The question is: “How much exercise do you need?”; the answer is: “the right dose of exercise”. Some researchers from Harvard came up with the following: the amount of calories burnt by exercise should be about 2000 per week.
Generally men will achieve that in a shorter time than women (provided we assume that males have more body weight and more muscle mass). Another way of determining whether you exercise the right amount is to know that you should engage in moderate-intensity physical activity of 150 minutes a week or more. Dr. Bryan (Ref. 9) states that you need to engage in this amount of activity, if you want to “help prevent, treat, or lessen the symptoms of”: Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, low back pain, osteoporosis, overweight, insomnia etc. He goes on to explain that exercise produces nitric oxide (=NO), which relaxes the arteries, lowers blood pressure and prevents heart attacks and strokes.
About 30 minutes of power walking per day will be enough to burn 300 calories. This does not mean that it is a leisurely stroll. It’s fast, it raises your heart rate, you may breathe a bit faster, you’ll work up a sweat. It is easy: all you need is a good pair of walking shoes.
You can start at your front door and you don’t need to make a trip to the gym. You won’t need special clothes nor an exercise machine. For a number of people it is a lot more fun to walk in company.
Ask a friend or a neighbour. You may be surprised to find out that a lot of people enjoy a brisk walk, and it keeps you motivated to stick with your program.
With swimming: Move slowly. Water resistance increases exponentially with speed. Swimming twice as fast requires four times as much energy. So to move efficiently, all your movements, not just swimming, should be in slow motion.
Some common exercises to choose from
– Power Walking– Treadmill exercise (a good alternative in bad weather)– Bicycling, alternatively riding a stationary exercise bike– Aerobic dancing or simple aerobics
– Ballroom dancing (3 to 5 times per week)
There is simply no excuse for being unable to exercise, unless you are having severe health problems.
If you have a heart condition like angina or if you have suffered a heart attack, it is imperative to discuss any fitness problem with your doctor before you embark on it.
There are specialized programs for people with a history of a heart attack, and they are very beneficial. Being very heavy is often perceived as a barrier to an exercise program, but remember that even whales are graceful in water. Go swimming! People who experience joint problems and pain due to arthritis as well as back pain sufferers will find swimming enjoyable. There is also another aspect to exercise, whether it is aerobics or swimming.
Certain brain hormones called endorphins are released. The are “feeling good hormones”: people experience a bit of a natural high and a sense of well being. Pains and aches become less prominent. Already for this reason it is very desirable for a person with a condition like arthritis to stay active. You will soon discover which of the aerobic forms of physical activity works best for you. Whatever it may be, build it into your day and make sure that those 30 minutes are enjoyable. If a snapshot taken of you during exercise would be a study of exhaustion and acute suffering, you should probably review your exercise program. You may do more damage than good. It will also become increasingly difficult to put up with a source of distress, and after a while you’ll be ready to throw in the towel. To avoid these pitfalls, gradually build up your endurance over time.
For patients with chronic pain it is particularly important to take it easy with exercise, but to persist on the longterm. Here is a blog that describes a trial where chronic pain patients were followed. Their pain scores went from 7.32 to 2.75 within 3 weeks of mild exercise.
Moderation succeeds, excess exercise causes harm
You may think, that if 30 minutes of exercise are good, for sure 60 minutes must be even better. But it does not work this way: with more intense exercise your body has to cope with the demand. It is a stress situation, and signals are sent to your brain accordingly. In response the stress hormone ACTH is released stimulating the adrenal glands to secrete more cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels are a reason for our bodies to age faster. In short: you may be a bit fitter, but you are accelerating the ageing process, which is probably not the goal you had in mind. For this reason it is better to portion your periods of exercise evenly over the course of the week, so that your system does not get overworked.
The other as important part of an exercise program are the anaerobic exercises. They are designed to strengthen your muscles. Weight lifting is one possibility of anaerobic exercise. In a well equipped gym you have lots of options available.
There is one word of caution. Do not assume that you can start pumping iron like superman. Start with low weights and ask the fitness instructor for input. It is not only stress which is counterproductive, you can actually hurt yourself. So start low and go slow.
You do not need access to a gym to do muscle strengthening exercises. You can acquire a set of dumbbells (5 pound weights would be good for starting). For upper body strength training push-ups work well. For the lower part of your body knee-bends (squats) are OK.
1. B. Sears: “The age-free zone”.Regan Books, Harper Collins, 2000. Also see Dr. Sears’ site.
2. B. Sears: “Zone perfect meals in minutes”. Regan Books, Harper Also see Dr. Sears’ site.
3. B.J. Wilcox, D.C. Willcox and M. Suzuki: “The Okinawa Program.” Clarkson Potter,2001, N.Y., U.S.A.
4. E.L. Rossi: The psychobiology of mind-body healing. Norton &Co., 1986, N.Y., U.S.A.
5. Vitamins and Foods. Audio-Digest Family Practice Vol 49, Issue 29, Aug.7, 2001.
6. P.C. McGraw: Life strategies. 1999, Simon&Schuster Source, N.Y., U.S.A.
7. B. Sears: “The top 100 zone foods”. Regan Books, Harper Collins, 2001. Also see Dr. Sears’ site.
8. Suzanne Somers: “Breakthrough” Eight Steps to Wellness– Life-altering Secrets from Today’s Cutting-edge Doctors”, Crown Publishers, 2008
9. Nathan S. Bryan, PHD and Janet Zand, OMD: “The nitric oxide (NO) solution. How to boost the body’s miracle molecule to prevent and reverse chronic disease”. Neogenis, published 2010 (on pages 97 to 99: “How much should you exercise”).