Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate the Power of Walking

Exercise is an essential part of healthy living—and walking is one of the easiest ways to get and stay fit. If you’ve been less active than you’d like to be, walking is an ideal way to get moving and make a difference in your health. Plus, you can do it almost anywhere, anytime.

Whether you’re looking to move more, take up a group fitness class, or complete a 5K one day, here’s how you can use the power of walking to step into fitness and reach your goals.

Health Benefits of Walking

Daily walking can benefit your physical and emotional well-being in many ways. It can help you:

• Keep your weight in check

• Curb sugar cravings

• Manage stress and anxiety

• Sleep better and feel more energized

• Strengthen muscles and ease joint pain

• Reduce risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes

• Decrease risk of developing breast cancer

• Boost creativity and brainpower

• Improve your ability to do daily activities

Walk Your Way to Fitness

So, how can you fit more walking into your busy life? Ideally, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. If fitting in that amount of activity into your busy life seems daunting, don’t worry. All you need is 5 – 10 minutes of at a time to reap the health benefits of walking.

Here are some ideas for you to try:

• Do active chores. While doing housework isn’t traditionally considered a workout, all that activity can certainly help you get in shape. Plenty of chores involve walking about or racking up steps, such as mopping the kitchen, vacuuming the carpets, raking up leaves, mowing the lawn, washing the car, gathering up items for donations—the list goes on and on!

• Have a Netflix and workout night: Like most of us, there are likely some nights when all you want to do is crash on the couch and binge-watch your favorite shows. But who says you can’t get hooked into the story and get your workout on? Challenge yourself to spend the first 10 minutes of every half an hour marching, side-stepping, or jogging in place. Be sure to pump your arms as you go to really get your heart rate up. Or you might look into investing in a home treadmill to keep you moving instead of sitting.

• Add variety to your walking routes: Following the same route every day can get real boring, real quick. Keep your walks interesting by picking out a few different routes you can take around your workplace, in your neighborhood, or at a nearby park. Look for long-stretches of sidewalks, paved walking paths, or well-maintained dirt trails for even more scenic variety.

• Go for a walking meeting: Does your mind tend to wander during humdrum meetings? Walking can strengthen your memory, giving you better recall of what important details were covered in that meeting. If you’re having a one-on-one check-in with a direct report, go for a stroll and breathe in some fresh air as you catch up. Or if there’s a conference call and you’re able to dial in, grab your cell phone, put on your walking shoes, and step to it. (Tip: Instead of holding your phone up to your ear, use your earbuds during the call—many brands offer inexpensive earbuds with built-in microphones, so you can talk while you walk.)

• Make the most of business travel: It may seem impossible to squeeze in a workout when traveling on business. But the good news is there are a few ways you can get in a short walk and keep your momentum going away from home. If you can, walk from your hotel to the conference or meeting you’re attending, and do a little sightseeing along the way. Or call ahead and see if the hotel offers an onsite gym and start your day with a brisk walk on the treadmill. You could also plan to stick around an extra day and wander around a nearby museum or two.

• Find ways to sneak in extra steps. Getting in a few extra steps throughout the day really adds up and can even increase your endurance and stamina for those longer walking workouts. Park your car at the back of the parking lot. Take a walk break on your lunch hour with a coworker. Get off the bus a stop or 2 earlier. Go on an easy hike with a friend or group. Leash up your dog and go for a quick walk around the block together.

Ready, Set, Walk!

Have you been putting off exercise? There’s no better time than now to get your heart pumping with a walking activity. Start out at your own pace to avoid injury and increase your fitness gains. And above all else, have fun with it! Remember, everything you do to work toward a more active lifestyle will also help you to live your best health ever. 

5 Exercise Classes to Try Out

Have you been wanting to try out a new exercise class, but you’re not sure where to begin? There are plenty of group fitness classes out there for you to get your sweat on and achieve your health goals in a fun and exhilarating way. The key is to pick the ones that interest you and give them a whirl!

Whether you’re just starting out or starting over, here are 5 beginner-friendly exercise classes to try out* and kick start your fitness journey.

Cardio Kickboxing

Kick, punch, and jump your way toward a stronger you with an action-packed cardio kickboxing class. You’ll power your way through this high-intensity workout by doing a variety of kickboxing combinations, all choreographed to heart-pumping music. You can work at your own pace and modify any kickboxing moves to fit your current fitness level. Classes usually last 30 – 60 minutes. 

