Monday, June 25, 2012

Starting An Exercise Program, Part 1

If you have found the enthusiasm to begin an exercise regimen, the quickest way to cool your resolve is to do too much too fast, cautions Dr. Leonore Zohman.  So we would advise those who want to exercise to begin a program gradually, regularly and progressively.  This will of course require self-discipline.

Ideally, a previously sedentary prospective exerciser should have a checkup by his physician including an examination of the cardiovascular system, blood pressure, muscles and joints.  His blood should be analyzed for cholesterol and triglycerides and a resting electrocardiogram should be evaluated.

Most importantly, the examination before starting an exercise program should include an exercise stress test.

Guidelines For Exercising.  There is an amount (intensity or vigorousness) of exercise which is enough to condition the muscles and cardiovascular system leading to physical fitness, but is not overly strenuous.  That is, there is a target zone in which there is enough activity to achieve fitness, but not too much to exceed safe limits.  The name of the game is finding your target zone.

Each individual’s target zone is between 60 to 80 percent of his own maximum aerobic power.  Below 60 percent of his capacity he achieves little fitness benefit – unless he has been bedridden for a prolonged period.  Above 80 percent there is little benefit from a great deal of extra exercise.

The concept of maximal aerobic power (sometimes called maximal aerobic capacity or maximal oxygen intake) is merely the technical description of the fact that there is a point for each of us where, despite our best efforts, the heart and circulation cannot deliver any more oxygen to the tissues and we cannot exercise much longer or harder without approaching exhaustion.

At this point, the lungs are making oxygen available to the bloodstream but that oxygen cannot be transported by the blood to the muscles fast enough to create energy for exercise.  The muscles cannot work aerobically anymore.  Almost simultaneously with reaching this limitation of oxygen supply, the heart becomes unable to beat any faster.

Having begun your exercise program, certain situations may occur which indicate that you are doing too much.  It is possible that exercising in the hot weather or at a higher altitude, or even under circumstances of competition may be causing your heart rate to climb faster than you suspect.  Under such circumstances, your bodily awareness of your heart rate level may be inaccurate and inadvertently, you may overdo it.

(In Part 2, we will be discussing important medical questions to help you decide whether or not to see your doctor before starting an exercise training program. – J.P.)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Benefits of Brisk Walking

Brisk walking is beneficial for both the young and the elderly.  One needs only a good pair of running shoes and a commitment to enjoy walking regularly.

A survey among 3,753 American doctors supports brisk walking as the most effective way to battle short breath, bulges, extra chins, and that general “run-down” feeling.

Walking is extolled highly by doctors because it is an exercise in which the factors of strain and fatigue are reduced to a minimum.  Nature intended all of us to walk.  She deliberately adapted our muscles, limbs, toes, organs and lungs to this form of locomotion.

Literally every part of the body is called upon to perform when walking.  Lungs dilate with fresh invigorating air; muscles stretch and turn and knead themselves with every step; joints automatically “oil” themselves to make the going smooth.  Senses perk up.

Medical records compiled over the past fifty years confirm that everyday walking gives the best health results at any age, according to Paul Brock, an American physical fitness researcher.  And you can be as good a walker at sixty as at twenty, if not better, for the more our walking machinery is used, the better it functions.  As the saying goes, “use it, or lose it.”

In spite of the almost complete absence of strain in walking, the exercise demands real physical effort without the walker being uncomfortably aware of it.

Experiments have proved that the energy expended in a five-mile walk performed at a steady pace of three miles an hour is twice that expended by a good tennis player playing three grueling sets of singles.  The actively engaged muscles take in such a wide area, and the effort involved is so widely distributed that no one set of muscles runs the risk of being overtaxed.

How to Walk.  A four-mile-an-hour gait is about top speed for the average walker, with three-miles-an-hour more frequent.

One hour of continuous walking at three-miles-an-hour is a vigorous and stimulating workout for everyone.

At an easy walking gait, the hands ought to dangle loosely – well below the waist – swinging in and out like a pendulum.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Running Shoe Makes a Difference

Do you know that the shoe you wear to run does make a difference?  If you are going to use your feet to carry you down the road to fitness, give them the treatment they deserve, suggests Glenn Jones, a jogging enthusiast.

