Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a two-part column from the YMCA about how exercise and eating habits can prevent many diseases. Part 1 was published on Aug. 23’s Healthy Life Page of the EagleHerald.
There are many different ways to work out and all should be included in your weekly exercise program to enjoy all the benefits each physical activity provides.
Cardiovascular exercise
Also called endurance activities, are physical activities in which people move their large muscles in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period, using aerobic muscle fibers. Running, brisk walking, bicycling, dancing, elliptical machine, hiking and swimming are all good examples. Aerobic activity makes a person’s heart beat more rapidly to meet the demands of the body’s movement. Over time, regular aerobic activity makes the heart and cardiovascular system stronger and fitter.
Adults should get at a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity. One way to track intensity is by incorporating a relative intensity scale. That is, the level of perceived exertion that you exert in effort. It can be estimated using a scale of 0-10 where sitting doing nothing is 0 and highest level of effort possible is 10. Moderate intensity activity is a 5 or 6 whereas vigorous intensity is a 7 or 8.
Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in aerobic physical activity beyond these time framed or intensity requirements. If you are currently inactive, you should gradually increase your cardiovascular exercise time, frequency and intensity for best adherence and to avoid injury. You need to do this type of activity for at least 10 minutes at a time as working periods shorter than this do not have the same health benefits. Also, keep in mind people unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.
Additional benefits of cardiovascular activity include: weight loss, stronger heart and lungs, increased bone density, reduced stress, reduced risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer, relief from depression and anxiety, more confidence and better sleep.
Resistance exercise
Also called weight training, are physical activities that provide additional benefits not found with aerobic activity. Those benefits include: protect bone health and muscle mass, helps you get stronger and fitter, develop better body mechanics, and it also helps play a role in disease prevention. Weight training activities involve overloading the muscles; making muscles do more than they are used to and are achieved through strength activities using proper tools and resistance including dumbbells, barbells, machines, or resistance tubes.
Muscle strengthening activities count if they involve a high level of intensity and work all the major muscle groups of the body including the legs, glutes, hips, back, chest, shoulders and arms. Some examples include but are not limited to: Squats and lunges for the legs and glutes, pull ups or rows for back, push ups or bench press for chest, military press or side raises for shoulders, bicep curl for biceps, and skull crushers or tricep push ups for your tri’s.
More benefits are reached through compound training, which is, working multiple muscle groups at the same time. A great example would be the push-press. That exercise involves using a barbell or two dumbbells, with a squat and an overhead press. Keep in mind to keep the body in balance by doing as many sets for the back of the body as you do the front. Some people have a tendency to overwork only the body parts they can see in the mirror, creating an imbalance in the body that can create injuries.
No specific amount of time is recommended for resistance exercise but a good rule of thumb is to hit every major muscle group at least two times per week, never using the same muscle group two days in a row. Spacing the days of resistance training is recommended. A Monday/Wednesday/Friday training split would be a good idea. Perform 2-4 sets of each exercise for 8-12 repetitions to improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions to improve strength in older populations or people just starting, and 15-20 reps to improve muscular endurance.
Keep in mind muscle-strengthening exercises should be performed to the point at which it would be difficult to do another rep without help. Stay in control of the weight, brace your core while performing every exercise and create a mind/muscle connection with your body.
Many people, especially women, tend to skip out on this all important exercise of resistance exercise. They do so because they do not want to “bulk up.” This is a common misconception. Once strength training is started people generally don’t lose much weight. But something better is happening. When we start weight training, we gain a pound of muscle, and lose a pound of fat. You think, big deal a pound is a pound. But, muscle has much more density. This means if you looked at one pound of muscle and one pound of fat side by side, the fat takes up more volume, or space. When we stay consistent with our resistance exercises we develop more lean tissue and continue to cut more fat tissue. We may stay the same weight, but we take up less space.
With this type of exercise we should focus on the changes that are happening internally, how much better we feel, look, how our clothes are fitting more loosely, and how our body has changed and strengthened. Focus should not be on the scale. In addition, the more muscle we have, as opposed to fat tissue, the more calories we will burn throughout the day, thus a greater metabolism. One pound of muscle burns 7-10 calories/day while at rest, compared to 2-3 calories per pound of fat per day.
Core-strengthening exercises
When asked where their core muscles are most people only point to the abdominals. Our core muscles encompass so much more than that. Your core is all muscles from the neck down minus your lower arms and legs and is made up of muscles of the front of your body, back of your body and both sides. Your core is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body so it is important to strengthen it.
There are five different components of the core: Strength, endurance, flexibility, motor control and function. Without motor control and function, the other three are useless and you would look like a fish out of water, so stay in control of your movements when performing core. Some other reasons to incorporate core training: it helps prevent injuries, protects your inner organs and central nervous system, helps prevent back injuries, and gives you a better, more confident posture.
One of the best core exercises to perform is called a hover, or plank exercise. What makes this particular exercise most beneficial is because it is an integrated exercise, meaning we are working all the muscles of the core at the same time, creating more strength and change in the body during a shorter period of time rather than performing isolated exercises alone. Side hovers, or planks, will target more of the obliques while still integrating the core. You can still add in isolated exercises like crunches or back hyper extensions as needed keeping in mind a front and back body balance.
There is no set amount of time you should dedicate to core training but you should work your core 2-3 times per week for optimal results, and its best to rest your core for 48 hours before you work it again. Also keep in mind if you plan to strength train and work core during the same day, lift first then do core. Lifting on a compromised core could lead to a back injury.
Flexibility, Full Range of Motion and Neuromotor exercises
Perform Yoga once or twice per week. Yoga is a 5,000-year-old workout. Yoga cultivates health and wellbeing (physical, emotional, mental and social) through the regular practice of range of many techniques including postures and movement, breath awareness and breathing exercises, relaxation and concentration, and self-inquiry and meditation. You will also increase your balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength. It is by no means an easy exercise to do, but many times you feel much better walking out of your yoga class than you did walking in.
SMIT or HIIT Training
SMIT or HIIT Training is all about working your anaerobic system. We spoke before when discussing cardiovascular exercise that we were working our aerobic system, or endurance activities performed over a longer period of time. SMIT training (Supramaximal Interval Training) or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) works our other cardiovascular system, our anaerobic system. It’s important to work this system as well. I like to use the analogy of an automobile engine.
Pretend we’re all born with an 8-cylinder engine that acts like our metabolism. If we only work our aerobic system, that is, we only perform cardio at a slow steady state, we only are using 5 out of our 8 available cylinders for calorie burn. But, if we incorporate SMIT or HIIT training into our workout plan, we now use all 8 cylinders for a greater calorie burn for hours after the workout is over. You read that correctly.
When done with a SMIT or HIIT workout we create what’s called an EPOC (Excess Post-Workout Oxygen Consumption) that burns a massive amount of calories when done with the workout that can last all day and can even make you burn more calories at rest and even when you sleep. EPOC is also known as oxygen debt and is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to it’s normal resting level of metabolic function (called homeostasis.)
SMIT training is performing all out bursts of exercise interspersed with full rest periods. HIIT training is performing high intensity intervals, interspaced with low to moderate intensity exercises. As you can tell by the names of these workouts, intensity is through the roof. However, the duration of the workout is shortened because of the intensity you put out. Exercising at these intensities should give you a 9 or 10 on the perceived exertion scale we spoke of earlier. Don’t be intimated by the intensity of these workouts; it is only determined by your own perceived exertion; not anybody elses.
Perform SMIT or HIIT workouts up to 3 times per week making sure you recover a full 48 hours before “hitting” your next one. One of the other benefits of these workouts is that you can incorporate other types of workouts we just discussed into your SMIT or HIIT workout. You can combine strength along with cardio exercises into these workouts to kill two or three birds with one stone, eliminating a strength training and cardio training for the week in just one workout.
Other benefits include: Helps build power, quickness, and speed, burns calories and fat in shorter period of time and after the workout is completed, boosts metabolism, and good for heart health. Other things to consider: Make sure intensity is through the roof when performing exercises, working periods should be no longer than 2 minutes in duration with rest periods no longer than a minute, optimal work to rest time is 20 seconds hard, 10 seconds off (Tabata), and workouts should not last longer than a half hour.
Also, if you’re just beginning your fitness journey, don’t jump into these workouts right away. Build up your aerobic base first to avoid injury.
There you have it; all the facets of an effective exercise program. No one facet is more important than another and all should be incorporated throughout the course of the week to become healthy, happy and fit. They are all a piece of our wellness puzzle and we become incomplete if we are missing one or more of those. I know because I’ve been there before. Only now since I have become older and wiser, learned from my mistakes, and became a student of health and wellness do I know and understand the importance of putting it all together to become the best version of myself and optimize my overall fitness to continue to be the best athlete possible and also so I can continue to teach my classes at a high level at the Y to inspire and motivate change within the community.
We all have it in us; we all have the same 1,440 minutes in the day. Many things are not equal in this world, but I know everyone gets that same 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We make time for what we truly want.
At the Greater Marinette Menominee YMCA, we have over 90 different class times and 20 different types of classes to choose from 7 days a week from 4:45 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. Every class encompasses at least one of the facets of exercise we just spoke of, and some encompass multiple. Studies have shown that group fitness classes create more change in a person who working out alone. People are our passion at The Y. Hope to see you soon!
Steve Campbell is a Wellness Coach and Les Mills Instructor at the YMCA. For more information, people may contact the YMCA, 1600 West Drive, Menominee, at 906-863-9983.