  • Why it's good for your health: Cardio conditioning classes like kickboxing give you a sneaky high-intensity interval class. You may not even realize it (because you are having so much fun) but all that punching and kicking provides a full body workout that gets your heart rate pumping. That can improve overall fitness, help improve your glucose and insulin sensitivity, and of course add to extra calorie burn.
  • Why might you enjoy it: Need to wrangle a bad mood or slash stress after a long day? All that punching and kicking can give you a blissful and mood-boosting endorphin high.

 

Mat Pilates

Mat Pilates takes you through a series of dynamic movements and breathing techniques that focus on your body’s natural powerhouse, the core. Aside from a cushy mat, no equipment is required. You’ll use your body weight to strengthen and stabilize muscles. Classes usually last 45 – 60 minutes.

  • Why it's good for your health: Maintaining a strong core can ease lower back pain and improve posture. Pilates also works in a functional capacity to help you perform better in your other weekly workouts and your daily activities.
  • Why you might enjoy it: Low on energy? Take to the mat for a gentle but demanding workout that will engage your muscles and power up your core.

 

Spinning®

Spinning, or indoor cycling, is a challenging workout that helps you shed fat, build muscle, and boost endurance. You’ll ride a stationary bike that allows you to control your pace and resistance as you pedal through intervals and recovery periods. Some classes may even include imagery that simulates various outdoor terrain, adding a sense of adventure to your experience. Classes usually last 45 – 60 minutes.

  • Why it's good for your health: Not only does indoor cycling promote better heart health and greater lung capacity, it can help you manage the stress and anxiety of daily life. Low and high interval phases work your body in different ways: pedal faster to burn calories, or turn up the tension to strengthen your leg muscles more.
  • Why you might enjoy it: Unlike outdoor group rides, you don’t have to worry about lagging behind the pack. You can stay at a pace that suits your fitness level and still reach your destination alongside the rest of the class. Plus, there is no car traffic to worry about!

 

Yoga

Yoga is a mind-body workout that connects breath with movement. A zen-like atmosphere is created through dim lighting and soft music. Intensity level depends on the form of yoga you choose. Gently-paced classes like Hatha and Vinyasa are a great place to start and include basic yoga flow poses and stretches. Some classes may include guided meditation. Classes usually last 60 – 90 minutes.

  • Why it's good for your health: Yoga helps you hone your focus and boost your brainpower. Over time, you may find it easier to let go of worries and embrace a new sense of calm. You don’t have to be “bendy” to do yoga—with regular practice, you’ll improve flexibility and restore balance, which in turn helps you to prevent injury.
  • Why you might enjoy it: Whether you’re looking for a holistic approach to fitness or an active recovery workout between tougher exercise classes, you’ll walk away from a yoga class feeling more relaxed and empowered to take on the rest of your day.

 

Zumba®

Zumba is a high energy, dance-inspired fitness class that moves you to the rhythm of South American beats. You don’t need dance experience to get started; all you have to do is follow the leader and feel the music. Some classes also infuse interval training and resistance training. Classes usually last 60 minutes.

  • Why it's good for your health: As you learn new dance routines, you’ll improve agility and coordination, which is important to work on as you age. Zumba can also increase your cardiovascular fitness, similar to other aerobic activities like walking, jogging, and rowing. 
  • Why you might enjoy it: If you’re looking for a calorie-torching exercise class that’s so fun you’ll forget it’s a workout, Zumba is a good choice. 

Even with a busy schedule, you can reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Many fitness centers offer group exercise classes at a variety of times throughout the week. Whether you choose a gym that’s near your work or close to home, all you have to do is look up the group class schedule on your gym’s website and pick a few classes that work for you. 

When you enjoy your workouts, you're more likely to do them regularly. And when coupled with good nutrition, you’ll be well on your way to your best health ever. Let us know which of these exercise classes inspired you to get started on your journey!

*It's always good to consider checking in with your doctor before starting a new workout routine. 

 

 

 

4 Fitness Apps To Try

Living a healthy lifestyle has many benefits, from taking fewer trips to your healthcare provider each year to managing stress and anxiety with ease. Luckily, getting on the path to your best health ever is right in the palm of your hand. Here are 4 fitness apps you should try today.

