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Archive for the ‘Healthy Habits’ Category

Back in February, we looked at whether a walking routine would meet the guidelines for moderate level intensity exercise set by the CDC’s 2008 Physical Guidelines for Americans.  The studies we looked at reported that walking is considered a moderate level intensity exercise but only if you walk as fast as a 15 minute mile.  Other studies suggest that walking is beneficial even if you walk slower but emphasized that as you walk faster there is a corresponding increase in the health benefits that you will receive.  

But this is only half of the story… 

In addition to recommending 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of a moderate intensity aerobic activity, like walking, the CDC also recommends that adults perform muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week.  While walking is great for your aerobic fitness, walking will not strengthen most of your major muscle groups. 

Do you have any idea what the word ‘sarcopenia’ means?  I didn’t either.  But, I learned that sarcopenia is a condition of age-related loss of muscle mass and strength.  We begin to lose muscle mass around age 40 and, if you don’t do anything to stop it, up to 33% of your muscle mass may be gone by age 80. 

Researchers are focusing on why we lose muscle mass as a part of aging and many think that it is related to a slow-down of blood flow to our muscles as we age which deprives our muscles of the nutrients and oxygen needed to rebuild and repair our muscles. 

Weight training is one way to stop the process of losing muscle mass and increasing the blood flow to your muscles.  (Prevention –Feb 2010, pg. 73) In as little 15-30 minutes each day, you can perform all the weight training exercises you need to realize improvement in your muscle mass – no matter what your age!  

Weight training will help you reverse the age-related loss of muscle mass and prevent an increase in body fat as you maintain or increase your muscle mass.  Exercise helps the muscle cells get bigger and it also makes your muscles stronger.  Weight training will reduce body fat, increase your bone density, increase lean muscle, and help you control your weight as your body burns calories more efficiently.  If you are suffering from arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity or osteoporosis, weight training can help reduce the symptoms of these chronic conditions.

It is easy to start a weight training program right at home.  All you need are free weights which you can find at any Target, Wal-Mart or sports store. You can try the weights out at the store to see what you should start with.  I have 3 lb., 5 lb., and 8 lb. weights that I use for my workouts.  Believe it or not these free weights coupled with exercises that use your own body weight for resistance is all that you need to start a weight training program. 

The most recent information on weight training indicates that aiming for 8-12 repetitions of the heaviest weight that you can lift is the most efficient way to work your muscles.  For instance, if you are a beginner to a weight training program and you are working your biceps, see if you can lift 3lbs for 8 repetitions.  Was it easy or were you struggling to make it to 8 reps?  If you were struggling, then you are using the correct weight, for now.  If it was easy to reach 12 reps then move up to the 5lbs. and so one until you find a weight that is challenging for you.  When your current weight is no longer a challenge, move up to the next weight. 

Your weight training routine should target your main muscle groups including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.  Right now I am following the Total Body Routine developed by Mark Fenton in his book The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss & Fitness.  For a comprehensive weight training routine, Fenton suggests building up to 2 sets of 12 reps for the following exercises:  push-ups, bent-over rows, lunge with bar or weights, full abdominal crunch, overhead press, pull-ups, squat with bar or weights, isometric side support, dips and biceps curl.  If your time for weight training is limited, he suggests completing exercises 1-6 from the list above on the 1st day and exercises 7-10 on the 2nd day.  You should alternate between the 1st workout and the 2nd workout 3 times per week allowing for 1 day of full rest.  Disclaimer:  I do not do pull-ups and I substitute ‘regular’ crunches in the sit-up position for the full abdominal crunch. 

If you are unfamiliar with any of the exercise above or you want to try different weight training routines, there are many resources that can help:

  • Check out Fenton’s book from your local library and learn about the Total Body Routine exercises and all of the other great walking information he discusses in his book
  • Go to the AARP website for video instruction on some of the exercises listed above
  • Go to the Prevention website for demonstrations of arm, back, butt, chest, and leg exercises
  • Check out weight training DVDs or books at the library
  • Hire a personal trainer for a session or two
  • Ask a friend who has experience weight lifting to give you some pointers
  • Download a weight lifting instructional application to your smart phone

Like all exercise programs, you should warm up your muscles before you jump into the main routine.  I do an ‘ultimate energy’ qigong stretching routine before I lift weights.  Check out this link if you want to learn more about qigong or you would like to see a step-by-step video presentation of this routine.  This routine gently stretches many of your main muscle groups and it is a good start to a weight lifting routine.  One more thing to remember is that you should never work the same muscles two days in a row – give those muscles a day off in between workouts.  

So keep walking everyday, but also think about starting a weight training program today to keep your muscles strong and healthy for a lifetime. 

Do you lift weights regularly?  Do you lift at home or at the gym?  Let me know with a comment.

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Routine – customary or regular course of procedure; habitual.

Routines give us predictability in our day, help us remember all of the things we need to accomplish and help us get things done more efficiently.  Take your morning routine for example.  As you start your work day you probably do the same things in the same way at about the same time every day.  This highly developed morning routine is necessary to get everyone out the door on time.  If you were forced to change up your routine every morning it would take a lot longer to get ready and you would probably forget something important like feeding the cat, giving your children their lunch money or letting the dog out.    

