Woman walking dog in large field

What Counts As Exercise?

Working out: If you’re not in the habit, it’s not always fun to get started. Good news though! Lots of everyday activities, hobbies, and recreation can count as physical activity, which has a big impact on maintaining good cardiovascular and metabolic health, prevents and helps manage joint pains, and can help with weight loss or management, if that’s your goal. You might not get 100% of the physical benefits that a big gym session would provide, but as it turns out, it’s the small amounts of day-to-day movement that are really important, so get moving!

Incidental Exercise At Home

Vacuuming and mopping: Push, pull, push, pull – it’ll get your heart rate up. Bonus points: Swap arms halfway through to help maintain balance in left side-right side movement ability. If your back gets sore, stop, place your hands on the back of your hips, soften your knees and gently extend your back to bend backwards.

Window Washing: Will have you moving your shoulders and arms in a low-stress way you’re not used to, which is great for reducing injury risk and maintaining joint mobility. Aim to swap arms frequently to help maintain left side-right side balance (see above).

Gardening / Yard work: The most common heavy lifting of around-the-house exercise. May including lifting, carrying, and placing heavy objects, reaching or stepping in movements that are less common, and generally being on your feet all day. Like vacuuming, if you’re finding you’re stuck in a single position for a longer period, stop and give your body a break by doing the opposite of that movement.

Washing the car: Reaching, stretching, and squatting down. Keeps you moving!

Playing with the kids: Might involve running around after them – good cardio. Might involve getting down and up off the floor – good joint mobility. Might involve staying down on the floor – good opportunity to give the hips a little bit of a stretch.

Carrying kids around: Even small kids get heavy pretty quickly! Carrying the kids around adds to the cardio effect of walking and moving around, but it also create poor posture as you shift your torso and hips to carry more comfortably. Make sure you swap sides, because your body does best with equal stress and effort.

DIY home maintenance: The other heavy lifting you might do around the house, DIY work often has you moving into different positions that you might during the course of a normal day. Moving through different positions is great for maintaining flexibility and joint health, and can keep posture good and pain at bay.

Incidental Exercise At The Office

If you have an office job, you know how challenging it can be to maintain any amount of movement. Haven’t we all looked up from email to realize that we haven’t moved in three hours?

Getting coffee: Adds steps to your daily step count. Two bonuses on this: Coffee (or tea, or your beverage of choice) does actually count towards your daily hydration goals. (Even though it has a mild diuretic effect, you drink more liquid than you’ll excrete.) More hydration means more bathroom breaks, and therefore even more steps.

Fidgeting: The subconscious movement that your parents might have scolded you for actually burns calories. It will not amount to much extra, but it does count.

Taking the stairs: One of the most bang-for-buck activities you can do, as it gets your heart rate high and gives the big muscles in your legs a bit of a workout. Pro tip – Minimize knee pain risk by stepping with as much of your foot on the stair as you can.

Standing around, i.e. Serving customers, using a standing desk: Simply maintaining a standing position takes almost twice as much energy as sitting does, and can reduce stress and strain on through the front of the hips and the lower back. All standing, all the time has it’s own set of problems though, so your best bet is to alternate postures.

Get away from the desk, i.e. make your own copies, have face to face conversations: More steps, more steps, more steps. Plus, in-person conversations can be just as fast as email (and sometimes a lot clearer!).

Incidental Exercise Out and About

Going out and doing stuff makes a big difference to your levels of physical health and fitness. Why spend your free time sitting around?

Grocery shopping: Again, more steps. Walking is good! Bonus: If you’re not getting much, use a hand basket and carry your groceries for some added strength training. This goes for any sort of shopping, really.

Riding a bike: You don’t have to ride like you’re on the Tour de France to get some good for your body. Go for a cruise to help keep your legs strong and get some cardiovascular work in.

Hiking: A great way to gently challenge your joints and muscles, since the paths aren’t even and smooth. Being out in nature is an amazing way to boost your happiness quotient too.

Going for a walk: Doesn’t have to be fast, or far. There’s something about the rhythmic nature of aerobic exercise that makes it a meditation in movement, so you get some de-stress time as well as some gentle cardio work.

