Category Archives: fitness

Ten Suprising Benefits of Exercise

The word “exercise” has many negative connotations for many people. My preference is to stop using the dreaded “E” word and Woman Exercising Too Hardreplace it with “fun, sweaty activity.” Getting over our emotional hangups related to exercise can be the first step toward creating a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity. If we learn to look forward to movement instead of dreading it, we are much more likely to continue having fun, sweaty activity.

We also need to give up our rigid ideas about what types of activities can be considered “exercise.” In the simplest sense, any form of movement is exercise. We should all engage in some form of movement on a daily basis, with an effort to engage in higher levels of fun, sweaty activity at least three times a week. If going to the gym bores you, but you feel alive when you dance, then dance! Activities such as gardening, chasing our children or grandchildren, playing fetch with the dog, dancing, shopping (at a rapid pace), riding a motorcycle, having sex, and more can all be considered valid forms of exercise. (I’m sure you’ll agree some of those are a lot more fun than others!)

We all know we need to exercise, yet many of us have a hard time committing fitting exercise into our daily routine.

My advice for starting and sticking to scheduled exercise is to:

  1. Find something you enjoy doing.
  2. Schedule exercise in your calendar just as you do other commitments.
  3. Exercise with a friend to increase the fun and hold you accountable.

Surprising Benefits of Exercise

We are all aware of the basic benefits of exercise. There are other benefits which deserve attention but are rarely mentioned. The following list includes ten measurable benefits of exercise which often get ignored:

  • Insulin Sensitivity:  Exercise is an effective way to make the body’s cells more receptive to insulin. Even ten minutes of exercise can improve insulin sensitivity for eight hours or more. Insulin resistance, also known as Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X, is a leading cause of obesity in the US and other developed countries. Getting even a small amount of exercise is the first step toward improving your body’s metabolic health. For more information about this topic, please read Surprising Facts About Insulin or Top Ten Signs You Have Insulin Resistance.
  • “Feel Good” Hormones:  Have you heard of a “runner’s high?” It occurs because physical activity increases levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Those chemicals are mood boosters that greatly improve mental outlook. In other words, they are “feel good” chemicals. The natural rush of feel good hormones that occurs during exercise is a benefit of exercise that is often overlooked. It is also a great motivator. Exercise is a wonderful way of improving the health of body, mind and spirit. Scientists at Harvard University found regular exercise to be more effective than antidepressant medications for the treatment of depression in some people. (Some forms of depression are due to imbalances which require medication. Please work with a physician to find the best combination of therapies for your personal situation.)
  • Alzheimer’s and Dementia:  Even tiny amounts of non-strenuous exercise and movement have been shown to greatly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. One more reason to start scheduling weekly times of movement!
  • Bone Density:  Weight-bearing and muscle-building exercise has an effect on bone density and is known to strengthen bones. Whether you run on a treadmill or wear two-pound wrist weights for a few hours, those activities are known to improve bone density.
  • Memory:  Regular exercise is known to improve neurotransmitter function in the brain and to improve memory. It is a simple truth that those who exercise have a better memory than those who do not.
  • Maintaining Heathy Skin:  Exercise improves blood flow to the skin’s surface, which has been shown to improve the skin’s overall health and appearance. Exercise’s detoxifying effects also benefit the skin.
  • Digestion:  Many people do not realize that a few minutes of exercise can improve digestion for several days. It does so by building abdominal muscles and increasing the quantities of digestive enzymes secreted while eating. Good digestion requires strong contractions of the muscles surrounding the stomach. Strengthening those muscles directly improves digestion by making the contractions more efficient and more effective. For some people, engaging in regular movement also reduces constipation. 
  • Increase Metabolism:  Your body’s metabolic rate is dependent upon your muscle mass. Doing muscle-building exercise increases the body’s resting metabolic rate, which increases your metabolism. People who have a high amount of muscle mass also have a high metabolic rate. This means they burn more calories while lying still than other people do. Doing small amounts of muscle building activities each week can greatly improve your body’s metabolic rate.
  • Hormones:  For both men and women, regular movement and exercise has a balancing effect on hormones. Men who regularly exercise tend to have fewer symptoms of “Low T,” and women who exercise usually have fewer symptoms of PMS and pass through menopause with fewer negative side effects.

Are you feeling more motivated to start engaging in fun, sweaty activity? Go for it! 

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Mathematical Workout Formulas You Need

Working out has gone from being a chore to being something I love and look forward to. Those close to me recognize Bright red and yellow calculatorwhat a water-into-wine miracle that is! Being the science geek I am, when I committed to get serious about my workouts, I did extensive research about various forms of workouts and exercise methods. From that research, I selected the niche workouts that are best for my lifestyle, body type and attitude. In the midst of that, I also came across a variety of mathematical formulas that can be used to monitor progress, create workout goals, and/or help you focus on your greatest strengths or improve areas of lesser strength.

