6 Things You Need to Know Before Starting an Exercise Program
This article first appeared on drcarp.com.
I have been frequently talking about these four pillars of health: Nutrition, Mental State, Environment, and Movement and Mechanics. For nutrition, we focused on nutritional additions and then we also talked about toxins in your environment that can disrupt your endocrine system.
In this blog, we’re going to talk about Movement and Mechanics. When we talk about movement, exercise comes to mind. But rather than recommending an exercise plan, I will talk about the concepts of health related to exercise.
Your Body Needs to Move
What happens to your body when your daily activity consists of sitting all day with little to no exercise? Apart from making your muscles and bones weak, research says it can accelerate DNA ageing and it has been considered “the new smoking” as it has been tied to cardiovascular risk and shortened life spans. Lack of exercise has long been tied to various health problems.
Exercise is something your body does not know it wants. Most people start exercising but give up quickly because their body “complains” about the pain and discomfort. However, your body needs it to maintain good health and achieve a healthy weight. Much of the pain and discomfort that people feel from exercising is because of the wrong choice and wrong execution of exercise routines.
Types of Exercise
There are several types of exercise. 1. There is the aerobics exercise like running or sprinting, where you are running to a point where you can’t carry on a conversation. 2. Then there’s long distance walking where you’re not out of breath.
After aerobic exercises, 3. there are strength training exercises like lifting weights, barbells and other heavy exercise equipment. 4. There’s working with flexibility.
The best way to get started exercising is to walk. If you have not been working out, don’t jump into weight-lifting right away because that would be bad for your body. I always tell people to start easy and slowly. The best way to start shaping up your body is to slowly work up to get two hours of walking per week each with one hour sessions. If you can walk two hours a week generally, you’re capable of doing more.
First, figure out a way where you can walk for at least an hour on the first half of the week. For example on a Wednesday, go out and try to work up over many weeks to go nonstop for an hour. If you can’t walk straight for an hour then just build it up very, very slowly. I just want you to be able to do one hour of walking. That solves your first hour of walking exercise for the week.
But what about the other one hour? That can be solved by simply walking 20 or 30 minutes a day on the second half of the week. What is really important is that you walk for at least two hours a week.
It’s important for overall health that your muscles are supple and flexible. Flexible muscles are less inflammatory than muscles that are tight. And the reason for this when it comes to tight muscles, there’s also tight fascia.
Unfortunately, in fascia and around joints, you can build up lots of micro abscesses. As result of that, a baseline of inflammation could potentially be going on in your body. Therefore, flexibility is very important. Getting fascial work through soft tissue massage can help resolve that problem and is something that I recommend.
I also recommend for everyone who want to start weight-lifting to consider getting a trainer. They’re not nearly as expensive as they used to be and they will make your workouts safer by guiding you. Just make sure the trainer you get is certified because a certificate from the state would mean they have the knowledge needed to train you properly. However, I believe that walking is still a good option for people who just started exercising. Alternatively, you can use bodyweight exercises like pushup, situps, etc and the whole range of calisthenics.
Over-exercising and Exercise Addiction
There is such a thing as exercise addition and over-exercising. Like drugs and shopping, exercise releases pleasure hormones and people can become addicted to these. The problem starts when people believe they need to beat themselves every. Over-exercising causes inflammation in the body.
On the contrary, for some people cutting down your exercise into comfortable levels may do you more good than going overboard with your exercise. I’ve seen this many times, that when people cut their exercise down, they end up seeing more improvement with inflammatory conditions. Learning what is excessive or not, takes time, that is why it is good to get a good trainer.
Sprinting only needs to be done once or twice a week and I wouldn't recommend you do it if you can't. Sprinting is a high-intensity exercise that can also be high-intensity interval training, where you run for a minute really fast and then you walk for a minute or two, and then you do it over and over again for four or five cycles. However, running consistently for 20 to 30 minutes and being out of breath the whole time is not conducive to health and may damage your heart. I know this sounds odd to you but science has progressed substantially since the days of the 80’s when everyone was going all out on the treadmill!
Now, if you run for a little while, you get out of breath and then you pause, and then you do it again for short intervals, that's okay. However, I certainly wouldn't do that if you can't walk an hour or can't walk two hours a week without getting tired. A good rule is that you should make sure your heart is capable of doing these high level exercises before you actually do them and you should talk to your doctor especially if you are on medication.
If you have time, research about Tabata Workouts and you'll read some remarkable studies done by a Japanese doctor, where they measured VO2 or maximal oxygen intake, which is your body's ability to uptake oxygen. VO2 has been found to be “a valid index measuring the limits of the cardiorespiratory systems' ability to transport oxygen from the air to the tissues at a given level of physical conditioning and oxygen availability.”
Using their research, they designed four-minute crazy and high-intensity workouts that develop VO2. With just four minutes twice a week, people who use these exercises were able to get higher VO2 max than people who were running for 25 to 30 minutes a day. There’s something remarkable that happens during high-intensity training but it’s not for everyone, I just want to communicate the idea that more is not necessarily better except perhaps with walking which we are designed to do and often.
In summary for Movement and Mechanics:
- Walking is the best exercise for people who just start exercising. Walking for two hours a week is highly recommended.
- Flexibility is important for a healthy body. Yoga is a good example of this exercise. If you want to look for flexibility exercises, you can search for flexibility exercises on YouTube.
- Lifting or resistance training is a strength exercise that develops your muscles. Lifting is best done with a trainer to get the movements right for best results and for your safety.
- Sprinting and high-intensity interval training are very powerful. Sprinting only needs to be done once or twice a week. You can also find a lot of guides for high-intensity interval training on YouTube.
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