Playing in the pool: Fun! The pressure from the water gives your body something to work against, but it’s not so much resistance that it actually seems like work. Explains why you’re always more tired than you expect when you jump out.

Backyard games: Play with the kids. Set up teams for horseshoes or a beanbag toss. An easy game of touch football. Keep yourself on your feet and moving as much as you can. Your engagement will increase your enjoyment!

 

So, what can you plan into your day tomorrow to boost your movement time?


Brain-Boosting Exercise

Exercise 101:  It builds muscle, and increases fitness, and can make life a little easier – and not just physically!

It’s well known that exercise and physical activity helps you maintain good physical health. Did you know that exercise is good for your mental health too? Maybe you’ve heard that it’s a primary treatment recommendation for depression, or heard a friend describe getting a mental boost from a workout. Maybe you’ve had the really strong “I FEEL GREAT” feelings after you’re done. But where does that boost come from?

exercise fun

While these “feel-good” feelings are stimulated by exercise, their actual source is in the brain itself. During times of stress, which is how the body perceives exercise, the brain releases endorphins, a type of hormone that we commonly associated with a rush of euphoria. These hormones help block any pain signals that the stress might be causing, as a preventative measure of sorts.

They also make you feel damn good. As above, endorphins create feelings of euphoria – they are chemically similar to morphine! – and can increase positive thoughts and feelings. The “endorphin effect” can be both immediate and (with regular exercise) long-lasting. My first-hand experience with post-workout elation and exhilaration has made me a strong supporter of exercise as a useful element of treatment for depression and anxiety, both of which have popped up in my life. And there’s growing support that exercise can play a role in treatment and prevention of other mental illnesses, including helping to manage physical health challenges that can sometimes occur alongside.

It’s not just about feeling good, though. Long-term mental health can also get a boost from exercise. During times of stress, the brain releases another biochemical protein: brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein protects brain cells and their connections with each other, called synapses, which in turn helps improve brain cell signaling and can reverse cell damage. Improved connections between brain circuits mean improved memory, attention span, and processing speed. In some studies, increased levels of BDNF have actually been shown to have a reparative effect, and may eventually help us restore learning abilities and memory. Even low-key or modest levels of exercise, like going for a walk every day, have been show to produce BDNF-related improvements.

Neurons

The protective effects of BDNF extend throughout life. Many studies of brain health in older adults have shown that people who were more physically active earlier in life were less likely to develop degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. In the early stages of these diseases, people can also benefit from exercise: the aforementioned walk can help prevent disease progression. We tend to produce less BDNF as we age. Given the benefits, it makes sense to get moving regardless of current age or mental health.

Biochemicals aside, exercise actually benefits the brain in some of the same ways that it benefits the rest of our body. The blood vessels in our brains are very small, but still susceptible to the same types of damage as any of our other blood vessels. A stroke is one of the most common types of cardiovascular disease, and is the brain equivalent of a heart attack. While large strokes are usually quickly noticeable, small ones may occur without your knowledge. Tiny blockages leading to potentially unnoticeable mini-strokes can damage small areas of the brain and may lead to long-term mental health decline. You can vastly decrease your risks though: Your brain’s blood vessels are positively affected by exercise – the same way as the rest of your blood vessels throughout your body. Good blood vessel health (also called vascular health) also means optimal blood flow to the brain, and with it, optimal delivery of nutrients and oxygen. Sounds like a good idea to keep those channels open!


Walking along coronation drive in Brisbane

Client Question: Can Walking Uphill Take The Place of Lower Body Resistance Training?

Thanks to one of our exercise physiology clients in Indooroopilly for a great question!

Hill climbing can be a challenge to the muscles of the lower body, whether you walk outdoors or on a treadmill. As a result, uphill walking can help improve the strength and endurance of the lower body muscles. But it will not completely replace the need for lower body resistance training.

