- Boosts heart and lung capacity
- Gentle on the joints
- Decreases cholesterol levels
- Increases insulin sensitivity (due to water resistance which exercises the muscles)
- Decreases blood pressure
- Decreases bodyfat
- Decreases waist size
- Tones all of the major muscles (e.g., arms, shoulders, hips, legs)
- Relieves joint stiffness
- Decreases joint pain
- Increases joint flexibility
- Relieves chronic lower back pain (due to water buoyancy which reduces spinal stress)
Walking, biking, rowing, and swimming are at the top of the list. All are superb exercises because they are considered low-impact exercises and are therefore easy on the joints. Swimming is ideal for those who are overweight, obese, and/or have osteoarthritis. Swimming is also an excellent exercise for pregnant women. Plus, it's never too late to start! Here are just some of the benefits of swimming:
The health consequences of obesity are astronomical! In fact, clinicians and scientists are discovering more dire risks to mortality regularly due to this disease. This is the one disease that is expected to plague mankind for generations. Interesting how humans have existed for tens of thousands of years and yet only within the last forty years has obesity been a real problem in our society! Could it be the advent of fast food that is prevalent in our culture? Or could it be video games? Or could it be sedentary, cubical occupations which involves sitting in front of a keyboard all day? Or could it be automobiles where we sit in traffic for hours each day? Or could it be a combination of all of the above? Whatever the cause, the problem is deadly serious and the fallout is higher health costs for everyone.
The consequences of being obese include:
High cholesterol, or dyslipidemia, can be characterized by any or all of the following:
Asthma is very common in adults and is characterized by shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest tightening, etc. Asthma is exhibited by an inflammatory response in the airway caused by any of an assortment of factors including infection, exercise, allergies, increased mucus production, emotional stress, cold dry air, air pollution, and certain medications. In essence, the bronchioles (lung airways) narrow due to spasms which restrict airflow to the alveoli (lung air sacs), causing difficulty breathing when inhaling air.
Specific steps to help alleviate asthma include:
Contrary to the past, exercise is highly recommended for women who are pregnant as the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. Here are just some of the benefits of exercise that can benefit pregnant women:
Still the most fatal disease in the country, heart disease is caused by excessive plaque within the coronary arteries leading to the heart muscle. The plaque, which consists of mostly cholesterol and fatty deposits, causes an obstruction of the blood supply to the heart. If left untreated, clogged coronary arteries can cause a fatal heart attack.
There are primarily seven positive risk factor for coronary heart disease:
Looking at the above list, the modifiable risk factors are smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes (type-2), and sedentary lifestyle. The most important factor that should be addressed is smoking. It is the one factor that has the most significance in terms of reducing heart disease risk. Eating a healthier diet (e.g., less trans and saturated fat, less sodium, more potassium, less alcohol) and exercising regularly (esp. aerobic exercise) are the other factors that would significantly reduce heart disease risk. Increasing folate, vit B-6, vit B-12, and niacin in your diet can be beneficial. The reality is that if you exercise regularly, you'll less likely to be smoking and have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Exercise will lessen your body weight which will decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as moderate your insulin levels (reducing diabetic symptoms).
Here are the recommended exercise guidelines for those having heart disease:
Contrary to recommendations in the past which indicated rest, nowadays exercise is considered better medicine for those suffering from arthritis. Why is this? Because exercise helps to reduce joint stiffness and pain. For those suffering from the debilitating symptoms of arthritis, it's imperative to resist the urge not to exercise! Why? Because being sedentary will only make your symptoms worse such as more stiffness and pain. Exercise serves to strengthen muscles and protect joint integrity. Contrary to popular opinion, exercise will lessen pain, increase mobility, and help control your bodyweight. Here are recommended exercise guidelines for those with arthritis:
The diagnosis of diabetes is dependent on blood glucose levels (i.e., casual plasma glucose level greater than 200 mg/dl; fasting plasma glucose level greater than 126 mg/dl). One has to be very careful about exercising while having diabetes as blood sugar levels can fluctuate dramatically during periods of intense physical activities. The body of a person with diabetes is not able to readily metabolize sugar because the hormone insulin cannot efficiently transport glucose (blood sugar) into the cells of the body for energy. Either the pancreas cannot produce adequate insulin (Type-1 diabetes) or the cells cannot utilize it properly (Type-2 diabetes). Most people with diabetes have the latter issue in which their pancreas produces enough insulin but due to being overweight or obese, their body's cells have become less insulin sensitive.