MapMyFitness

If someone asked you to choose your favorite workout style, could you choose just one? With MapMyFitness, you don’t have to. Choose from dozens of traditional workouts, like swimming, jumping rope, and weightlifting, to less traditional activities, like bowling, fishing, and horseback riding.

MapMyFitness also offers outdoor training routes near you, which are created and shared by other users. Simply search for a route based on the type of activity you want to do, make sure the app has a good GPS signal, and start your workout. If you’re a creature of habit, you also have the option to add private routes to your profile and do them again as often as you like.

Got a favorite way to exercise outdoors? There are several versions of the “MapMy” apps to choose from:

  • MapMyRun
  • MapMyHike
  • MapMyRide
  • MapMyWalk

All versions work the same way in terms of functionality, but each one provides map suggestions tailored to the default activity.

Charity Miles

Make your workouts meaningful with Charity Miles. Research shows that giving can be good for your mental health. Why not give your mind and body a boost by earning money for charity while you get fit?

All you have to do is pick a charity, select an activity, and start tracking your mileage using your smartphone’s GPS. There are more than 30 world-class charities to choose from, including the ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity, and Girls on the Run. Are you passionate about multiple causes? Charity Miles gives you the option to switch charities at any time.

A donation will be made for every mile you complete, and you can log miles through your choice of 5 outdoor and indoor activities. Once you tap to start tracking, the app lets you know who’s sponsoring your workout. Be sure to stop and save your miles when you’re done or your activity won’t count. (You can always tell the app to send you a reminder.)

Fitbit

Walking is a great way to boost your fitness level, lose weight, and feel healthier. It’s recommended that you get 10,000 steps a day, but how can you be sure you’re getting all those steps in? By tracking your daily steps with a wearable fitness device, like the Fitbit.

The Fitbit family of devices sync with the Fitbit app to give you a real-time look at your day. And you can track more than just exercise—the app allows you to log and monitor your sleep, weight, and food, which all adds up to a healthier and fitter you. Just choose the device that fits your goals, and then register it with the app.

Are you motivated by friendly competition? Get an extra dose of motivation by creating challenges among your Fitbit friends. Choose from fun options like Goal Day, Workweek Hustle, and Weekend Warrior. Or go on a virtual Adventure Race together and see who can reach the finish line first. The Fitbit app also features a community tab, where you can share your wins, join groups dedicated to your favorite healthy lifestyle topics, and connect with other Fitbitters.

MyFitnessPal

Keeping a food journal can help you build healthy eating habits—and what you consume is just as important as what you burn. Based on your fitness profile, MyFitnessPal will suggest a daily net calorie target to help you meet your nutrition and weight loss goals. As you fill up on foods and log your meals, the app will display your remaining calories. It will also show you the distribution of where those calories are coming from, be it fats, proteins, or carbohydrates.

Being mindful of what you eat and drink is a good practice for healthy living. As you create new journal entries, MyFitnessPal shares a snippet of nutrition advice to keep you aware of the healthy (or not so healthy) choices you’re making. For instance, if you decide to go out for an ice cream sundae, the app may alert you about the amount of sugar it contains, along with a reminder of your sugar goal for the day. Likewise, if you opt for a fruit cup, the app may tell you it has lots of Vitamin C.

You can also use the app to track your activity. Depending on how many calories you burned, the app automatically adjusts your net calorie needs for that day. Just sync your daily step counts and workouts from your smartphone or wearable fitness device to the app, and MyFitnessPal will figure out the rest. Another option is to manually log your cardio and strength workouts—the app will estimate your calories burned based on your current fitness profile.

Using an app is a great to get in shape and stay fit. Making small tweaks to your daily routine—like moving more and eating better—can go a long way in helping you live your best health ever. Try out one of these fitness apps today and let us know how it worked for you.

 

 

Activities for the Whole Family

Have you made the decision that YOU want to start living your best health ever? What about your family? It’s hard to get on track without the support of your loved ones and that’s why it can be necessary to make sure they’re on board for your lifestyle changes as well! It doesn’t have to be a tedious task for them or feel like a burden, it can be fun and a great way to spend more time together. So why not pack in the quality time while getting in a good workout and being active? Here are some perfect examples to get you started as you incorporate your family life into your journey to your best health ever. 