You may feel that walking uphill is a physical challenge, and you are not wrong! The major muscle groups in your legs have to work harder to keep you moving, and that can certainly lead to greater strength development than walking only on a flat surface. Walking will only stimulate strength development up to a point though, and relying on walking for strength will mean you’ll also miss out on other important elements of fitness.

Resistance Training Develops and Maintains Joint Mobility

Most strength or resistance training exercises require larger movements than walking does. These larger movements are the key to maintaining joint mobility (the freedom to move your joints through a normal, full range of motion). This keeps you moving well and can reduce wear and tear on the joints – one of the biggest causes of joint pain.

Resistance Training Develops and Maintains Muscle Strength

Strength is important, even if you don’t see yourself entering any future strongman competitions. You need a minimum, basic level of strength to meet the demands of daily life, whether that means lugging a heavy bag or briefcase around all day, carrying the groceries, or picking up the kids. While any activity that makes you work hard will develop muscular strength to some degree, resistance training is the best for this. A dedicated strength-building workout will promote far more strength than any you might build as a by-product of other exercise.

Resistance Training Helps Maintain Movement Abiliity

The combination of strength and joint mobility will help you maintain your overall movement ability, agility, balance, and gait well into your golden years. These two components of fitness and musculoskeletal health are what give you the ability to catch yourself if you trip, reach overhead to grab things down from shelves, and generally maintain your ability to walk, jog, and run well throughout your entire life.

Resistance Training Helps to Maintain Muscle Mass

Around about your mid-30s, you’ll start to lose about 1% of your muscle mass every year. Over time, this has a huge impact on your movement ability (muscle mass is directly related to physical strength) – if you don’t take action. Your body will keep the muscle it uses. Use resistance training to maintain muscle mass and your muscle mass will keep you moving.

Over time, muscle loss can also substantially slow your metabolism, one part of why many people gain weight with age. Remember that old saying “muscle burns more calories than fat”? It’s true! Resistance training keeps your metabolism revved up, helping you more easily lose weight and keep it off.

So you can’t rely on the treadmill to build lower body strength. Do you have to join a gym? Not at all. If the rise of in-home personal training options and other at-home workouts tell us anything, it’s that you can get a great workout at home with little to no set-up. Our in-home personal training, exercise physiology, and coaching options do recommend a few different training tools, but you can start resistance training at home using just your bodyweight and branch out as you need to. You’ll probably find that you actually have a few things already lying around the house that you can use to provide resistance. Get creative and enjoy the benefits!

For more information:
Plowman, S. A., & Smith, D. L. (2017). Exercise Physiology For Health, Fitness, and Performance (5th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Franz, J. R., & Kram, R. (2013). How does age affect leg muscle activity/coactivity during uphill and downhill walking? Gait & Posture, 37(3), 378-384. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2012.08.004

Three Steps to Feeling Great

Movement is one of the four key areas of health used in the HealthFit approach, and a great tool to improve your health and feel better – our end goal! To help you achieve it, we provide a three-step framework that takes the seemingly overwhelming process of increasing fitness and strength, and turns it into something a little challenging, but totally achievable. Whether you are investing in yourself with Health Coaching for healthy lifestyle choices, or succeeding with an In-Home Exercise Program, your coach will work with you to develop the details while guiding you forward through the process of building more movement into your life. It’s as easy as one, two, three…

Step One: Get Moving
Think about all the muscles and joints you have in your body – it’s built to move! Just 100 years ago, life had many more physical demands. These days, while we don’t have to worry about planting the garden in order to get dinner on the table, now we also don’t get the exercise that goes along with that.

You and your coach will work as a team to figure out what kind of movement you can fit into your lifestyle – easily and enjoyably, and taking into account your interests and abilities. This may mean joining a gym or taking an exercise class, but it also can be as simple as taking the dog out for a daily walk. There’s no single “best” way to get moving.

It’s important that you stay safe and pain-free (always, but especially at the beginning). That means easing into it to get your body accustomed to additional movement, and making sure you feel good before, during, and after. It’s also important that you have a movement plan you enjoy. Life has a tendency to throw curve balls, and exercise is often one of the first things to stop when the going gets stressful.

Step Two: Move Better
The Move Better step helps your body move easily. The stiffness, weakness, and aches and pains that we associate with aging have more to do with years of postural stress and lack of movement than getting older. Move Better is not learning a new way to move. Rather, it allows your body to remember how to move well, and lets you rebuild the ability to do it.

You and your coach will come up with a plan to help you loosen tight parts and lengthen short parts to decrease physical stress, and strengthen the whole body to help you more easily meet the physical demands of daily life. This will allow you to achieve and maintain better posture and greater flexibility, and stay pain free and decrease injury risk. As well as kicking those achy joints to the curb, adding Move Better to Get Moving can result in positive changes to health markers like blood glucose levels or high cholesterol or triglycerides. Much of this work can be done in your own home and on your own timeframe, and doesn’t require a major time commitment to create a major change.

Step Three: Move More
For many people, taking steps to Get Moving and Move Better will be enough to get them to the level of health and fitness that makes them happy. But if you want to build on feeling better, Move More is the next step. You can get stronger, fitter, leaner, more flexible, or train for a specific goal or event.

Move More often does mean having a more detailed plan for exercise or physical activity, but that still doesn’t mean a daily commitment to an hours-long gym workout. To continue your progress, you will work with your coach to find smart, realistic ways to further increase the amount of movement, exercise, or physical activity in your everyday life. Your program will follow the same rules: keep you safe and pain-free, fit into your lifestyle, and be effective.

At each step, the focus is on finding what works for you. You’ll be guided through this process with the freedom to call the shots or follow directions as much as you like. You’ll have the full support of your coach to pursue better health and fitness in whatever way makes you most comfortable, and have someone to celebrate with when you hit the marks. Our goal for every client: Healthy, fit, happy.


Exercise For Older Adults, Part 2

In the first part of this series, we discussed the difference between physical activity and exercise. Let’s get more in-depth. There are four types of exercise and activity that will provide the greatest benefit:

Resistance training

These are the exercises that are often the highest intensity. Good thing you don’t need to do a whole lot of it! Resistance training uses your own body weight or an additional weight to stimulate your muscles to grow in size and strength.

If there was one type of exercise I’d ask someone to do, strength training would be it (though I would hope never to have to pick just one!). This is because strength training helps limit the loss of muscle mass and strength that starts occurring around age 30 and that occurs much more rapidly after about the age of 50. Maintaining muscle mass and strength means that you’ll also maintain your ability to complete day to day tasks with fewer potential problems, and will be better able to handle health hurdle and injuries that might come your way.

Exercises like squats, seated rows, and chest press or pushups are all excellent examples of strength training exercises, because they use large muscles and multiple joints, so you get the most bang-for-buck. Other strength training exercises like calf raises or bicep curls are also valuable, though involve slightly less muscle.

Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise

Cardiovascular (or aerobic) exercise helps build both muscular endurance, so you can spend more time doing things you enjoy (gardening, walking) before getting tired, and improves the strength and endurance of your cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Cardiovascular exercise – what we’re doing when we walk, run, swim, dance, do the yardwork – helps our bodies in two ways. It builds muscular endurance in our large muscle groups that are used to create movement, and it builds strength and endurance in our cardiovascular and respiratory systems, meaning that it strengthens our heart (remember it’s a muscle!) and the muscles we use to breathe, as well as creating a stronger delivery system for oxygen and nutrients to our working muscles.

Plus, there is a significant and growing body of research showing that the repeated, rhythmic movements inherent to cardiovascular exercise are calming and relaxing. Not only does this relieve stress, but it can help alleviate anxiety and the symptoms of depression. Yay for improving physical and mental health at the same time.

Balance exercise

Good balance depends in part on muscular strength and the reflexes and reaction time of the nervous system. Since balance is a key component in preventing falls, it’s increasing important to work to maintain good balance as we age.