Resistance (weight) training, which promotes increased muscle mass, can lower the risk of type-2 diabetes. The latest findings recently published in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism discovered a correlation with increased muscle mass and decreased insulin resistance which is a precursor to diabetes. Researchers found that for every 10% increase in skeletal muscle index (ratio of muscle mass to total body weight), there is an 11% reduction in insulin resistance and a 12% reduction in prediabetes. Prediabetes is the beginning stage of diabetes when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Even if you already have type-2 diabetes, resistance training may play a role in helping to better use the insulin produced. The reason for this is because muscle is a very insulin-sensitive tissue within the body. The more muscle you have, the more glucose your body can metabolize because of increased insulin sensitivity. Besides increasing your muscle mass, an increase in chromium and fiber intake will also help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Diabetes is an insidious disease as the symptoms run the gamut (e.g., blurred vision, excessive thirst, tremors, extremity numbness, frequent urination, confusion, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, extreme hunger, anxiousness, headaches, etc.) but it can be treated or even prevented by proper exercise. Recent research in Neurology has indicated that type-2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. A sedentary lifestyle is certainly a risk factor for diabetes due to the increased fat storage and decreased muscle mass that occurs. Some of the benefits of exercise with regard to diabetes include:
Optimal blood pressure is 115/75 and should be the goal for all people. If your blood pressure is at or above 140/90, you are in the hypertensive range and need to make some lifestyle changes if you want to live long enough to enjoy your grandchildren. Harsh? Perhaps, but so is dying needlessly due to poor lifestyle choices (e.g., eating high-fat sugary foods regularly, being sedentary). Here are my recommendations to get you on the right path to living a healthy life:
Should you exercise even though you are older than 65 years of age and if so, what are the exercise guidelines?
Absolutely! In very rare instances would it be contraindicated to exercise when of advanced age (e.g., severe coronary heart disease, arrhythmia, uncontrolled hypertension, acute myocarditis, and/or thrombosis). The benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks. As we get older, such things as agility, balance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, muscular strength and endurance, motor coordination, power, speed, and mobility become much more important. Not surprisingly, most if not all of these things can be maintained via regular physical activity (esp. resistance exercise). Many of the physiological changes that occur as a result of both aging and inactivity (e.g., muscle atrophy, decreased bone density, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, insomnia, incontinence, etc.) can be ameliorated by exercise. The majority of major lifestyle-related diseases (e.g., type-2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, colon cancer, etc.) can be prevented by regular exercise. Exercise can provide the strength, vigor, endurance, and flexibility in older adults comparable to those who are thirty years younger. In addition, and probably most importantly for most seniors, regular exercise decreases one's dependence on others for everyday activities (e.g., shopping, cooking, etc.). Just last month a study was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (July 6th, 2011) regarding how much resistance training exercise is needed for older adults compared to younger people. The study found that older adults (60-75 years of age) need to exercise more than younger people (20-35 years of age) in order to maintain muscle mass.
If you haven't exercised for quite some time, here are the exercise guidelines:
I can think of at least a dozen reasons for taking supplements. As you read through the list, ask yourself if any of the reasons are applicable in your case. If the answer is yes, you may consider trying out certain supplements. Bear in mind that the purpose of a supplement is to provide the vitamins, minerals, and/or amino acids that may be missing from your diet. You should only consider taking supplements after you have a healthy diet plan. Whole foods contain a complex variety of nutrients and phytochemicals that enhance micronutrient absorption to promote greater health benefits than supplements. Also, please understand that supplements are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Association) and therefore the claims made on the label may not be accurate or true. It is illegal for a supplement to make a "structure" or "function" claim (e.g., prevents heart disease, reduces blood pressure, etc.) on its label. The FDA does not approve of such claims without independent clinical substantiation. Only drugs can legally make claims that a product can "diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."
Here are some of the reasons for taking supplements:
Of course there are risks and benefits of taking supplements:
If you are interested in trying a supplement, here are some strategies you should consider before choosing:
Are there any dangers to trying any of the fad diets that I see in any of the magazines or on the internet?
Knowledge is power when it comes to going on a particular diet one finds in the media. You'd do yourself a big favor by doing some research first before you decide to use your body for an experiment--not knowing what the end result will be like. In most cases, there is very little, if any, clinical evidence to indicate the efficacy of most diets out there. Each diet is fraught with dangers.
Low-carb diets (e.g., the Zone Diet, the Atkins Diet) are not recommended as the risk of ketosis may occur. Ketosis is the scientific term which describes a condition when a buildup of ketones (free fatty acid bodies) occurs within the blood due to a serious deficiency in glucose. In essence, the body resorts to using fat as its primary fuel source when carbs are not sufficiently available. Sounds good, right? Wrong! This condition will cause a reduction in blood pH level as a result of increased acidity--not a healthy scenerio. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and overall fatigue. Also, the body's fat metabolism slows when carbs are limited because fat burning becomes less efficient. Remember, the body burns fat more quickly when in the presence of carbs.
