01 Mar Exercise- Movement for Life!
An exercise program is likely one of the first lines of treatment offered by any naturopath to most patients. Although not a panacea, regular exercise offers health benefits to everyone- young or old, healthy or ill.
The benefits of exercise are numerous and include the following:
• Exercise increases the body’s percentage of lean muscle mass (and decreases body fat). Muscle is a tissue which is highly metabolically active. Increasing your muscle mass increases your body’s metabolic rate; helping you to burn more calories even after you stop exercising. Exercise and healthy diet are key to maintaining a healthy body weight and shape.
• Regular physical activity improves your blood sugar and the sensitivity of your cells to insulin- thereby decreasing the risk of “Metabolic Syndrome” and Diabetes
• Exercise lowers your blood cholesterol and increasing your HDL, or “good cholesterol”. Regular exercise also helps to regulate blood pressure. These factors make exercising on a regular basis critical for decreasing the risk of heart disease.
• Pressure exerted on bones during weight-bearing exercise stimulates bone formation thereby increasing bone density and decreasing the risk of osteoporosis. Exercise may also offer protection for the joints, even in those with rheumatoid or osteoarthritis.
• Exercising results in the release of endorphins- those “feel good” substances in the brain which help to reduce tension and stress, and increases energy and vitality. Endorphins may also help to decrease pain. For example, regular exercise has been shown to decrease the frequency of migraine headaches and also to improve many parameters in those suffering from Fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain.
• Exercising improves sleep quality.
• Physical activity increases mental performance. In fact, older people who exercise regularly, have a lower risk of developing dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).
• Exercise also elevates mood and may increase self esteem. Exercise has also been found to be helpful in mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
• Exercise decreases your risk of many of the most common chronic diseases.
The following are some basic principles of safe and effective exercising:
1) Select activities that you enjoy and can commit to long term. Also, vary the forms of exercise you choose. Include aerobic exercise, strength training, and activities which increase flexibility. You may want to sign up for a gym or find a personal trainer. If you find it difficult to get out of the house to exercise, a home gym or some good workout videos can be very beneficial.
2) Remember that exercise can be included in your daily activities. A nice idea is to purchase an inexpensive pedometer and aim to increase the number of steps you take on a daily basis; working your way up to 10,000 steps a day.
3) Give your body time to warm up and cool down to prevent injury. This means low-intensity exercise for about five minutes at the beginning and end of a workout.
4) Aerobic exercise increases heart rate and breaths per minute and includes activities such as walking, running, swimming, cycling, rowing, tennis, dancing, and climbing stairs. Your goal should be to reach a level of between 60 and 80% of your maximal heart rate (220 minus your age in years). I advise my patients to exercise at an intensity at which they would be able to talk but not sing and try to maintain that heart rate for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Walking is a great form of aerobic exercise, especially for beginners. It involves all of the major muscle groups and puts very little strain on joints. Duration can be gradually increased and you can add hills or hand weights and increase your speed to elevate intensity.
5) Resistance training is also very important to good health. As we age, muscle mass declines and fat increases in our bodies. Resistance training helps to maintain muscle mass. I recommend three sets of about 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise with a rest of about a minute between sets. All major muscle groups (arms, legs, back, chest, and abdomen) should be exercised on alternating days with a rest day in between. You should vary your program and gradually increase the weights you use.
One way to add resistance training without going to the gym is to use gravity and your own body weight to work your muscles. Examples include squats, abdominal crunches, and pushups. You can use cans of food, exercise bands, or dumbbells at home for added resistance.
6) Remember to stretch adequately before and after exercising. Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds. Breathe slowly and deeply as you stretch.
Remember that it takes some time to turn any new activity into a long-lasting habit. As the old saying goes: “all beginnings are difficult”, but the rewards of a regular exercise program are tremendous!
Note: Consult a healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program, as some exercise routines may not be suitable for individuals with an underlying health condition.
Please Note: This information is for educational purposes only. Consultation with a licensed health care practitioner is recommended for anyone suffering from a health ailment.You are free to use the information in this newsletter or pass it on to others, but please keep it intact and credit it to Dr. Leat Kuzniar, ND.