It’s a new year and you’ve resolved to make some major changes in your life. Whether it’s to eat better, stop smoking, or drop some pounds, if there’s one health principle that I can tell you is super important to your optimal health it’s EXERCISE.
Give me a regular daily exerciser as a patient, and s/he will see me less and get well faster, though, admittedly there are always exceptions. Still, if you want to be well and stay well, stay away from doctors and hospitals, have lower medical insurance rates and bills, have more vitality, and function into your senior years then you need to move every day! Starting now!
Thinking about how we evolved and the amount of movement done by healthy aging cultures, we need to exercise every day-not three days per week, but every day, for a minimum of a half-hour per day. With that said, remember that something is always better than nothing. If you can’t hit your ideal time, be sure to do something. Fifteen minutes of walking is always, alwaysbetter than nothing because the benefits of exercise are cumulative!
But daily structured movement has to become as essential to your life as brushing your teeth, taking a shower, combing your hair, and other normal and expected activities of daily living. When you get to the point where not exercising feels “not right,” the way you’d feel if you didn’t brush your teeth for the day, then you have built what I call the exercise habit. For example:
- When you don’t go home from work until you exercise, you have built the exercise habit.
- When you don’t turn on the TV before you exercise at home, or at least turn on the TV at the same time you exercise, you have built the exercise habit.
- When you are looking for ways to exercise when you are away from home on business or vacation, you have built the exercise habit.
- When you don’t try to make an excuse for not exercising, you have built the exercise habit.
- If you say, “Some exercise is better than no exercise” when you can’t do your regular exercise routine, and you do something else involving movement, you have developed the exercise habit.
If you are new to the exercise game, it is going to take three to nine months before you build the exercise habit and it becomes “part of you.” What you must do first is to create the space (time) to incorporate exercise into your life. Fifteen to thirty minutes is acceptable to start. The second thing you must do is to shoot for exercising on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter at first what type of exercise, as long as it is some type of aerobic, big muscle-moving exercise and is safe.
Keep in mind that success with exercise is more about consistency and time than it is about technique and intensity. If you build in the time to exercise as part of your normal day and are consistent with your exercise program, you will see results and will naturally start to pick up the intensity/duration of the exercise after a few weeks.
Now, some hard core exercisers will probably disagree with me on this, but to me “pain is no gain.” For the average person, it is far more important to have lots of victories to keep your exercise program alive than it is to push through pain, injure yourself or be so sore that you quit altogether. Nagging injuries, persistent soreness and pain are surefire “killers” to those trying to build an exercise habit. Down the road, after exercising three months to a year, if you really want to push yourself, give it a try. You will be less likely to quit exercising then because you will have built the habit.
Since time is precious to all of us, it is very important that we make exercise time-efficient and as fun as possible. One way to make sure to get your exercise in even when you’re busy life (excuses…excuses) is preventing you from getting to the gym, is to do as much “non-exercise” exercise as possible. Here’s a few examples of “non-exercise”:
- Get up off the couch and change the TV channel instead of using the remote control.
- Get up for 5 to 10 minutes for each hour of sitting. Use breaks to walk or stretch.
- If you watch television, do aerobic exercise in front of your favorite television showdaily.
- Do isometrics periodically while sitting (contracting and relaxing of muscles) or, better yet, pick up some dumb bells while sitting (and use them!). If you are older and all you have is canned products around, use the cans as dumb bells.
- Restrict sitting to activities that require it, such as eating, learning, writing, keyboarding, and essential driving.
- Sit on a ball while at your home or at work instead of a traditional chair.
- Walk briskly while doing chores, shopping, or errands.
- Do your own gardening or mow your own lawn.
- Take the stairs versus the elevator or escalator.
- Walk in an airport instead of using the moving walkway.
- Park in the parking lot in a far awayspot. Don’t drive around to get the closest spot.
- Walk to a local restaurant around your work place at lunch.
- Ride your bicycle or walk to work.
- Walk to public transit and use it versus hopping into your car.
- Any time you use a device (car, escalator, stairs, etc.) to take the “walk” out of walking, just walk-within reason. We are talking about a few extra minutes, not hours, because you choose to walk.
Just think: These basic examples only cover the simple things we can do as a part of our daily routines. They don’t even begin to account for all the exercise opportunities just waiting to be incorporated into our “fun” time!
As a reminder, your goal when it comes to exercise, should be to do a minimum of one half-hour DAILYwith a goal of one hour daily of aerobic exercise. That means you need to be doing something where you are moving your big muscles (like your legs and arms) to the point where you get your heart rate up. You should still be able to talk but you should definitely be working out enough so you are breaking a sweat.
What types of activities constitute aerobic activity?
- Roller skating
- Jumping Roping
- Using the stair-climber, elliptical rider or treadmill at the gym.
- Taking a martial arts or dance classes
The types of aerobic exercise are endless. Keep in mind that spending hours in the gym isn’t necessary. Just doing something daily that gets your heart rate up (aerobics), challenges your muscles (strength training) and causes you to extend and contract ligaments, muscles, and tendons (flexibility), is the key. And don’t’ forget to eat as much whole, unrefined plant foods as possible.
As a certified physician’s assistant specializing in nutrition, prevention and integrative medicine, KIRK HAMILTON maintains that if there’s one cure all for chronic disease it’s what you eat. With his emphasis on consuming more unprocessed, micronutrient dense plant-food along with simple cross-training and mind/body principles, Kirk has been instrumental in guiding his patients and clients toward the path of optimal health since 1983. He has also been a valued educator to health professionals. As the founder of Clinical Pearls Publications, Kirk provided summaries of nutritional research to practicing physicians and researchers around the globe until he sold the company to Tishcon Corp. in 2004. Since 2009 Kirk has hosted his own radio program/podcast titled Staying Healthy Today. He has interviewed hundreds of the top experts in the medical field including Joel Fuhrman, Dr. David Jenkins and Dr. Neal Barnard. Drawing on his 28 year career, in August 2011 Kirk self-published the book titled “Staying Healthy in the Fast Lane – 9 Simple Steps to Optimal Health.” His book serves as a guide for individuals, professionals and policy makers on how to create a new health paradigm that is focused on staying well and prevention instead of treatment.
The greatest medicine of all is to teach people how not to need it.
Read about how to lose weight and prevent chronic diseases by purchasing Kirk’s book, “Staying Healthy in the Fast Lane – 9 Simple Steps to Optimal Health.” Order your copy here. Enter code “RX40” and receive an automatic 40% off your book purchase.
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