Low-protein diets (e.g., the Fit-for-Life Diet) are not recommended as the risk of catabolism, or muscle wasting, may occur. In essence, the body resorts to feeding off of its lean body mass (e.g., muscle tissue, bone, skin, etc.) in order to survive when protein is not sufficiently available. Remember, the body does not need muscles to survive. The health of its organs (e.g., liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, etc.) are much more paramount in order to live. A low-protein diet may reduce cellular turnover and thus, decrease the body's ability to renew its cells regularly.
Low-fat diets (e.g., the Pritkin Diet) are not recommended as the risk of malnutrition increases since inadequate fat within the diet will lessen the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (e.g., vit A, E, D, and K). In addition, there is clinical evidence that blood cholesterol increases when the body is starved of fat in the diet. Increased cholesterol may predispose one to a higher risk of heart attack and/or stroke. Inadequate fat in the diet may also reduce abdominal fat. Sounds good, right? Once again, wrong! Abdominal visceral fat is needed to protect the body's internal organs and cushion them from injury. Finally, a low-fat diet reduces unsaturated fat (healthy fat) intake.
Low-calorie diets are not recommended as the risk of malnutrition increases as calories decrease. Assorted vitamin and mineral deficiencies will develop if this diet is continued for long periods of time. Other problems include catabolism, decreased overall energy, headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, etc. If you do decide to try a low-calorie diet, just try it for a short duration and NEVER eat less than 1200 kcals.
Here are some questions you should ask regarding any of the fad diets you may see:
The importance of drinking adequate water cannot be overstated. Here are some reasons for drinking water regularly:
Here are the basic considerations you must follow:
Myths abound and are prevalent in our society because people like to believe in easy, quick fixes for losing weight and gaining muscle mass. As a result, there is a plethora of products preying on naive consumers in order to make money. The media is mostly to blame since this is how most people obtain information or misinformation in this case.
Many magazine and website editors continually encourage the publication of articles which lack much in the way of factual information and peddle it as new or novel approaches to training or supplementation. The reality is the information provided is simply a retread of what has already been said countless numbers of times, only written in a different way to make the article seem interesting.
But let's not direct all our blame onto the media. Ignorant consumers who "believe" the newest training routine (e.g., the Insanity Workout, P90X, etc.) is the way to achieve the perfect physique are only deluding themselves and actually encourage unscrupulous salespersons to take advantage of the opportunity to rip us off. There is nothing magical about these new trends in exercise routines. If you see it in a late night infomercial, be very wary and view it with a healthy sense of skepticism. Once again, the name of the game is to separate you from your pocketbook.
There is no magic bullet for losing weight or gaining muscle since each individual's body responds uniquely to training stimuli. The key is to utilize the technique of trial and error in discovering which exercises, sets, reps, rest periods, workout splits, etc. work best for you and you alone. Just because the big guy in the gym has built a physique worthy of admiration does not mean he knows exactly what works for you to get big. He may have spent most of his life building his body to what it is today through many years of dedicated and persistent training. Again, everyone responds differently to exercises, nutrition and supplements. Supplement and equipment salespersons' main objective is to sale their product no matter if there is a lack of scientific or biomechanical evidence to back up the product.
Here are some of the common myths regarding exercise, nutrition and supplementation:
Wrong! Cellulite is caused by fatty deposits and fibrous tissue within the subcutaneous layer of the skin. Remember the concept of spot reduction being a worthless way to tone certain muscle groups? The same concept applies here as well. You cannot tone any muscle and expect cellulite to magically go away. The body just does not work that way. Although there is some evidence within the scientific literature indicating that the dimpling caused by cellulite can be temporarily reduced or smoothed out by daily deep tissue massage.
Low-intensity cardio can be effective in burning bodyfat if performed for long durations (e.g, more than 30 minutes), but interval training can be just as effective in burning an equivalent or more bodyfat in less time. The key is the amount of total amount of calories burned during the exercise--that is all that matters as far as the body is concerned. Nutrition is also a big factor in that the body can more efficiently burn bodyfat when there are carbs available. In other words, fat burning occurs more readily when in the presence of carbs. So performing cardio while on a low-carb diet is not the best way to burn bodyfat.
The optimal exercise prescription is one that recommends the combination of cardio and weight training for losing bodyweight. The increase in metabolism caused by muscle stimulation and increased lean body mass causes more calories to be expended, which in turn increases weight loss.
