I often hear this question from clients. We all wish there was a magic pill that could help us lose weight and stay fit. But, even though there may be pills to decrease appetite (not something I’m advocating), we would still miss out on the all important benefits of exercise.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE?
The benefits of exercise are well documented. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain; therefore, exercise can help to keep your spirits up, a sort of natural antidepressant. ( Actual antidepressants may still be indicated and necessary for some people, however). Exercise releases stress hormones, so it is particularly crucial to exercise when you are under significant stress. Exercise is a protective measure against many forms of cancer (particularly colon and breast cancer). Exercise (regular physical activity) causes a decrease of more than 6 percent in total cholesterol levels and more than 10 percent in levels of LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol. HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels are likely to rise by 5 % for those who exercise regularly. People who exercise are less likely to develop blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke, and are less likely to develop Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes.
Further, those of you who are parents would be setting an excellent example for your children if you exercise. It is well known that our children are getting heavier and this is expected to cause a myriad of health problems (and certainly has additional consequences in terms of lower self esteem for our children). Exercise (and diet together) can result in weight loss which can result in lower blood pressure. In fact, a recent analysis of nearly 100 studies (in the medical journal Circulation) indicated that someone with mildly high blood pressure who participates in moderate physical activity can expect a drop in pressure that lasts 8 to 12 hours.
HOW CAN I GET MOTIVATED TO EXERCISE?
Well, you’ve just heard MANY reasons why exercise is crucial to health and longevity. Keep in mind, most of us don’t “love” to exercise. Few of us get out of bed saying, Wow I can’t wait to exercise!”. But, we can remember how good we’ve felt after exercise, how much sharper our mind is (oxygen flow to the brain), how much better our clothes are fitting, and then trust the overwhelming body of research that exercise pays off in a big way. In fact, research even suggests it is healthier to be a bit overweight and fit, then to be thin, and not fit. (Ok, not an excuse to dig into the junk food or chocolate!)
Figure out what motivates YOU. I like to exercise while I watch TV in the mornings; I can catch up on news and get my exercise in and it goes faster and seems more tolerable. Some of my clients report they need a buddy system (more accountability and support), so they walk with someone a number of times a week. Other clients may need to hire a trainer (or even a Coach) to set a plan and keep them on track (and to provide support and accountability).
BUT I DON’T HAVE TIME TO EXERCISE!
This is an excuse that I’ve even heard from one of my own doctors!. However, she realized she needed to make time (especially as a medical doctor and model for her patients). This doctor then committed to an exercise program and hired a trainer and she now looks (and feels) fantastic! We all lead busy lives. However, we MUST make time for exercise. The good news about making time though is research suggests that we can even get our exercise in for 10-15 minutes in the mornings, and 10-15 minutes in the evening.
We should select a frequency for exercise based upon our goals. For weight loss, it is best to exercise 4-5 days a week (after getting approval from your doctor). I have a client who lost 70 pounds (over time) through diet and exercise. She started out initially unable to walk on a treadmill for more than 10-15 minutes before her legs were weary and/or she was in pain. She built up her strength and muscles over time and now has no problem with a 45 minute walk on the treadmill with much more intensity (and her health benefits were a decrease in blood pressure and cholesterol, and no medication for her pre-diabetic condition as she is now in great control of those numbers and issues).
For weight maintenance, 30 minutes, 3 times a week should be sufficient. The point of maintenance exercise is to get your heart rate up so you reap all of the health benefits of exercise, but without weight loss.
WHAT KIND OF EXERCISE SHOULD I DO?
This depends upon your preferences and level of fitness. Research suggests that strength training (utilizing free weights or machines) is helpful to boost metabolism as well as to tone and/or build muscle in one’s body. If you want to tone your body, many repetitions for three sets with low weights are usually what are indicated. To build muscle, of course, it is thought that one should use fewer repetitions with heavier weights. Some exercises like swimming are great for an all over body workout.
Many people like running, but one must be careful as to the pressure on muscles and joints and potential consequences later.
Whatever exercise you choose, it should be something you’d be most likely to do, and you should exercise at a place which is most convenient for you. Some people prefer to work out at a gym, as it can be motivating (as everyone around you is also working out), with no distractions. Perhaps taking a class at the gym is helpful as you get caught up in the music and have the camaraderie of your other classmates.
Others prefer to work out at home with their own equipment such as free weights, a video, a treadmill, an elliptical machine, a bicycle, etc. There are many, many options as to how to get your exercise. Also, you can use a pedometer to keep track of your steps. Try to get additional exercise in by walking more, driving less, and taking the stairs rather than the elevator.