Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Core Principles for Exercise

Exercise science can be rather technical.  Kinesiology, while intuitive in many cases, can get rather scientific especially when someone is training with specific goals in mind.  If you just want to maintain general health and wellness, keep extra pounds off, and live longer & better, then the exercise formula you need is rather simple:
  1. Move every day
  2. Get outside often and in all weather
  3. Do a wide variety of activities focusing on the basic human movements
  4. Vary intensity and duration
  5. Spend time with others while you move
More is not better in exercise but consistency is key.  Just as you can't catch up once per week on sleeping, eating, or brushing your teeth, you have to move your body everyday.  I'll spend time on the other core principles in coming posts.

Move through life

Monday, June 25, 2012

Go for a Walk

Walking is one of the most essential human movements.  It's one that we really take for granted until we lose our mobility for some reason. Bipedalism is a defining characteristic of our species and probably contributed to our extraordinary success as a species.  When a baby takes her first steps, it's a defining milestone for her parents and a glorious accomplishment for her.  Walking is a great way to socialize with people along the way and in your neighborhood.  There's no need for special equipment or clothing to start a consistent walking program--you just have to go for a walk!  On top of all this, walking happens to be one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise that we can do with the least amount of downside health risks.

Here are few suggestions for making walking a consistent activity in your daily life:

Walk everywhere you can.  I live in a major city so I have the advantage of being able to walk almost anywhere.  If I get stranded, I can catch a train, bus or cab to make it back home.  If you live in the suburbs, find sidewalks and paths to walk on.  Walk through shopping centers, parks, around lakes or home from work.  When you play golf, walk instead of riding in a cart.

Walk outside. Don't worry about the rain, cold, or heat--just prepare accordingly.  We are so much more durable to the elements than we give ourselves credit for.  You'll benefit from fresh air and sunlight in addition to keeping abreast of what's going on in your town and seeing your neighbors.  Listen to music, audio books, or language lessons if you walk alone.

Walk your dog.  There's really no excuse for a fat dog because their activity and food is completely under the control of the human owner.  He'll thank you and you'll thank yourself.

Do errands on foot and carry you bags home.  Carry a backpack and pack reusable bags for your hands if your backpack isn't large enough for your purchases.  If you live far from a shopping center, walk 1 way and have someone pick you up or drop you off.  Check online for walking paths near you.  You might be surprised how many walking paths are connected to shopping areas.

Use a pedometer and make it into a game.  We all love games and getting your steps in each day or beating your family and friends is a great way to keep you on pace.

Count walks as exercise.  Give yourself credit for exercising any day you walk for more than 30 mins or so without stopping.  Exercise doesn't always have to hurt but it does need to be consistent.  A 130 pound woman burns 304 calories by walking 1 hour at a 4 mph pace; a 180 pound man would burn 421 calories.  What a great way to catch up with your spouse after work! 

Walk with a backpack to add intensity.  Carry around a 20 pound weight for a few miles and imagine how much better you will feel if you dropped any extra weight you might have on your body.

Make the effort to turn walking into a habit.  Daily walks consistently for a few weeks will make walking a lifelong habit that you'll benefit from in so many ways.

If you can walk, you can exercise.  What other excuse do you have for not working out today?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Basic Movements for the Modern Human

The bodies we have today evolved through a combination of genetic and environmental adaptations to the world around us.  Our ancestors, while not the fastest, strongest, biggest, or toughest animals, became one of the fittest creatures on the planet because of intelligent application of physical effort to achieve life's requirements.  Our minds were key to our success but we still needed agile bodies to put thought into action.  Both men and women had to perform the following basic body movements on a daily basis to stay alive:
  1. Walk with a load
  2. Crouch down and pick up a load
  3. React quickly and explosively to threats
  4. Pull yourself up
  5. Swim to shore

Fortunately for us today, we don't need strong bodies to sustain our lifestyle, but our bodies still need activity to stay healthy.  Metabolic systems and mental function improve with exercise.  My contention is that both mind and body will be optimized for the modern world by incorporating the basic movements that kept our ancestors alive.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What is Fitness?

I'm a big fan of the CrossFit methodology and incorporate many of the exercises and workouts into my daily exercise routine. The What Is Fitness? article is a brilliant introduction to what it means to be a fit person--I recommend that you read it.  CrossFit isn't for everyone though because I think it scares many people away from any sort of exercise program all.  With physical inactivity as a leading cause of preventable disease today, more people need to add some (any!) activity to their lives.  Fortunately avoidance of metabolic syndrome and other lifestyle diseases only requires a moderate amount of physical activity.  CrossFit is an excellent way to be active, but the competitive and intense nature of it may leave some exercise newbies feeling that exercise isn't for them if CrossFit is what it means to exercise.  Our societal epidemic of obesity is much more important to address than any epidemic of slow Fran times.

To me fitness is much easier to define.  Fitness is a long life with minimal disease, chronic pain, or unhappiness.  Jack Lalanne summed it up with longevity and quality of life.  This isn't achieved only through exercising but daily physical activity plays a role in this view of fitness in a number of ways.  Move your joints or they stiffen up.  Raise your heart rate to improve heart health.  Set and achieve physical goals to raise your self-esteem.  Being able to accomplish physical feats can get you out of dangerous situations.  A sound body contributes to a sound mind.  This is the foundation of my view of fitness and will be the foundation for all my subsequent musings on physical exercise.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jack Lalanne’s Self-Improvement Checklist

Jack Lalanne was a tremendously inspirational figure in the world of health and happiness.  Like Yogi Berra, he was full of witty nuggets of wisdom.  Below is one of his self-improvement checklists which is a great summation of his personal philosophy on life.  It covers much more territory than just eat right and exercise—both key parts of Jack’s message.  He also concerned himself with thinking positively about yourself and others while striving to be someone other people want to have around.  As a pioneer in the modern exercise and nutrition industry, his old school wisdom has stood the test of time.
I see my dentist regularly
I dress and look tidy and clean
I exercise my body regularly
I clean my teeth with care
I walk feeling vibrantly alive
I walk tall and carry my shoulders erect
I believe I am in good health
I don’t take sleeping pills or laxatives
I can, and will, do 10 half-situps or 10 push-ups right now
I want to look healthy and fit
Cigarettes aren’t necessary for my happiness
I pass up dessert if I’ve eaten enough
I am moderate in my alcohol consumption
I eat a healthy breakfast everyday
Meals are a positive part of my day
I keep fresh fruit and vegetables handy
I complimented my husband/wife today
I am pleasant to waitresses, cab drivers, etc.
I answer letters promptly
I give other drivers the right of way with courtesy
I never refuse to dance
People are glad to see me arrive
I am a cheerful person
I am comfortable listening while others converse
I am not critical of other people or age groups
I try to increase my vocabulary and use new words every week
I have read 20 of the world’s literary classics
I am getting everything possible out of my career
I am willing to work hard
I meditate on wise words I hear
I find it easy to say “I’m sorry”
I can say “I don’t know”
I don’t admit defeat easily
I don’t complain about my age
I can accept advice
My physical-marital relations are first-rate
I believe I have many productive years ahead of me
I believe life generally has gone well for me
I can be as romantic as I ever was
I welcome the start of each new day
I go to sleep easily at night and sleep soundly
It doesn’t embarrass me to be “a little silly” at times
I don’t make excuses for my shortcomings 

From page 40 of Jack Lalanne’s, Revitalize Your Life After 50