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Posts Tagged ‘workout’

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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Have you ever thought that walking is too easy to be considered a ‘real’ exercise?  That walking is what you do when you want an easy fitness routine?  Something you do when you are recovering from an injury?  Something you do when you can’t run or bicycle?  Do you ever wonder if walking is really a workout?  Is walking enough?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that adults need 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week for the greatest health benefits.  That’s less than 22 minutes each day.  You don’t even have to complete the 22 minutes all at once.  Exercising at a moderate intensity for at least 10 minutes leads to the same health benefits as longer sessions. And, yes, walking is considered a moderate intensity activity but to reach ‘moderate intensity’ the CDC states you need to walk at least as fast as a 15 minute mile. 

I thought a 15 minutes mile sounded easy enough.  I was sure that I was walking at least that fast when I walk during my lunch break.  So I timed myself using my cell phone clock – not exactly precise timing but close enough.  During the cold of winter I walk on a small track.  I warm up with a .5 lap of slow walking and I end my walk with a .5 lap of slow walking.  I walk a mile or 10.47 laps at my ‘thinking’ pace.  This is the pace that lets my mind wander, brain storm, ponder and contemplate.  Any faster and my mind can’t wander as I seem to concentrate more on breathing and moving faster.  After walking for 1 mile I checked the phone and I was a little surprised to see that I do not walk a 15 minute mile…I walk a 17 minute mile.  So I tried again the next day and I walked a 16 minute mile.  Either way I am not meeting the CDC recommendation of walking a 15 minute mile.

Another way to measure your walking intensity is to count the number of steps you take per minute.  According to this study you need to take at least 100 steps per minute to reach a level of moderate intensity.  I enlisted the help of my son and his IPod Nano stop watch feature to time my steps per minute.  I tried to walk the same pace I do during lunch but the conditions were different from the track:  we were outside, it was windy and I had on a winter coat.  Nevertheless, the first test result was 120 steps per minute.  Second test, 118 steps per minute. 

If you aren’t walking a 15 minute mile or walking 100 steps per minute, realize that you are still doing something great for your health.  A study by Tim Church of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center concluded that walking at the pace of a 20 minute mile can improve your fitness.  This study tracked women who were 50 years old or older who walked 72 minutes per week at the pace of a 20 minute mile.  The study found a nearly 4% improvement in the cardiovascular fitness of the women tested despite the fact that they only walked 72 minutes per week and they walked at a 20-minute mile pace.  These results were not expected, in fact, Church stated he was really surprised at the increase in fitness of the test subjects.

Other studies have also been conducted to determine if people benefit from an exercise routine based on walking.  These studies examine how much walking is required to achieve health benefits and how walking slower or faster or for different lengths impact the health benefits. 

One study published in the January 2010 Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who walked at a moderate intensity level during their middle age years had “fewer chronic diseases and had greater mental acuity” at age 70.  The study also found that those women who walked even faster than a moderate pace “increased their odds of successful aging by 3-fold.”

Another study separated 128 sedentary men and women into two groups – one group walked at their own pace and the other group walked at a moderate intensity level.  Both groups participated in their assigned exercise routine for six months.  At the end of six months, both groups showed improvement in increased aerobic fitness and both groups showed a decrease in systolic blood pressure.  The group that walked at a moderate intensity was shown to exhibit more than double the health benefits of the group that self-paced their walks. 

What all these studies confirm is that walking is enough.  Walking at almost any pace will lead to some health benefits.  Walking at a moderate intensity level will lead to significant health benefits and walking even faster will lead to more substantial health benefits. 

Moving your body is always healthier than sitting or lounging.  Moving faster will provide you with even more health benefits than moving slower.

If you are just starting a walking routine finding a comfortable pace will keep you coming back for more.  Trying to do too much – too soon can result in injury or giving up if the effort required is too hard. 

For those of us who are already walking regularly, we should break free of our exercise comfort zone and challenge our bodies to walk at a faster pace.  Through this increased effort we can maximize the health benefits we receive from daily walking. 

For me, I may have become too accustomed to my ‘thinking pace.’  I am going to focus on increasing my pace during part of my daily walk – I think I will speed up during at least 3 or 4 laps so I will still have some walking time to brainstorm and ponder. 

Have you ever felt like exercise isn’t a real workout?  Do these studies make you want to walk longer or walk faster than you usually do?  Let me know in the comments.

One of my favorite blogs, Fit and Forty Something, recently asked ‘Does Walking Count.’ Read this post.

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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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