Though other types of exercise are helpful in maintaining good balance, specific exercises are as simple as putting yourself in a position where your balance is slightly or moderately challenged (but that is still safe), and letting your body figure out how to adjust for the slight instability. This can be as low-tech as standing on one foot with a hand on a wall for some stability help (to make it more challenging, try closing your eyes).   Another great option is tai chi, a form exercise that slow, continuous movement and emphasizes body alignment shifting your body weight in a controlled manner. Often spoken of as “meditation in movement”, tai chi is also a great break for your brain.

Flexibility exercise

Though not “exercise” in the traditional sense, flexibility exercises are nonetheless an important part of maintaining movement ability and quality of life. Losing flexibility means losing the ability to move to the same degree that you did when you were young.

Most people think of flexibility and static stretching (the traditional stretch-and-hold) as the same thing, and to some degree this is true. Static flexibility tells us the about the range of motion available at a given joint. However, in day to day life, we should take dynamic flexibility into greater consideration.

Dynamic flexibility considers both the range of motion available at the joint, and takes into account any resistance to the stretch that might be caused by muscle tension or any other resistance to the movement. In many ways, this is real-life flexibility. Consider trying to reach a jar down from a tall shelf. As you stretch to reach it, your body is contracting muscles to help stabilize you and to complete the movement. Your flexibility in this action will be much different than your flexibility if you were sitting somewhere relaxed and supported.

Despite these differences, any flexibility exercise is worth doing. All age groups appear to respond to flexibility training, and this is key to maintaining your ability to move well, helping to maintain quality of life and independent living. There are many types of stretching, and most seem to provide roughly the same level of benefit, though to maximize your results from flexibility exercises, you should be looking for the line between a comfortable stretch and slight discomfort. Finding stretches that take you to (but not over) this slight discomfort line while still keeping you in a safe and supported position will be your best bet.

So whats the bottom line?

As always, the most effective exercise is the exercise you’re willing to do! The benefits provided by each typoe of exercise have a lot of overlap, though you’ll certainly get a more even spread of these benefits by including some of each of the above. Remember to stay safe, listen to your body, and work to find exercises that are challenging but achievable, and you’ll go farther than you might expect!

 

References
Carter, N. D., P. Kannus, *K. M. Khan. “Exercise in the prevention of falls in older people: A systematic literature review examining the rationale and the evidence”. Sports Medicine. 31(6):427-438 (2001).
Claxton, D. B., M. S. Wiggins, F. M. Moode &R. Crist. “A Question of Balance”. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. 77(3):32-37 (2006).
Keller, K.& M. Engelhardt.  “Strength and muscle mass loss with aging process. Age and strength loss”. Muscles Ligaments Tendons Journal. 3(4):346–350 (2013). 
Plowman, S. A. & D. L. Smith. Exercise Physiology For Health, Fitness, And Performance. 4th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2014.

 

 


How To Calculate Your Heart Rate

The human heart beats about 100,000 times a day. That’s about two billion heartbeats during a lifetime! How many of those should you spend on a workout?

Exercise is one of the best ways to increase your life expectancy, due in part to the effect of cardiovascular (or aerobic) exercise. You can increase this component of your fitness by doing steady aerobic work (walking, running, cycling, and swimming are just a few examples) at a given percentage of your maximum heart rate. But how the heck do you figure out what that is?

The most accurate way to determine your maximum heart rate is by undergoing an incremental exercise test to maximum exercise level. This is not fun, and requires precise monitoring with specific equipment. Your doctor is probably not going to prescribe this just because you ask for it (but they might!). More commonly, personal trainers, exercise physiologists, health coaches, and other exercise professionals use a formula that estimates your maximum heart rate, based on your age:

Calculating Maximum Heart Rate – Normal, Healthy People

When planning day-to-day exercise, there is a commonly used equation to estimate your maximum heart rate that is actually quite simple, and is empirically based (meaning based on solid research). It’s not as precise as the exercise testing, but it is much easier. All it takes is a little math.

Maximum Heart Rate (in beats per minute) = 220 – Age in years

For example, the maximum heart rate calculation for a 35 year old would look like this:

Maximum heart rate = 220 – 35

Maximum heart rate = 185 beats per minute

However, it is important to note that this equation can overestimate or underestimate your maximum heart rate by as much as 12 to 15 beats. In general, this variation is mostly due to age, but can also be influenced by factors such as fitness level and individual genetic makeups, which are impossible to account for in the estimation.

