by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Everyone knows exercise is great for the body and mind. The ways it helps are countless. Here, we share fun fitness trivia. This should clarify some common misconceptions …
Power Up Your Walk
So much can be accomplished during a walk. Focusing on different muscles can improve strength. Increasing speed can improve cardiovascular function. Mindful awareness throughout can turn a walk into a meditative experience. There is even a discipline called walking meditation.
Whether on a treadmill or in the Great Outdoors, try taking your walk to the next level. Maximize your efforts by incorporating a few minutes of running during your routine. According to the American Council on Exercise, running demands 40 percent more energy than walking. For burning calories, this statistic can leave your walk in the dust.
Ask a personal trainer how to adjust the treadmill or elliptical to increase intensity. Perhaps try an incline position or hike along uneven terrain. As for engaging your mind, experiment with the visualization for which Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is famous. Imagine your feet kissing the earth with each step, and leaving behind beautiful blossoms in your path. An eco-friendly footprint, indeed.
Did you know: By old age, most have walked approximately 70,000 miles.
Stretch at the Right Time
Stretching is essential to an effective, safe workout. However, recent studies disprove the long-held believe of the best time to stretch. Stretching at the start of a fitness routine may not be ideal. New research suggests stretching with warm muscles, rather than as a segue into getting warmed up.
Warm-up first. Even the most gentle stretches can lead to injury on cold muscles. It also can affect performance. Loosen up with light aerobic activity. Walk, jog in place, do jumping jacks. Once your body feels warm, safely stretch prior to your heavier workout. Try movement yoga. Take popular yoga positions and fluidly move from one to the next. At the end of your workout, stretch again during the cool-down. This time, allow yourself to test boundaries and go a little deeper.
Don’t Choose Where to Lose
Just as you cannot decide where the calories land, you cannot determine where pounds are shed. Usually, pounds tend to fall from the place they were last accumulated. Drop the unrealistic expectation that diet and fitness routines will zap those stubborn spots. They likely have been around awhile. Where you tend to accumulate fat may even be genetic.
Good news– You can target unwanted bulges with specific exercises that tone the area. This can turn the fat into muscle. Although you have not lost weight in that one exact area, you still accomplished a thinner look by toning what is there. Think of it as making lemonade with lemons.
There are very few times when a quick burst of physical activity won’t boost energy. Even sleep-deprived parents of a newborn can benefit from a mini workout. Exercise improves blood flow throughout the body and to the brain. It also releases feel-good hormones, which elevates energy level. Although the pillows may tempt you, sleep isn’t always possible. Despite what you feel, lace up your sneakers and get moving. It can take you through the afternoon slump and beyond.
Did you know: Forty to 60 percent of the population is believed to be susceptible to contagious yawns. Many speculate this is an empathy response. Dogs are not an exception. They yawn in response to their owners’ yawns.
Avoid the Extreme Mentality
Daily intense workouts are not necessary to accomplish fitness goals. Almost always, some exercise is better than none. Dedicate whatever time and energy you have on any given day. A light mini workout keeps momentum and carries you to the next fitness opportunity.
If a time-crunch is your limitation, find ways to increase your workout’s intensity. Talk with a personal trainer about creating an interval training program for these occasions. Quick bursts of intense exercise (often as short as one to three minutes) incorporated into a routine, followed by low-intensity activity or rest is very effective. Endurance athletes often use this technique, which improves cardio and speed. Busy people should take advantage of its effectiveness, too.
Did you know: Running for half hour burns approximately the same calories as a 90-minute leisurely stroll.
If an energy shortage is your limitation, pull from your reserves. A little effort delivers great returns. When tired, form can suffer and sloppy moves may lead to injury. Keep your workout safe by toning down your routine. This may be the time to try a gentle Pilates class or reduce weights on the barbell. Modify intensity and speed to match current ability. Do what you can. You will feel great for persevering, which will charge your next workout.
Find ways to increase physical activity throughout your day. These efforts supplement your time at the Center. For days when a formal workout is not possible, accumulate exercise in other ways. Walk during your lunch break, take the stairs (all day), spend family time at the park with a ball or bikes. Get creative so fitness becomes a lifestyle, not a segment of the day to accomplish or shamefully miss.
Eat According to Fitness Goals
Anytime is a great time for a workout. The important factor is to make the timing convenient to your schedule so you have one less excuse to skip it. However, when you eat should be based on what you want from that workout.
When planning to exercise with gusto, fuel your muscles with proper nutrition before you hit the Exercise Floor. For tips on pre-workout snacking, see “Dos and Don’ts of Pre-Workout Snacking …” (F&W News, May 7, 2010) at http://fitnessandwellnessnews.com/dos-donts-of-pre-workout-snacking-and-the-seasons-farm-fresh-picks.
If weight loss is your goal, eat after a workout. An empty stomach allows the body to burn fat stores more quickly. Do not exercise when hungry. This can weaken performance, and cause lightheadedness, dizziness, and nausea. Enjoy a small snack and digest for at least half an hour before working out.
Did you know: Humidity adds to the risk of dehydration. Humid air prohibits effective evaporation of sweat so it can’t cool you as it normally would. This leads to increased body temperature and the need for more fluids.
Move with Music
New research proves music motivates. The body responds to upbeat tunes by quickening the pace of activity. Your workout becomes more intense and powerful. If short on time, the right songs add zing to get you moving faster. And, even if you don’t increase the pace or intensity, a workout may seem to pass faster and with less effort with the distraction of favorite music. You may accomplish the same burn without feeling it as much!
Did you know: Most technology allows the creation of playlists. Create several to coordinate with your workouts. Variety — in music and exercise methods– keeps workouts interesting for your mind and body. Those who cross train using a variety of methods are more fit and less prone to injury. Change it up!
These are only several benefits to being fit. Weight loss should no longer be the main motivation to exercise. Try redefining your fitness goals. Focus on accomplishing a healthier life. The bathroom scale only measures one factor. Notice your improved strength, mental state, and energy level. A goal weight may take a while to achieve. There is so much more to living a fit life than skinny jeans.
Did you know: Those who do not exercise regularly may experience up to an 80 percent decrease in muscle strength by age 65 years.
It is never too late to start exercising. Your future depends on it.
“Fun Fitness Facts,” by Karen Frazier at http://exercise.lovetoknow.com/Fun_Fitness_Facts.
“Top 5 Myths that May Be Messing with Your Workout,” by Megan Schmidt at www.philly.com.
“Top 10 Fitness Facts,” by Barbara Russi Sarnataro at www.webmd.com.
“10 Things You Didn’t Know About Exercise,” by Beth W. Orenstein at www.everydayhealth.com.
Power walk: http://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/2895860359/
Woman stretching: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lululemonathletica/4883554451/
Yawning dog: http://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/5756599013/