, we do active things together. In the summer evenings, we walk across the road to the parking lot, my daughter inline skates, one of my sons rides his mountain bike and my other son and I jog or walk. (Once we did this at midnight.) When I used to visit them at their university homes, they got used to me working out in their family room, even if it was filled with fellow students. Family time and exercise time can become one and the same.
Excuse #9: “Exercise is boring”
Change: Your activity.
While effective aerobic exercise should be at least twenty minutes, it doesn’t have to be boring. Read on the stationary bike, listen to music or watch television. Another tactic is to change workouts: I change my workouts from bike to weights, machines, aerobics, step or stretching classes, yoga and exercise videos. Even when washing the car and cleaning windows, make long even strokes, alternating arms. You know what you like, make sure you don't get bored.
Excuse #10: “I don’t like to exercise because I always hurt the next day”
Change: Your old-fashioned approach.
A well-structured exercise program may leave you a little stiff, but it’s a nice stiffness. It’s a far cry from the “no pain, no gain” theory of the past. Feeling slightly sore after doing something active is okay. The more often you exercise, the more your body won’t fight back. You’ll start to enjoy working out even though you feel a little stiff. As one of my clients said: "For the first time I can feel and see my muscles, and I’m 50 years old!”
Excuse #11: “I don't want to build up muscles”
Change: Your weight routine.
Don't use heavy weights, use lighter weights more frequently. The muscle definition you then develop is attractive and gives you a smooth, sleek look. Consult with the gym staff to help you develop a weight routine that is geared to your requirements.
Excuse #12: “I travel too much to be active”
Change: Your strategy.
People who travel a lot need to exercise the most. Hours sitting in an airplane, or in a car, leave you ill-prepared to do the work you went there to do. Exercise will help. When traveling, always find out where the closest gym is - usually, it’s in the hotel. Then check it out and dress accordingly. For example, when I travel I may decide to do the stationary bike for thirty minutes, weights for ten minutes, machines for ten minutes and swim for twenty minutes. I can’t always fit all the exercise in, but I have geared my attitude so that I always try. If it isn’t possible, walk and explore the city, or do stretches and exercises in your hotel room.
Cellulite is different from regular fat.
Cellulite is just ordinary, stubborn fat, and is best removed through a low fat diet and exercise, not by using expensive creams and lotions.
Don't exercise when you have a cold.
Daily exercise can speed recovery from common colds by boosting your immune system. A recent study found that women who walked 45 minutes a day recovered twice as fast (five days versus ten days) from colds as women who didn't exercise.
You need to know the benefits you will gain by being active. Which of the following apply to you:
∗ enjoy exercise.
∗ want to have more fun.
∗ increase energy level.
∗ find it sociable.
∗ feel good.
∗ feel relax.
∗ forget about your worries.
∗ look better.
∗ feel accomplished.
∗ increase your self-image.
∗ reduce your body fat.
∗ build muscle.
∗ control stress easier.
∗ moods are improved.
You also want to:
∗ prevent heart disease
∗ reduce blood pressure
∗ prevent diabetes
∗ reduce risk for osteoporosis
∗ reduce back problems
∗ reduce stress
∗ slow down the aging process
∗ increase metabolism
Aren’t those benefits and goals great! Take advantage of them every day.