The most important aspect of working out is that you do it. Not how you do it (as long as you’re being safe), not whether or not you use a “method,” and not how or if you’re tracking your progress. The fact you’re moving more is all that matters. Don’t let anyone talk you out of enjoying your favorite workout by saying it’s ineffective or won’t deliver the return on investment that person thinks it should. Exercise always provides benefits. Don’t get overly hung up on following someone else’s guidelines. Just do it.

Please don’t consider any of these formulas to be an absolute that must be adhered to religiously. These formulas are general guidelines, not “rules.” Use them as sideline helps, not as rigid requirements. Working out should be fun. Forcing workouts to fit within rigid guidelines based on a random formula won’t work and will quickly suck all the fun out of it. These formulas are tools to improve your workout, not laws to put you in bondage.

As always, please use common sense and listen to the signals your body is sending. Don’t start any exercise regimen without consulting your physician, and never push yourself beyond your personal limits. It is not good to be in pain after working out, nor is it beneficial to be exhausted. Fatigue after a workout should be temporary and should not last several days. The “no pain, no gain” mantra is a lie straight from the pits of Hell. Don’t believe it and don’t push yourself so hard you wind up being sore for days. Pain is a sign of distress and means your body is trying to tell you to slow down. If you experience shortness of breath, dizziness, an extreme headache or chest pain during a workout, ask someone to call 911. 

When you first start working out, commit to gently working out 10 minutes a day, three days a week. Increase the duration and intensity of your workouts and muscle-building activities very slowly and gradually from there. You are not competing, you are improving. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and don’t try to go from being a couch potato to being an American Ninja Warrior overnight.

Here are my favorite workout formulas. I hope they help and encourage you:

Heart Rate Formulas

I’m not a fan of heart rate formulas, because the truth is that everyone has their own personal “ideal” heart rate. Each person’s ideal maximum and target heart rate is influenced by what type of workout they’re doing, their current weight, their age, their body fat percentage and muscle mass, their bone density, their pre-existing conditions, their intracellular and Heartextracellular water levels, etc., etc. As you can see from that long list of influencers, there’s really no such thing as an ideal heart rate. I’m sharing the following formula because it provides a guideline that can help you recognize whether or not your cardio routine is too intense. 

For those who use High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), your heart rate will be significantly higher than that of people doing longer, less intense cardio regimens. The key is to be able to slow your heart rate down by at least 20% within two minutes. If you cannot sufficiently slow your heart rate down during a two-minute “cool down,” it may be wise to ease up a bit during the high intensity portions of your workout.

Note:  Being dehydrated will raise your heart rate significantly. If you find your heart rate is extremely high, stop working out, drink at least 16 ounces of water and wait 20 minutes before resuming your workout. If your heart rate continues to be extremely high, please stop working out and call your doctor.

Maximum Heart Rate (MHR):  This number represents the highest your rate should get during a workout. For people doing HIIT, your heart rate during the high intensity intervals should be 80-90% of your MHR.

220 – Age = MHR

Example:  Jane is 34, so her MHR = 220-34 = 186

When Jane does HIIT workouts, her maximum heart rate during the high intensity phases should stay between 149-167.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body would burn if you did absolutely nothing but lie in bed for 24 hours. It is helpful to know your BMR in order to gauge how many calories per day are necessary. As you increase your body’s muscle mass, your BMR will increase. People who are obese are at an “advantage,” as their  BMR will be higher than other people’s. That will change as they lose weight.

BMR for Males = 66.47 + (6.24 x weight in pounds) + (12.71 x height in inches) – (6.76 x age in years )

BMR for Females = 655.1 + (4.34 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.68 x age in years)

Example:  John is 50 year old male who weighs 300 pounds and is 6’2″, or 74 inches tall. He does not work out.

John’s BMR = 66.47 + (6.24 x 300) + (12,71 x 74) – (6.76 x 50) = 66.47 + 1872 + 940.54 – 338 = 2541.01

If the person works out 2-5 times per week, you can multiply their BMR times 1.5.

One Rep Max (1RM)

The One Rep Max (1RM) is the ultimate ego booster. It calculates the maximum weight you could lift/push in a single rep. 1RM is calculated using the weight you’ve been lifting/pressing and the number of reps you’ve been doing. Although it can be a huge boost to do the calculation and figure out what your muscles are potentially capable of, your 1RM is NOT an indicator of the maximum weight you can safely lift or push. For example, my current 1RM on leg presses is 475. I’m happy with that, but wouldn’t dream of trying to press that weight, as i know that would put extreme stress on my muscles and ligaments and could result in injury. In weight lifting, it’s imperative to maintain proper form to prevent injury. Lifting or pushing a weight that exceeds your comfort level could cause you to break form and injure itself. It is not safe.

In general, 75% of the 1RM is a good number to use to continue building strength. For example, if you’re doing bicep curls and know your 1RM is 50 pounds, you can multiply 50 x .75 to determine that doing reps of 37.5 pounds would be a good way of building muscle and boosting your 1RM. (If you can’t find dumbbells at that weight, use 30-35 pounders.) If you discover that weight is a bit much, switch to 50% of your 1RM (25 pounds, in this case) and do an increased number of reps to build strength. Work up very gradually and don’t extend yourself beyond what’s comfortable.