If you are over 40, the above equation may overestimate your maximum heart rate as 12-15 beats per minute higher than it actually should be. This means that the number the equation tells you could be 12-15 beats per minute higher than it should be, and you should use caution with exercise that takes your near your calculated heart rate max.

If you are under 40, the above equation may underestimate your maximum heart rate by 12-15 beats per minute. This means that exercise that takes you near the calculated maximum heart rate may not truly be your max – you may be exercising at a lower intensity than you mean to.

There are two other variations for calculating maximum heart rate for specific populations, which take into account more specific variables.

Calculating Maximum Heart Rate for Obese Individuals

This variation on the maximum heart rate equation takes into account the low fitness level that very often corresponds with obesity. It also takes into account the health challenges an individual may face, including heart disease, which may further increase risk of injury or cardiac event brought on by strenuous exercise.

Maximum Heart Rate, Obese Individuals (In beats per minute) = 200 x (0.5 x Age in years)

For example, the maximum heart rate calculation for a 50 year old obese individual would look like this:

Maximum heart rate = 200 – (0.5 x 50)

Maximum heart rate = 200 – 25

Maximum heart rate = 175 beats per minute

Calculating Maximum Heart Rate for Older Adults

Your heart has its own natural pacemaker, which creates the electrical impulse that causes each heartbeat. As you age, these impulses – and subsequently your heartbeat – gradually slow. (This is a normal process and nothing to worry about!)

This physical difference means that in order to be more accurate, if you are an older adult (above the age of 60), you should be using a slightly different formula to estimate your maximum heart rate. Older adults can make the same changes to cardiovascular fitness as any other age group, and the relative intensity that you can work to as an older adult is unchanged. A workout that brings you to about 70% of your maximum heart rate will feel the same whether you’re 37 or 73. It’s only your actual heart rate that will be different. So it’s worth planning well. Using the following modified formula will ensure that you A) stay within safe limits when exercising and B) continue to make progress and increase your fitness levels!

Maximum Heart Rate, Older Adults (In beats per minute) = 208 x (0.7 x Age in years)

For example, the maximum heart rate calculation for a 73 year old would look like this:

Maximum heart rate = 208 – (0.7 x 73)

Maximum heart rate = 200 – 51

Maximum heart rate = 149 beats per minute

With respect to all of these situations, it’s important to listen to your body when gauging your exercise intensity. If you feel like you’re working moderately, very hard, or somewhere in between, then it’s ok to use that to gauge your workout intensity as well. We call this a rating of perceived exertion, and it has a strong parallel to heart rate when it comes to gauging intensity. You can use both methods to gauge intensity, or you can aim for a target heart rate and work within 5-10 beats per minute of that number.

 

References
Miller, Wayne C., Janet P. Wallace, and Karen E. Eggert. “Predicting Max HR And The HR-&VO2 Relationship For Exercise Prescription In Obesity”. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 25.9 (1993): 1077-1081.
Plowman, Sharon A and Denise L Smith. Exercise Physiology For Health, Fitness, And Performance. 4th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2014.
Tanaka, Hirofumi, Kevin D Monahan, and Douglas R Seals. “Age-Predicted Maximal Heart Rate Revisited”. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 37.1 (2001): 153-156.

Exercise For Older Adults, Part 1

Exercise and physical activity are both important factors in maintaining health, independence, and quality of life as you age. Let’s explore what exactly that means for you on a day to day basis:

We all want to maintain the best quality of life we can as we grow older. Your physical abilities have a lot to do with this: the better you can move, the better your quality of life will remain. With respect to your physical abilities, your body is really great at adapting to whatever demands are made of them, regardless of age. This is good news, because it means that no matter when you start an exercise program or increase your physical activity, you will benefit from it. The bad news is that if you never start an exercise program, or if you allow yourself to become less physically active, your body will actually lose it’s ability to perform certain tasks involving strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance. The longer you remain inactive, the more loss occurs. So let’s put a stop to that right now, and explore what it really means to be physically active and exercise as an older adult.