Don't mistake losing bodyweight with losing bodyfat! They are two completely different animals. But more to the point, the bodyweight lost is merely water weight and fluctuates throughout the day. This is why checking your bodyweight before and immediately after working out is only useful for determining how much water you lost and therefore how much you should drink to rehydrate your body. Actually believing you lost poundage from fat after working out is wishful thinking to put it mildly. Incidently, any weight lost by wearing a rubber suit or a sweat shirt while exercising will be mostly water weight, not bodyfat. As soon as you replenish your body with fluids (or food for that matter), those pounds you lost in the gym will return almost as fast as they left. Of course sweating is indicative of a strenuous workout session and can ultimately lead to weight loss.
I think by now you know this idea is preposterous. The phenomenon of "spot reduction" has absolutely no supportive evidence.
Let's get this straight: Muscle tissue is not the same as fat tissue--they are completely distinct body tissues and therefore it is an impossibility for muscle to turn into fat. But having said this, it is true that muscles will lose size and shape from lack of regular exercise--a process called atrophy wherein muscle tissue is wasted away. In laymen's terms, "use it or lose it!"
Actually, losing weight is relatively easy for most people without metabolic problems (e.g., disfunctional thyroid gland). It's keeping the weight off that's the hard part and what causes weight cycling (and hence yo-yo dieting) in many people. The diet industry will continue to stay in business because most people cannot maintain their bodyweight. The solution is simple: Combine a sensible exercise and complementary nutrition plan to encourage permanent weight loss.
Unfortunately this is not the case. If you continue to perform the same workout without progression (e.g., increased loads or sets), you will inevitably continue to get the same results--a condition known as stagnation. This is where a reputable personal trainer can provide valuable knowledge and expertise in getting you on the right path to achieving your fitness goals.
The above statement is a myth because it is too simplistic. In order to gain appreciable muscle mass, relatively heavy weights (e.g., 65 to 75% 1-RM), moderate reps (e.g., 8 to 12 reps), short rest periods (e.g., less than 1 min), and compound exercises incorporating large muscle groups (e.g, squat, deadlift) is what is needed to cause the growth hormone and testosterone release necessary to stimulate appreciable muscle mass. In order to define the body, relatively light weights (e.g., 50 to 65% 1-RM), high reps (e.g., 15 to 25 reps), and isolation exercises (e.g., leg extension, leg curl) may "tone up" your muscles but at the expense of some muscle being burned in the process. In order to maintain muscle mass, it's better to continue lifting relatively heavy weights. Heavy weight training tends to burn fat due to the retention of muscle mass. A keen nutrition program in conjunction with cardio and heavy weight training is more likely to get you ripped than light weights with high reps.
Testosterone levels largely determine one's gain in muscle mass from training. Studies have shown that women produce only about 10 percent of the testosterone that men produce, which significantly reduces their potential to gain considerable muscle size. On the other hand, women should perform strength training to at least maintain a lean physique. Strength training improves body composition by reducing fat mass while increasing lean body mass (i.e., muscle). Bottom line: women should train no differently than men when it comes to strength training. Thus, squats, bench presses, deadlifts, pull-ups, pushups, etc. are exercises all women should perform to look sexy and strong!
Feeling sore, an indication of what's known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is not required in order to gain muscle mass, tone up, etc. What's important is that your workout is productive and intense enough to stimulate more strength in your muscle tissue, nerves and bones.
If this were true, shouldn't there be more people sporting flat stomachs in the world? If seems everywhere you look in the gym, you'll see somebody doing abdominal crunches--it's a ubiquitous exercise for sure. Unfortunately, the reality is crunches do not flatten the stomach. Instead, the exercise will help to strengthen your core muscles (e.g., rectus abdominus) under that layer of fat tissue called subcutaneous fat. In other words, crunches will get your abs stronger but will not burn your belly fat (see the spot reduction myth above). A healthy, clean nutrition plan will help to reduce the fat around your midsection and allow your hard-earned six-pack to appear.
This myth most likely got started when physique competitors began eating less food (i.e., low carbs) while doing cardio in an effort to lean out. It's not the cardio that is the culprit but rather caloric intake that's really at issue here. Of course cardio may become a factor when it is performed for over an hour every day of the week. But in most cases, the decrease in muscle mass is more likely to be attributed to not eating enough food to accommodate the hard training. Adequate protein (i.e., whey protein shakes post-workout) is especially crucial to maintain muscle mass when caloric intake decreases.
