The title of this article asks the question “are there any benefits to exercise?” And the honest answer is “that depends!” It depends upon what you’re trying to achieve and if you’re willing to expend the time, energy and money to achieve it. Confused? Let me explain by using Jon as an example.
Jon’s Benefits from Exercise!
I usually use Jon’s story to highlight the power of “The 1% Solution!” but it applies equally to this topic on exercise. At age 55 Jon weighed 255 pounds, had knees that hurt, a back that ached, had high blood pressure and had developed diabetes. Jon was facing a choice. He could live a life dependent on prescription medication and resign himself to old age and inactivity. Or, he could begin the process of taking charge of his life by making healthy choices in what he ate and the activities that he engaged in.
Thankfully, Jon chose to make healthy choices!
It was slow at first but Jon stuck with it. He started eating better and exercising appropriately. Jon expended some time, energy and money to achieve the following results:
Where there any benefits to exercise for Jon? Absolutely! Of his five major health challenges Jon was successful in eliminating 4 of the five while making a huge improvement in the quality of his life. Additionally, Jon will save thousands of dollars on prescription medication that he can now apply to those things he wants to do.
If you’re feeling like Jon did at age 55 but want to feel like Jon does at age 60, then its time to take control of your diet and exercise program. The question most people have is “Where do I begin?”
Aerobic versus Anaerobic Exercise!
Having owned and operated one of the larger health club operations in the western suburbs of Chicago I would constantly be asked, “Which is better: aerobic or anaerobic exercise?” The honest answer is “that depends but I think you should do both!” To understand my answer we need to look at each individually.
Aerobic exercise has been defined by The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) as “any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature.” I personally don’t like this definition. Let me give you a much simpler definition and then I’ll break it down for you:
Aerobic exercises are activities that utilize oxygen to help create the energy needed to continue the activity for a significant period of time.
Examples of activities that are aerobic in nature are walking, jogging, running, hiking, bicycling, swimming, dancing, skiing, rowing, stair climbing, rollerblading, and aerobic dance classes to name a few. They are activities that are performed at a high enough intensity over a continuous period of time. This causes an increase in heart rate to circulate more of your oxygen-rich blood to supply the working muscles with the oxygen it needs to create energy. The main energy source in aerobic exercise is free fatty acids that come from your fat stores.
The benefits to exercise the aerobic way are:
Both men and women will benefit from aerobic exercise as well as reduce their risk for many of the major causes of illness and death in the United States. So what does anaerobic exercise have to offer?
The word anaerobic means “without oxygen.” Anaerobic exercises would be short duration, high intensity activities where the demand for oxygen in the muscle tissue exceeds the oxygen supply. Examples of anaerobic exercise would be heavy weight-lifting, sprinting, jumping rope, hill climbing, interval training or any rapid burst of intense activity. The main source of energy in anaerobic exercise is carbohydrates either stored in the muscle or supplied by the blood.
The benefits to exercise the anaerobic way are:
Because of the shorter duration, anaerobic exercises typically burn fewer calories than aerobic exercise and may be overall less beneficial for the cardiovascular system. However, anaerobic exercises are better at building strength and muscle mass. When properly done anaerobic exercises can better strengthen the muscles and tendons to stabilize your joints and help prevent injury. Additionally, this increased muscle mass also helps in weight management because muscle tissue uses larger amounts of calories for their daily maintenance. This issue of weight management, caloric expenditure and the benefits of exercise are closely examined in the article, “Fat Burning Exercises for Losing Weight!”
Because aerobic exercises predominately benefit the cardiovascular system and burn free fatty acids, most physicians would prefer their patients to exercise the aerobic way rather than the anaerobic way. Unfortunately, most people need 6 to 10 weeks to see any significant benefits in their cardiovascular system. Because these aerobic exercises can be boring in nature, many people drop out after their 4th week because of lack of noticeable progress. So what is the answer?
Implement an exercise program that incorporates both aerobic and anaerobic exercises. The easiest program that combines both benefits to exercise is Circuit Training. No, this doesn’t mean going to Circuit City for a part-time job. It means incorporating aerobic exercise with weight training in an interval program. When done properly a person can begin to feel the benefits to exercise in their first week.
The basic format that I use for circuit training is as follows:
This format allows the person to warm up properly and then enter an aerobic phase through the cardio program. This elevates their heart rate into their appropriate training range. At the end of the 4 minutes they then move to a 6 station weight lifting program. They perform 8 to 12 repetitions per station at the appropriate weight level. The only resting is when you move from one station to the next. This constant movement keeps your heart rate elevated so even though the intensity is causing your muscles to work anaerobically, your cardiovascular system is still working aerobically.
After completing the first circuit you return to the second cardio program. This allows your muscles to recover while continuing to maintain an elevated heart rate for cardiovascular improvement. Once the cardio phase is done you then move to your final circuit of 6 additional weight lifting stations. You follow this by a cool down period to allow your body to return to its resting phase.
This format allows for 20 minutes of aerobic activity for the heart and lungs while still incorporating an anaerobic phase for muscular development. It also allows for multiple variations to keep your program from getting boring. Plus it can be tailored to your specific health needs, work needs and/or athletic needs. When done properly there are four core benefits. They are:
The first three benefits to exercise are pretty obvious. Most people have never heard of the fourth benefit. Proprioceptive feelings relate to your body’s ability to feeling itself in space. Where as cardiovascular health is important to your heart, proprioceptive feelings are important to your overall wellbeing. Being able to feeling yourself in space provides you with a greater sense of control and spatial awareness.
To get the greatest benefits to exercise it is important to follow a few basic guidelines. First, always consult your physician before starting an exercise program. Since your heart, lungs and cardiovascular system are going to be taxed the most you want to make sure they are in good working order. Second, start slow and build your program. The most common mistake made by most people is working your muscles at too high of an intensity causing extreme muscle soreness. The “no pain no gain” philosophy is a myth. Third, invest in a qualified personal trainer to help you build all phases of your exercise program. They can help you identify your fitness goals, your physical weaknesses and strengths, and tailor your program to help you achieve all the benefits to exercise that you are looking for.
Exercise does not have to be some boring routine but can be an exciting and productive use of time to help you achieve a greater level of health and well being. Just as Jon saw the huge benefits to exercise in his own life, so can you.
Until next time may we both age youthfully!
P.S. As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the following Exercise articles:
The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contained in this website and posted articles has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.