How Do We Exercise?

Exercising would appear to be a rather complex topic.  There is much discussion via experts on the correct types of exercise, format, duration, etc.  Some people favor more of a strength-training approach, while others advocate cardio and endurance activities.  Many people go exercise without really having a program or strategy.  This can also be problematic.  So what are we to do?  Take advice from experts, media, friends, etc?  How do we figure out what exercise program is right for us?  Well here are some basic guidelines. 

  1. Walking and working are the basic exercise.  Humans walk around and we tinker with things.  This is what generally runs our metabolism.  Unfortunately, a lot of modern conveniences and technologies have made it to where we do not have to be as active as we used to.

2. Start with walking.  It is the most simple and effective mode of exercise.  It is low-stress, low risk of injury, and is what your body expects you to be doing lots of.  Hopefully your job allows you to do much of this, but some with more sedentary jobs may need to find time outside of work.

3.  The next level is light cardio and bodyweight exercises/endurance strength training.  We are not talking about running 10 miles or bench pressing 250 pounds here.  These are intense activities.  What we mean here are things like light jogging, biking, hiking and bodyweight exercises on the strength training side.  Some light weights may also be used here.  The idea is to keep the repetitions fairly high as to build endurance and energy.  This workout should feel good and give you more energy as you frequently do them.  Again, fairly low risk type of exercise.

4. The last level of exercise that I recommend for those ready is moderate-high intensity interval training.  There are certain benefits of exercising like this from time to time.  Benefits may include hormonal gains, increased muscle mass or tone, confidence, and it provides healthy challenge.  Things like fast paced running, biking.  Sprinting can be a very effective exercise if done properly.  Moderate level strength training in the repetitions of maybe 6-12.  Unfortunately, as we move into performance gains we start to stray away from health and longevity.  The risk of stressing your body too much and acquiring injuries start to increase at this level.

5.  Exercises I do NOT recommend are power-lifting, high-intensity cardio till you drop type of activities, or some of these programs that try to “WHIP” you into shape.  Most of these types of exercise are high-risk and do not really promote health and fitness.  They may help you drop a little weight real fast or build muscle quickly but the risk of injury, overexertion, and the ability to participate long-term are not worth it in my opinion.

-A Note on Bodywork:  Stretching, Yoga, and massage are some of the most underutilized activities in fitness programs.  While I do not consider these exercise, they are counterparts to your program.  Our lifestyles can create imbalances in our muscles and tightness throughout our bodies.  It is amazing how much tension we accumulate just going through daily life.  Adding small amounts of bodywork is a great way to deal with this.  I will try to do a separate post on bodywork in the future.

So hopefully this was not too long of a read.  These are some of my thoughts on how to exercise appropriately.  Start with walking, then go light with what you enjoy before engaging in the heavy stuff.  If you are suffering or feeling worse then back off.  Remember, the goal is to be fit, healthy, and happy.  This may require dropping the ego some as many of us have unrealistic body images we are chasing.  Also, don’t forget the bodywork and TLC!  The proper exercise program will vary from person to person so don’t feel like you are not doing it right because someone else is doing it differently.  Of course there is also commitment.  Exercise programs work best when used regularly!  So have fun, mix it up, and listen to your inner wisdom and you can find the program that is right for you.

-JOE

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