Monday, August 14, 2006

Healthy Living: The Key to Successful Living - Part 2

(This is the second of a five-part series on the importance of health as key to a successful life. Today we look at healthy exercising habits.)


Nothing has more of a profound, positive benefit on the body than exercise, even more so than nutrition.

Exercise is the single best thing a person can do to improve health and keep diseases at a distance. Physical exercise is not just for weight control purposes. The benefits of regular aerobic and anaerobic (weight lifting) exercise are numerous.

Exercise has many benefits:

1. Improves health and longevity.
2. Prevents heart disease by lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure.
3. Helps prevent certain types of cancers.
4. Keeps type-II diabetes at bay.
5. Helps prevent arthritis and improves bone density, which prevents osteoporosis.
6. Improves mood.
7. Controls weight by speeding up the metabolism and increasing muscle.

That increased lean muscle mass leads to greater fat burning and insulin control - resulting in normal weight levels.

Without exercise our muscles atrophy and waste away. In time, this muscle wasting will cause an individual to gain more fat and have less energy - leaving one open to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

As you can see, exercise is a major component, if not the most important one, in living a healthy and successful life.

New findings have shown that we do not need marathon exercise sessions lasting hours and hours. As a matter of fact, too much exercise, such as the workout regimens of long-distance runners, can cause serious health problems as well.

It's called the overtraining principle and it occurs when excessive amounts of exercise cause too much stress on the body with not enough recovery time given to re-energize and repair the body.

The key to quality exercise is the intensity of aerobic workouts performed and the addition of weight training to anyone's healthy living program.

Aerobic Exercise

Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata found that shorter, more vigorous exercise had greater cardiovascular and anaerobic benefits than longer steady-state type workouts.

Tabata Intervals consist of 20 seconds of flat out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of eight intervals. Add a four minute warmup with a four minute cool-down and you have a grand total of only a 12 minute workout.

The problem is they're not easy and should only be performed if you're already in decent shape. Brisk walking or stationary cycling without the intervals can be performed by beginners until they are in better shape. After a period of time, intervals can and should be added to any aerobic program.

Here is a sample program that anyone who is new to exercise or out of shape can follow:

Walk, bike, jog or use any aerobic apparatus (stationary cycle, versa climber, rowing machine) 20-30 minutes at a time, 3-4 days per week.

After about six months, add in some Tabata Intervals slowly until you've reached the 12 minute protocol (four minute warmup, four minute intervals, four minute cool down).

Weight Training

Weight training should be performed 2-3 days per week consisting of major compound exercises that work the overall musculature of the body.

Lifting weights is the best exercise in the world and should be incorporated into everyone's exercise program. The key is progression. You must consistently lift heavier weights if you want to reap the major benefits. Remember, intensity is key.

Start out with light weights and work up as you progress and get stronger and better fit. Below is a very good beginners program.

Basic Beginners Workout:

Squats 3 x 10-12
Overhead Press 3 x 8-10
Deadlifts or Shrugs 3 x 8-10
Chins or Pulldowns 3 x 8-10
Dips or Bench Press 2 x 8-10
Crunches 2 x 10-15

After you become more advanced and stronger, you'll add more weight to each exercise and drop to 1-or-2 sets per exercise. If you don't know how to perform these exercises you can search the Internet or your local bookstore for a description of each exercise and how it should be done.

Stick with only the big exercises above. Choose the ones you like and blast them hard. Don't add any weight until you can perform all of your sets while maintaining good form. Don't forget to do some form or cardio 3-4 days per week for conditioning.

Also, give yourself at least one rest day per week where no workouts are performed. Remember, the nervous system needs to recover from exercise, so take one day off every week and just enjoy the day. Your body will thank you for the recharge.

Understand that to be successful in any weight training program - hard work is a must! Half-hearted effort does nothing for you. If you're new to weight training or grossly out of shape, please consult a physician first.

Exercise is the most important thing you can do for your body. Take it seriously because the implications are enormous.

Regular exercise combined with proper nutrition can keep illness and disease at bay and allow one to live a long, fruitful and successful life.

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