This myth got started from a study which indicated eating soy may increase estrogen within the body. But all of the hoopla needs to be taken down many notches because the amount of soy needed for this to happen was not emphasized. In other words, one would have to eat large amounts of soy protein every day for estrogen levels to increase. Most people don't eat nearly enough soy for this to occur.
This provides an easy excuse for why you're not losing bodyfat. It takes hard work, dedication, discipline, and most of all, consistency when it comes to leaning out. Your nutrition, cardio and weight training needs to be well-planned and adhered to in order for progress to be made. We all have the capacity to accomplish our fitness goals but the key is hard work and some sacrifice to get there.
This myth will not die! Weight loss should never be confused with fat loss. The weight scale only displays body weight, not fat weight. I'm always entertained by many gym goers who weigh themselves before and after weight training. They believe by what the scale shows that they're losing fat weight when in reality they're losing water weight. There's no way you can burn an appreciable amount of bodyfat from just one training session but you can become dehydrated and therefore lose water weight. I bet the same people who believe you can burn bodyfat from each training session also believe you can accelerate the fat burning process by wearing a sweatshirt while working out. Please! Again, the weight lost is water weight, not fat weight. The best way to ascertain whether or not you're burning bodyfat is to perform a skinfold assessment or simply look in the mirror. The mirror does not lie. How you look tells the story.
Ah, if only it was this easy--everyone would have ripped abs for the summer if this was true! The reality is that eating foods labeled as "low-fat" or "fat-free" may actually make you fatter. Why? Because these foods tend to have more sugar, salt, preservatives, and chemicals than regular foods in order to make them as palatable and to increase shelf life. Remember fat makes food tasty and rich. The manufacturers are compelled to add sugar and sodium to "low-fat" and "fat-free" foods to sell their products. Unfortunately, high carbs (from added sugar) and excess sodium (from added salt) wreak havoc on a lean diet. Highly processed foods may actually reduce one's metabolism when consumed regularly and make the process of leaning out even harder. Instead, eat a cheat meal at least once per week to satisfy your craving for sweet or fattening foods. This way, you'll less likely want to overindulge in decadent foods.
The answer is most likely due to a lack of recovery or inadequate rest after an intense exercise session. This is why you should "listen" to your body as it always "tells" you what you need to know. In this case, your body is telling you, "cease and desist with the hard training and please let me rest!" What many people fail to do is actually listen to the body and abide to what it says. You may have reached the stage referred to as "over-reaching" (short-term fatigue) and are in danger of getting to the stage called "over-training" (long-term fatigue) if you're not careful. If you've just experienced a feeling of sluggishness recently, all that's needed is to allow your body and mind to rest at least one but maybe two days. Failure to take time off from training will cause your body to regress into a state of longer-term fatigue which could require at least a week of rest! In addition, your immune system may be compromised, causing you be become sick more easily. As your exercise intensity and/or volume increases, the risk of compromising your immune system function increases. This means that your risk of contracting an infection increases. To maintain your immune system function while engaging in intense weight training, be sure to get adequate micronutrients. Vitamins A, B6, B12, thiamin, C, D, and E and the minerals iron, zinc, selenium, copper, and magnesium are associated with immune function.
Active recovery is an option if you cannot resist hitting the gym most days of the week. This simply refers to exercising at a low-intensity level (i.e., 50% loading with high repetitions) on days when you do not feel your best. In this way, you can enhance your recovery. Another option is to "periodize" your workout days--for instance, rotating your workouts with hard, medium and light intensities every other day (e.g., Monday is hard day, Wednesday is medium day, Friday is light day). "Periodization" refers to a concept wherein your training is broken down into chunks (e.g., hard, medium, light workouts) as a means to avoid overtraining and to keep your training "fresh". Training in this way is very practical and will enable you to get stronger, more powerful, and gain muscle mass while lessening the risk of injury.
There are several factors which determine one's ability to recover from workouts. These factors include age, training intensity, nutrition, stress, and level of cardiovascular fitness. The most significant factor is age because younger people recover much faster from workouts than older people. Training intensity is the next significant factor because high-intensity training requires more recovery time. Nutrition should not be underestimated since a lack of nutrients will inevitably slow recovery. Of course, high stress slows the recovery process. A high level of cardiovascular fitness hastens the recovery process because the circulatory system is able to deliver more nutrients and remove metabolites more quickly.
Some of the markers of overtraining are the following:
Do some of these markers seem familiar and apply to yourself? If so, then you need to make a change in either your lifestyle, your training routine, or both.
Regarding a change in your lifestyle, consider the following:
Absolutely! In fitness training parlance this concept is referred to as "cross training". I highly recommend you do any of the following: