Whether you're working toward high-level fitness or just looking to maintain your overall health, light exercise is important.
If you're really committed to high-level fitness, which is certainly our hope, light exercise is a key component of your workout plan. Ideally, you're looking at four days a week of hard exercise -- two of strength training, and two of hard aerobics -- as the base of your program, and then two days a week of very light, long duration exercise, like a long walk or easy bike ride. An hour of this light exercise will keep you on track for your fitness goals while giving your body a chance to actively recover from the hard days.
Even if you're not serious about exercise (yet!), light exercise plays a wonderful role in promoting your overall health. Nobody has done truly high-quality studies, but data suggest that walking is, mile for mile, as good for your long-term cardiovascular health as running. ("Mile for mile" is very different than hour for hour. Walking three miles is the same as running three miles, but walking a half hour is definitively not the same as running a half hour).
So, if you are aiming for good physical and mental health, but simply can't get yourself into the harder exercise groove, shoot for walking an hour a day, or the equivalent in any other form of light exercise, and you will have done yourself a world of good.View Thread
American life expectancy has risen so far and so fast that retirement planners now tell a generally healthy couple in their 60s to plan on at least one of them reaching their mid 90s. Even if you're prepared financially, have you invested enough in your body to keep you going until 90? Becoming a weak older person is a very dangerous concept, and very likely to end with you in a nursing home, or severely limited in your physical mobility.
So how do you make sure you'll have what it takes to stay in the game? Go to the gym, and do hard weight training a couple days a week, and keep showing up week after week. As unpleasant as that sounds, it is actually not that big a deal. In exchange, you get twenty years of functional independence and vitality, and the ability to live life on your terms for the road ahead.View Thread
Though the media and our own internal "wishful thinking" try to tell us otherwise, the whole concept of super foods to slow or delay aging is a triumph of marketing over reality. While some foods may have more of one nutrient than another, the truth is that all fruits and vegetables are super foods, and the best strategy is a broad mix of different types.
One easy strategy is to try to get as many different colors of fruit and vegetable on your plate as you can at each meal, as the colors coincide with different chemical makeups within each plant. It is the overall concept of having plants of all types form the bulk of your calorie consumption that leads to long-term health (and then reducing that calorie consumption to sane levels!)View Thread
If you've been advised to stick to low impact aerobics, the great news is that all forms of aerobic exercise give you about the same benefit. The only variables are intensity and duration, so you can find whatever works best for you. Most people find that either the elliptical or stationary bike works best, though some people do well with the treadmill -- angling up the ramp rather than increasing the speed, to provide an extra workout boost. If you have access to a pool, water aerobics can also be a great choice.
On the stationary bike front, there are people who like the recumbent bikes, or the classic seated exercise bikes, but most people end up preferring the spin bikes. They have a more natural feel, and spin class is a great way to get a low-impact but high-intensity workout.
The other nice thing about biking is that you can easily transition to outdoor biking as the seasons change, which is a great way to both get healthy exercise and spend time outdoors.
My own favorite is the good old fashioned NordicTrack Skier. It's simple, indestructible, and provides a great workout.View Thread
Tracking your workouts is a very effective technique for most people. If you're new to log-keeping, a couple of suggestions to help you get started:
-- Write an exercise schedule for the month. As you complete each session, note the duration and intensity of your workout. You can also add notes about other details that feel relevant or helpful — how you felt, music you listened to, any muscle pain or stress that you want to keep an eye on, etc.
-- If you are following your heart rate, keep a log of this as well. If you are a gear head, most of the heart rate monitors now plug into your computer, and you can track your numbers online and on your smart phone.
-- It is a great idea to try and get your friends into this as well, so you can share numbers. Bragging rights is a great motivator — no one wants to look like they are dogging it in front of their friends.
One caveat to all this is that for most of us any given routine gets stale after a while, and I will often alternate fairly long stretches of keeping a close track of my workouts, with periods where I am simply out there exercising but not writing anything down. But I always come back to writing things down after an interval off because it gets me right back to being honest with myself!View Thread
Any time you start a new exercise routine, it's a good idea to have a general plan of attack. For aerobic exercise, you should consider the duration and intensity that you're aiming for. But you'll also need to take cues from your body as to how much you can handle and how long you can go.
As you start your exercise program, take five or 10 minutes to warm up by doing light exercise, letting your muscles loosen, and getting the blood flowing. When you feel yourself get warm and just begin to sweat, try to take the exercise up until you really feel challenged.
Your ultimate goal is to go for at least 30 minutes, and then cool down for a few minutes, but in the early days you may not be able to get this far. You might go along at a nice stiff clip, until you feel yourself fading. Respect that limit. It is all your body is ready for today, so back off on the pace, cool down for five or 10 minutes, and then hit the shower.
If you do this you will be able to come back the next day and exercise again. If you ignore these signals from your body, you risk overdoing it and either losing motivation or overtraining.
One caveat here is that boredom looks an awful lot like fatigue, so try to be sure you are not simply fed up with the tedium of being on a treadmill. Music is a great antidote to this, so bring that to your workout. Watching TV or movies is another great way to make a workout pass easily. I find that a feature-length movie gets me two good workouts.
Any tips you've found that have helped you establish your fitness routine or keep motivated?View Thread
It's no secret that, for optimum health, I recommend working out for at least 1 hour, 6 days a week. I know that sounds like a lot to many of you. But you'll be happy to know that I also recommend switching up your workouts on those days. And the intensity should differ, too. Of those 6 days: -- 2 should include lighter aerobic workouts for the aerobics days -- 2 should include heavier aerobic workouts -- 2 should be slated for strength and balance training
Light Aerobics This means that you're moving, but lightly enough that you aren't straining. During this routine, you should be able to have a conversation without running out of breath. -- Go for a walk outside. The time passes so quickly when you're walking outdoors. And it turns your light aerobic days into pure pleasure. -- Pedal lightly on a stationary bike if long walks make your joints ache. You can even watch some TV or read a book while you do it.
Heavy Aerobics This routine should be a challenge to you. You should be working hard enough that you can give short answers to any questions you're asked. But, no way could you carry on a steady conversation. Your breathing should be hard enough that you're aware of it.
If you start feeling short of breath, you've crossed over from aerobic exercise into anaerobic exercise. This isn't harmful. And playing with anaerobic exercise is important for achieving higher levels of fitness. But it is certainly not necessary for building a healthier body.
Strength Training Whether you enjoy it or not, it's a wise investment. Loss of muscle mass is one of the hazards of aging -- and strength training counteracts that loss. It really is key to long-term vitality and independence.
If you've never worked with weights, visit your local gym and have a staff member get you started with circuit training. That means you're using standard gym machines in a certain sequence. And it's sure to get you results.
In addition to circuit training, there's a wide range of choices for strength training activities. And you can work with a personal trainer or you can do it on your own.
A dynamic, class-based form of strength training has become popular in many gyms. Many boot camp programs work the same way -- as do some Pilates and yoga classes.
If you join a higher intensity program — vigorous yoga included -- be careful. The chances of being injured go up. So work at your own pace. Be careful and listen to your body. With time, you should be able to get through these programs just fine.
If you have any low-grade aches and pains -- the kinds that are common in many older Americans -- they may decrease or even disappear after you've been strength training for a while. It's often the cure, rather than the cause, for most of the joint problems you could face as you get older.View Thread
When I talk to my patients about nutrition, my message is pretty simple. Saturated fats, starches, and sugar are bad for you if you eat too much of them.
Red meat and dairy products are the main sources of saturated fat. So be sure to limit how much of these foods you eat. Instead, eat more white meats like chicken and fish. But don't be fooled into thinking that's all you need to do. Your body was designed to run on a mixed diet. While you're cutting your portions of meat, fill in the gaps with more healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
You might have a hard time limiting your starch intake. In this case, it might be easier to stay away from starches all together. Try to avoid breads and pastas -- just for a few weeks -- and see how you feel.
I know this isn't very exciting advice. But the basics remain the best.View Thread
You might ask, "How often should I exercise?" My answer is 6 days a week.
This is a hard message in our culture because, fitness-wise, we have gone so far off the rails. Exercising an hour a day, 6 days a week, takes up 5% of your waking hours. That's a small fraction (if you consider how much time you might spend watching TV), but it's a significant way to change your life.
Do you absolutely have to do 6 days a week? Of course not. But remember, your biology never rests. And in the lifetime struggle between growth and decay, exercise helps keep you younger and healthier. The reality is that the more often you exercise, the greater your benefits. I am a huge fan of 6 days, clearly. Exercising 6 days a week can help to optimize your fitness and energy. But 4 days a week -- with a lot of activity on the other 3 days -- can be just as beneficial. Just be aware that cutting down on your exercise days is taking a step back from the benefits. And by the time you get down to 1 day a week, you're really just hanging on to those benefits by a thread.
The interesting thing is that exercising 6 days a week can actually be easier than you think. Once you get started, it becomes one of the basic routines of your life, like brushing your teeth, taking the kids to school, or showing up for work. You simply show up and do it. It's only a struggle when you spend too much time deciding where to fit it into your schedule.
How many days a week do you exercise? Is it a part of your routine or something you are struggling to do?View Thread
This is actually the hottest area of neural research, and we continue to learn about the actual mechanisms. It turns out that the brain grows with exercise, emotional connection and intellectual and social engagement, and through similar chemical mechanisms. If you are interested in a more detailed discussion, I talked a lot about this in a recent PBS special I did called "Younger Next Year - The New Science of Aging ".View Thread