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By now you have heard that an inactive lifestyle contributes not only to weight gain, but also to elevated blood fats, cardiovascular disease, several kinds of cancer and reduced blood sugar regulation. Lack of physical activity/movement also increases depression, memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, fatigue and a host of other emotional and physical problems.
The Surgeon General's report on Physical Activity and Health stated that physical inactivity and low levels of cardiovascular fitness are among the strongest risk factors for death, more so than cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and obesity. Go ahead and read that last sentence again. Research is making it clear that putting on our sneakers is not just about looking good or becoming buff. Sedentary lifestyles are responsible for coronary heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer and diabetes deaths each year, according to the President's Shape of the Nation report.
Having heard this bad news, imagine that today you hold the key to staying (or getting) well, feeling good and living joyfully, simply by starting a healthy lifestyle program that includes exercise.
Choose an Activity That Includes the Three F's: Fun, Feels Good, Fits Into Your Schedule
When exercise becomes a chore and you are counting the minutes until it is over, chances are you will be included in the 70 percent of people that quit. (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise). Pick a fun activity (you don't even have to call it exercise) that you look forward to. Research on laboratory animals has proven that when forced to exercise (rather than voluntary activity), stress hormones skyrocketed even higher than levels of non-exercising animals. I have observed this response in many of my clients over the years.
Exercise at an intensity that feels good. For decades a "no pain, no gain" philosophy has dominated the fitness industry and continues to hang around despite ongoing research that reveals a moderate approach to exercise strengthens our immune system, balances our hormones, reduces stress and its side effects, and can miraculously improve memory and mood. Dean Ornish, M.D., the authority on reversing disease with lifestyle modification, has scientifically proven that a program that includes low-to-moderate activity can not only prevent disease, but even reverse certain diseases. And it is a no-brainer that a moderate approach to exercise feels good. If it feels good chances are you will stick with it. Consistency is important.
More good news. You can break it up into manageable amounts of time so it fits into your schedule. Take a short walk before work and add another 15 minutes at lunch time. When you start to move at a moderate enjoyable pace, doing something you like to do, you will soon find that the days you move your body are the days that you feel better, have more energy and naturally make healthier food choices. The icing on the day is a better night's sleep!
Intensity and Duration Are Key
As in all lifestyle choices, one size does not fit all. To determine what your personal low-to-moderate intensity activity zone is you can simply use your age and resting heart rate in our Zone Calculator.
Exercising at the correct level of intensity is essential. Exercise too hard and you speed up the aging process, risk injury and exhaustion, increase inflammation, or you get tired and stop exercising altogether. On the other hand, if you don't move that body with a degree of effort, you may not get the results you want. A good tactic to measure intensity is to monitor your heart rate as you exercise.
Duration equals the number of minutes you accumulate in a day. Start out with 20 minutes and increase by five a week as your endurance becomes stronger. Our new mantra then becomes: low intensity + long duration = a lean and healthy body.
The 24-Hour Pay Back
- Increased blood flow to the muscles, skin, brain and sex organs
- A burst of energizing hormones
- Increased stimulation to the nervous system to produce chemicals called endorphins that elevate mood and produce feelings of well-being and self confidence
- Greater production of the enzymes that make you a better fat burner for the next 24 hours, and gives an immediate boost to your sluggish metabolism
Many people find that exercising with others keeps them motivated and excited about their workouts. Here are some fun tips for extending your exercise network:
- Organize a get-together of a hike and healthy lunch rather than cocktails and a heavy dinner.
- Exercise with your partner. Research shows that exercising with your partner increases your odds of sticking with it.
- Walk with friends or colleagues at lunchtime, or invite them to workout to an exercise tape with you on the weekend.
- Start an early morning power-walking club in your neighborhood or office complex. All it takes is getting up 30 to 40 minutes earlier.
- Take your kids to the park and do a power walk around the perimeter while they play on the swings.
- Invite your friends to go dancing instead of grabbing a pizza and beer. Everything from salsa classes to nightclubing burns tons of calories.
You hold that key to turning your life around in the next 24 hours. Get up. Get going. Be well.
For more information on simple changes that can impact your health in the next 24 hours, visit www.24HourTurnaround.com
President's 2010 Shape of the Nation report
Lehmann, R., et al. "Alterations of Lipolytic Enzymes and High-density Lipoprotein Subfractions Induced by Physical Activity in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus." European Journal of Clinical Investigation , 2001, 31, 37-44.
Bloomfield, Harold, and Cooper, Robert. "The Power Of 5: Hundreds of 5-Second to 5-Minute Scientific Shortcuts to Ignite Your Energy, Burn Fat, Stop Aging, and Revitalize Your Love Life:
McBride, J.M., et al. "Effect of resistance exercise on free radical production.
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1998, 30(1), 67-72.
Leeuwenburgh, Jill, and Leichtweis, S., et al. "Oxidative Stress and Aging: Role of Exercise and its Influences on Antioxidant Systems." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1998, 854, 102-17.
Lee, I.M., et al. "Physical Activity and Coronary Heart Disease in Women: Is No Pain, No Gain Passe?" Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001, 21, 285(11), 1447-54.
MacDonald, J.R., et al. "Bouts of Mild- to Moderate-intensity Exercise May be Beneficial in the Control of Hypertension. The Effects of Exercise Intensity on Post Exercise Hypotension." Journal of Human Hypertension, 1999, 13: 527- 31.
Follow Jay Williams, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JayWilliamsPhD
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