To Your Health
November, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 11)
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An Education in Exercise

Get the Most Out of Your Workout

By Dr. Jasper Sidhu

Want to know the secret fountain of youth we all seem to be chasing, no matter our age? It's definitely not a new pill and much better than a complex diet that can be difficult to follow even for a short period of time. The closest thing to a fountain of youth is exercise.

Course Introduction

It's pretty simple: One of the leading causes of aging is lack of movement. A sedentary lifestyle is bad news at any age, but the good news is that you can reap the benefits of exercise at any age as well. In fact, evidence suggests regular exercise can "set back the clock" 20 years or more.

There's a great deal of misinformation out there regarding exercise, best demonstrated through an amusing story I heard awhile back. A 75-year-old patient goes to the doctor and asks what they can do about their right knee pain and arthritis. The doctor says, "There's not much you can do. It's just a natural part of aging." The patient looks at the doctor and says, "But my other leg is just as old and it doesn't hurt!"

Although this gets a laugh out of my patients, it clearly demonstrates that age should not be an excuse. Let's take a look at some of the benefits of exercise and the key points you should remember when starting an exercise program. Take these tips to heart, regardless of your age or the physical condition you may be dealing with, and you'll be better equipped to improve your health.

Education in Exercise - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark A significant amount of research that is beginning to show that a lot of the aches, pains and health problems we get between the ages of 30 and 70 are not due to a natural process of aging, but due to our sedentary lifestyles. A novel study done through the space program found that one month of complete bed rest was equal to an amazing 30 years of aging! Although none of us spend 24 hours a day in bed, it just goes to show you that the less activity you do, the more you age.

Exercise can do more than just delay the process and lead to better strength and flexibility; it also can have a significant impact on our brains. In one study, older adults who exercised three times a week had a 38 percent lower chance of developing Alzheimer's. And recent research also evaluated whether an exercise program actually increased pain due to arthritis. Researchers found that a training program consisting of intense stationary bicycling and vigorous strength training did not appear to produce joint symptoms in older adults. Their conclusion was that if there is any joint pain, one should look at other causes other than exercise.

Whether you're in good health, rehabbing a recent injury or have arthritis, osteoporosis or other chronic condition, the following key points should be followed to ensure you get the most out of your workout. Remember to talk to your doctor first so the two of you can work together to design an exercise program that's right for you.

Education in Exercise Lesson - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark LESSON 1 Before starting an exercise program, you and your health professional need to understand what your immediate goals are. Are you trying to lose weight? Increase strength? Train for a particular sport? Do you have any swelling? Pain? Weakness? Are your joints stiff? Once you know what you want to accomplish, it's a lot easier to figure out where to start. Research shows that immediate results usually motivate people to continue what they are doing. If your goal is to decrease joint stiffness through stretching, but decide to start with strengthening exercises that don't address the stiffness, you could lose motivation. If you're trying to lose weight, but don't do any fat-burning exercises, you won't get the results you want (certainly not in the time frame you want). Always remember to have short-term goals and work from there.

Education in Exercise Lesson - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark LESSON 2 Exercise should consist of three clear phases. Begins with five to 10 minutes of warm-ups. Keep in mind that a "warm-up" is not the same as stretching. Warming up means doing low-intensity range-of-motion exercises that increase body temperature. This increase in body temperature heats up the joints and muscle, preparing them to handle the rigors of exercise. Warm-ups can include such things as simply walking back and forth, moving the arms and legs in pain free ranges of motion, or a slow and steady ride on a bicycle. It's really just about getting your body moving and getting heat to your muscles.

The second phase is the exercise itself. It can be strengthening, aerobic training, strength training, etc. The third phase is a cooldown phase, which can include stretching since the muscles are warmed up enough to be stretched. Never stretch a cold muscle. Research shows that overstretching in the beginning without a proper warm-up can actually cause further injury.