In choosing a running shoe, size - although important – and looks are not the first considerations.  Perhaps the first step in picking a shoe is to evaluate your running style.  Make sure you run relaxed and natural – then check the way you are using your feet.  There are at least three basic ways the runner’s foot strikes the ground.  Decide which one you have been using and inspect the shoe on that basis.

In the heel to toe technique, the jogger lands first on the heel of his feet and then rocks his body forward to take off on the ball of the feet.  This is used by most long-distance runners because it is not very tiring.

Some runners run flat footed.  Here, instead of hitting first with the heel, the entire foot lands on the surface at the same time.  This allows the force to be distributed over the entire foot and often eliminates bruising when running on a hard surface.

In the third type of foot placement, the runner lands on the ball of his foot and then settles to his heel before taking the next step.  This is often used by track sprinters but produces a strain for many runners and you may not find it as comfortable as other techniques. 

Now you are ready to select the shoe that suits you best.  If you are a heel-toe runner, it is possible to buy a shoe which has cushioned pads built in under the ball and heel of the foot.  This provides the protection where you need it most.  If you are a flat foot runner, try one of the canvass type shoesThese shoes allow a distribution of the weight over the trial foot surface so that one spot does not suffer particular stress.  And if you are the toe-heel runner, it might be wise to go to a track type shoe.

Determining Your Heart Rate.  If an exerciser has a stress test, the speed (in kilometers per hour) that probably will raise his heart rate to target levels when he walks, or jogs or runs, can usually be determined fairly accurately.  However, a healthy person can use his heart rate response to a trial of walking or jogging at various speeds to determine the level for himself.

For instance, try to walk a kilometer continuously at the fastest pace at which you are comfortable.  If it takes half an hour, you are walking at the rate of two kilometers per hour.  As long as there are no warning symptoms, and the heart hasn’t reached target zone, then increase the level of exercise to one kilometer in 20 minutes, which is three kilometers per hour.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Relax To Stay Healthy

In our desire to be healthy and fit, we often forget other obvious factors which are just as important, even so: these are relaxation and avoidance of mental stress and tension which can weaken the body – and even shorten lives.

Dr. Hans Selye, Nobel Laureate and holder of 57 honorary awards and 21 doctorates, say that everyone has his own stress level and when this is exceeded, the body suffers damage of various kinds.  One of these seems to be a lowering of immunity to disease.  That they can be a contributing cause of stomach disorders such as ulcers is a long-established fact.

If exercise is to provide any relief from the conditions, specialists warn, it should be fun, not work.  When it becomes a job that the participant feels forced to do, it should be avoided, or the harmful emotional effects will outweigh any possible benefit.  A man who plays golf or tennis with his boss or a prospective customer, if he is a salesman, exposes himself to tensions which at least neutralize the physical benefits.

Another inherently hazardous situation occurs when a man over 40 plays tennis, golf, or jogs and bikes with his son, other youngsters or expert athletes.  In a subconscious attempt to regain the vigor of his teens he might press himself to an all-out and potentially dangerous effort.

The fountain of fitness, it seems, still flows best when based on the same old rules that have been around for decades, especially for those over 40: exercise, controlled according to individual physical ability, weight within normal limits, and a body unpunished by cigarettes and alcohol.

Almost all medical authorities agree that any exercise program depends entirely upon the individual:  one’s age, weight, freedom from physical defects, history of physical conditioning, demands of career and life style, etc.  They agree, too, that most peoples require more exercise in varying quantities – but not in excess.

The Committee on Aging of the American Medical Association has endorsed regular exercise as a potent defense against “deterioration” or aging, and physicians prescribe a regular program of exercise as the best medicine around.  But a regular program is not playing 36 holes of golf once a week or jogging 10 miles twice a week.  Obviously, the frequency should be more, such as three to six times a week of moderate jogging and other forms of aerobic and isotonic exercises.

Definitely a variety of exercises and a share of determination plus a pinch of motivation could ward off slackening of interest.  A better idea: involve the family in your daily exercises and it will pay dividends in terms of health and fitness for the wife and children!