First things first: what’s the difference between physical activity and exercise? Both are important factors in maintaining health and independence, but actually doing each is slightly different, both in intention and effort.

Physical activity is movement that occurs as part of your daily life, for which some muscular effort is required and energy is expended. Physical activity levels correspond with health benefits, to some degree – there is a maximum health benefit that can be achieved, because as your fitness increases, your body will be able to handle more exertion more easily. The walk that you were taking when you started will become much less physically stressful – good job! When increasing your physical activity, it’s important to take into account the level that you are normally doing. This can include things that might not immediately come to mind, like vacuuming or gardening, as well as taking a walk. Always make sure you are in a safe environment too. Be on the lookout for trip and fall hazards, and give yourself plenty of breaks as you increase your day to day activities to make sure you don’t overload your body.

Exercise is also movement, but the key different between exercise and physical activity is the intention of the movement. Exercise consists of planned and repeated movements, often of a higher intensity and also produced by muscular effort and energy expenditure. By intentionally producing movement and effort, you will improve and/or maintain physical fitness and health benefits to a greater degree than you can achieve via physical activity alone. As we age, it’s important to consider how quickly your body will recover from higher intensity efforts. Unfortunately, you just won’t bounce back the way you did when you were 20! To help this along, make sure you start slowly and easily, and give yourself plenty of time between workouts. A hot bath or shower, ice or heat packs, and extra sleep will help if you are feeling particularly sore or tired after a workout. Good nutrition and drinking plenty of water are also key, of course!

So, if exercise can result in greater health benefits than physical activity, should you just focus on breaking a sweat and not worry too much about movement during non-gym hours? Surprisingly, no! Though research shows that exercise programs can incur greater health benefits, high levels of physical activity in day to day life are still very important. And sometimes you can even kill two birds with one stone: Incorporating small bursts of exercise into your daily activities – like doing a few pushups on your kitchen counter a few times daily – will lead to a more active lifestyle without you even realizing it.

Bottom line: get moving! It doesn’t have to be a big workout to make a difference. To feel better and be more healthy, it just has to be more than you’re doing right now. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll cover different types of exercise and how each can benefit you.


You’re Never Too Old…

The story: 104-year-old Ray Chavez, the oldest surviving veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack of World War II, is going to Hawaii for the 75th anniversary of the strike. He made the decision to go three years ago, and has been working with a trainer to help him physically prepare for the trip.

At 104 years old, Ray put on 20 pounds of muscle mass.

I love this story. The decision to make an effort, and then stick with it for years and attain such spectacular results is phenomenal. But the fact that he could actually make these gains isn’t!

What we think about the aging process – that our bodies will become unable to lift heavy things, or walk certain distances as our age advances – is not necessarily true. As with any age group, if you don’t continue to use the strength, flexibility, or cardiovascular endurance you have, you’ll lose these abilities to a degree. But…

you-can-do-it-poster

No matter how old you get, you can still gain at least some of the qualities back!

The body’s ability to build strength or endurance or flexibility doesn’t change as we age, though the process can differ slightly. Everyone has their own starting point, dependent on age and other characteristics (like being a couch potato or an avid outdoorsman). With advancing age, starting strength or endurance often decrease, so it’s important to recognize where you are, rather than where you think you should be or want to be. A good guideline:  whatever exercise or activity you choose should be moderately challenging, but achievable. And your starting point is just that – a starting point. Though the aging process usually means that it takes a bit longer for our bodies to respond to the exercise, they still will respond. In fact, if you stick with the “challenging but achievable” guideline, you’ll be able to continue to progress with weights or other resistance training for strength, or to stick with the treadmill or bike for a greater duration. All of it will eventually become easier. Once it does, you can find a new challenge. Heavier weight. Longer bike ride. Higher steps.

The long and short: Our bodies are designed to move, and that design doesn’t change with age. The body may not progress as fast as we’d like it to, but it will make progress!

You can read Ray’s story (and watch the inspiring video) here.