One Rep Max (!RM)

1RM = (Weight lifted x Number of Reps x 0.033) + Weight Lifted

Example:  John hit a new record yesterday by doing 12 reps of leg presses of 250 pounds. He is focused on increasing his strength quickly, so he wants to know what his 1RM is for leg presses. His 1RM would be:

(250 x 12 x 0.033) + 250 = 349

Using his 1RM, John decides to increase his current leg press weight to 260 (349 x 75%) and to build his strength slowly but surely.

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Do you use formulas when you work out? Which are your favorite?

Eleven Ways to be a Jerk at the Gym

I love working out. In addition to the health and emotional benefits I gain from working out, I also love the gym environment. Usually. Today was an exception. It’s been a while since I’ve ranted on the blog, so I figured I was due. workoutPlease note this post is mildly sarcastic and is intended to be humorous. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether I succeeded or not.

Here’s my list of things people do at the gym that make others think they are complete jerks:

  1. Leaving machines a swampy mess:  Believe it or not, I’m really not interested in bathing in your sweat. It takes less than 30 seconds to wipe down a machine. Just do it. 
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  2. Using the circuit training machines for marathon workouts:  “Circuit” is synonymous with “quick and efficient.” When you and your pal share a circuit machine for thirty minutes and ignore the lights telling you when it’s time to move on, it throws a real wrench in the works. Here’s a hint: There are three of that same machine on the main floor. Go use them! The sign clearly says to not use the circuit machines unless you’re doing circuit training. Are you? No? Then get the heck out of there so I can complete my workout!
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  3. Using machines as a personal office:  You know who you are. You finish your reps and then sit on the machine for twenty minutes checking messages, texting and making your Facebook friends laugh. Dude, just stop, ok? Other folks need to use the machine and don’t have time to wait for your social experiment to end.
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  4. Loudly discussing personal traumas non-stop on your cell phone:  I find it amazing that people manage to work out (kind of) while having extremely loud emotional conversations on their cell phones. What amazes me even more is that these conversations last for 40 minutes or longer, yet the person continues pretending to work out. Personal conversations that evoke high levels of loud emotion should never occur in a public place. Not in a gym. Not in the locker room. Not in a restaurant. Not in Walgreens. And for the love of all things good, not in a restroom stall. Find a private place to vent your angst. Please. Some of you should also consider seeking professional help.
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  5. Standing in front of the mirror taking a selfie and blocking the view for everyone trying to use the mirrors to check their form:  I don’t think this one needs explanation. Besides that, selfies are much more appreciated when taken while driving, operating dangerous equipment, or completing other tasks requiring two hands.
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  6. Creepily staring at women while they work out:  In spite of how some of the women are dressed and the fact music is playing, the gym is not a club. It is also not an adult bookstore. Go home and fantasize.
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  7. Being the “my way or the highway” self-proclaimed guru who thinks you’re doing it wrong and need his or her advice:  Most people who work out have devoted time to research and are doing what’s best for their personal situation. If they need assistance, they will contact a certified trainer. If no one asks for help, please don’t offer it. On a side note, your acne and aggressiveness will probably clear up once you stop using steroids.
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  8. Doing complicated Yogalate or Jazzercize routines in walkways:  A man in my gym does this. I swear. Walkways are intended for walking, not Jazzercize. Dressing like Richard Simmons and doing intricate dance and yoga moves that consume these areas and make it impossible to walk across the gym isn’t cool in more ways than one. Kudos for doing the workout, but please do it in areas of the gym designated for floor exercises. On a side note, thanks for exposing me to workout clothing covered in sequins.
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  9. Expecting your mom to clean up after you:  Your mom doesn’t work out here and the maid quit. You are solely responsible for putting your free weights away, wiping down the machines, mopping up the water you spilled, or picking up the disgusting tissue you dropped and left on the floor. Be an adult and follow gym rules. Thanks.
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  10. Using the weight benches as tables:  The benches are for weightlifting, not storage. If you don’t want someone else’s sweaty buns on your cell phone, towel or water bottle, don’t leave them on the equipment. In return, we promise to never put our sweaty buns on any of your property. Ever.
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  11. Carrying everything except the kitchen sink everywhere you go:  I promise you can endure a half-hour workout without your makeup, hairbrush, Snickers bar, pepper spray and four water bottles. I promise. Here’s a thought: Spend $6 and buy a lock so you can store your stuff in a locker instead of carrying it with you in the gym. The fact it takes you longer to pick up your stuff than it does for you to use a machine is a bit of an inconvenience. (For everyone else, I mean.)

I feel so much better now. Thanks for listening.

Picture of Dr. Pamela Reilly
Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

 

 

Photo Courtesy of Pascal