In much the same way that your morning tasks are easier under the framework of your morning routine, meeting your exercise goals is also easier if you assign a place for exercise in your daily routine.

Without a daily exercise routine:

  • You can forget to exercise
  • You exercise only for the time you have left rather than for the time you plan
  • You can lose sight of your fitness goals
  • It is easy to go down the slippery slope that starts with skipping a day ends with skipping every day. 

If you haven’t been successful keeping up with your exercise goals, could it be that you have not established exercise into your daily routine? 

Try giving exercise a priority status in your day like you (should) do for sleeping, eating, working, and spending time with your family.

Take it slow.  As you work to establish your new exercise routine it is more important that you exercise every day than it is for you to exercise a long time every day.  Commit to your exercise routine at the same time everyday for a minimum of 10 -15 minutes.  Nothing too strenuous.  Keep your new routine manageable as your body and your schedule adapt to the new routine.  You will have plenty of time to commit even more time and effort once your new routine is established.

I’ve been using this approach recently as I try to incorporate meditation into my daily routine.  Like most of you I need fewer things to do in the morning not more…. and that is why I rarely have time to meditate for more than 6 minutes each morning.  The important thing is that I have meditated every morning for the past two weeks.  I look forward to these precious minutes of quiet and solitude.  At some point in the future I may find a way to increase the time I meditate but I’m not worried about that now – the important thing is that I am giving meditation a place in my routine every morning.

It can also be helpful if you use a prompt in your day that will push you to exercise at that time.  I have 4 prompts in my work day that push me to walk:

  • After I park my car I walk 7 minutes to the office
  • At the start of my lunch break I walk for 20 minutes
  • At the end of my work day I walk another 7 minutes back to my car
  • When I get home from work my son and I walk my dog for 20 minutes 

Because my prompts for walking are so specific it is nearly impossible for me to forget to walk.  I have developed such strong habits for walking at these times that it is truly a part of my day as much as eating or sleeping.  As you work on developing your exercise routine try to work prompts into your day so that exercise will become an important part of your day.

Checklist for starting an exercise routine:

  • Give exercise priority status in your daily schedule
  • Find a way to exercise every day; use prompts in your day that will push you to exercise
  • Focus on the daily habit.  Don’t try to do too much too soon.
  • Keep at it even when you don’t want to – you will love yourself if you do
  • Try not to miss a day for at least the first 10 days
  • Do it for you.  Tell yourself frequently why you want to exercise every day
  • Make it real – tell your family and friends about your new exercise routine or write about it in your journal;
  • Find support in a friend, an exercise group or Walk Today

One last thought…If the thought of starting an exercise routine now, in the dead of winter, leaves you feeling blah don’t feel bad.  It can be very hard to motivate ourselves to start a fitness routine when it is cold and gray outside – maybe that is one reason our New Year’s fitness goals don’t always work out so well.  Spring will be here soon so now is the perfect time to start planning an exercise routine that you can start once the snow melts and the temperatures rise.  I hope these pictures will remind you of the warm days ahead and will inspire you to start planning a spring exercise routine today.

Chicago, IL

Henderson, KY

Gordonsville, TN

Fall Creek Falls State Park, TN

Tell me how you plan to start or change your exercise routine?  Will your routine change when Spring comes?  Does your routine change from workday to weekend?

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Drink Water at One Meal Per Day

Do you drink water with your meals?  It is a great habit to develop.  Not only is water a healthy and necessary requirement for your body but it has zero calories. 

Try this at home:  drink a glass of water with one of your daily meals instead of the beverage you would normally drink.  As long as you don’t sneak in a replacement drink later in the day, you will consume fewer calories each day.

For example, drinking a glass of water with dinner instead of an 8oz. glass of cranberry juice cocktail will save you 137 calories per day, 959 calories per week and a whopping 49,868 calories per year.  If it takes 3,500 calories to equal a pound then 49,868 calories equals 14.24 lbs. over a year’s time.  That’s 14 lbs. that you can control with one small change in your daily routine.

Scroll below to see the calorie content for some of your favorite beverages.

Beverage / Calories                                                   

Cola, 8 oz.  /  112 calories

Cranberry Juice Cocktail, 8 oz.  /  137 calories

Grape Drink, 8oz.  /  143 calories

Iced Tea-Sweetened, 12 oz.  /  120 calories

Kool-Aid,* 8 oz.  /  96 calories

Lemon-lime Soda, 8oz.  /  98 calories

Light Beer, 12 oz.  /  103 calories

Milk-2%, 8 oz.  /  122 calories

Orange Juice, 8 oz.  /  112 calories

Soy Milk, 8 oz.  /  125 calories

Wine-Red, 6 oz.  /  150 calories

Wine-White, 6 oz.  /  147 calories

*mix 1 cup sugar per 2 quarts water 

Source:  www.ahealthyme.com and www.caloriecount.about.com

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