Go Hiking Together


As long as you do your research ahead of time you can find plenty of family friendly hikes where you live. Map out how long it will take you to get there, have some classic car games ready, plenty of water and snacks, and make a day out of it. Pack a healthy picnic to enjoy when you reach the top of your destination and enjoy a beautiful day outdoors while kicking up your heart rate. 


Try Out Fun Sports

You don’t need to be an athlete to play a friendly game of basketball or soccer. Try out a basketball game of HORSE or run around with a soccer ball at your nearest park. Tennis can also be a great game to get the whole family in on. Find your nearest court and grab a couple of rackets and balls. You’ll get some sun and burn off a ton of calories running back and forth on the court. If you’re not feeling so adventurous, just grab a frisbee and head to the beach. Before you know it you’ll be starting your own Ultimate Frisbee team!


Sign up For A 5k Walk Or Run 


See what’s coming up on active.com for the latest 5k Walks and Runs. These events are usually family friendly, a great way to build community and the perfect opportunity to get some steps in. Better yet, find one that is for a cause close to your heart and educate your family on why it means so much to you. You’ll feel the positive impact not just physically, but also get a mental boost for supporting a charity that you feel personally connected to. 


Start a Neighborhood Recreation League


Get your neighbors involved in your health journey by starting a friendly weeknight Kick-Ball league (or Ultimate Frisbee team!) with one side of the street against the other. You’ll create a greater sense of community within your neighborhood, meet new people and maybe even find your next babysitter. You can also do some research to see if your town already has social sports leagues set up and join an existing team with your family and friends. Weeknight games are a great way to break up your weekly routine and add some diversity to your exercise habits. 

Travel With Games

Keep a soccer ball or a frisbee in your trunk. Instead of waiting in the car in between errands or after school activities, get out of the car and throw the ball around. If you’re on your own, try jump roping wherever you are. You can burn as many as 200 calories in just one 10-minute jump-rope session. Or make sure to just get out of the car and walk around, as long as you’re moving you’re one step closer to achieving a healthier life!

Go For A Bike Ride

A great way to burn calories and explore your neighborhood, biking is a perfect outdoor activity. Whether you’re on a beach cruiser or a tandem bike, you’ll be enjoying the ride so much you won’t even mind the burn when you’re going up those hills. Make sure to strap on a helmet, ride with water and plan out a fun pit stop. Check out TrailLink to find safe, family-friendly trails in your city. 

Get Technology Involved 

Add an element of competition between family members and see who can get the most steps in the day. You can use the Health app on your phone or invest in a FitBit to track your steps. Set a goal of 10,000 or 20,000 steps a day and create incentives for whoever hits the goal first. For example, the winner doesn’t have to do dishes that night or gets to choose what movie you’ll see that weekend! 

Make sure your family and friends know about your commitment to your healthier lifestyle so they understand how important it is to you that you have their support. Rallying your community is a pivotal step towards achieving your best health ever and there are endless fun and active ways the whole family can join in on your journey. 

A Beginners Guide to HIIT 

Not sure what HIIT is or what it even stands for? This is the perfect place to start your education on a training program that has incredible benefits to your health and can add that diversity to your workout routine that you’ve been looking for.

High-Intensity Interval Training is defined by its bursts of high-intensity anaerobic exercise alternated with periods of low to moderate intensity exercise. The high-intensity portions of the workout will work your body to its max for anywhere between 30 seconds to 4 minutes, and the lower intensity periods that can last the same period of time will allow your body to recovery while you still remain active. This type of training has become increasingly popular in the fitness world due to its many health benefits, it’s shortened exercise time and it’s ability to be practiced anywhere, even from home.

So what exactly are the health benefits of HIIT? 

  • You burn a ton of calories, even after you’re done working out! Thanks to Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption, your body is still using calories after a high-intensity workout to recover and restore itself from the effects of the exercise you just completed. This is also known as the “afterburn effect” and not only helps to burn additional calories hours after your workout but also helps to burn fat! 

     
  • Although this type of exercise might sound like a heart attack waiting to happen, it will actually benefit your cardiovascular system more than you think. Many people may be intimidated by the idea of going at 80% – 90% of their speed capacity on a treadmill but if you’re training properly you don’t need to worry that this will lead you to a heart attack, it will actually have the opposite effect! The intensity of the workout will help to increase the elasticity in your blood vessels and arteries, allowing for a better flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. So even though you might feel like your heart is about to pump out of your chest, it’s actually becoming stronger and healthier.
 
     
  • The more your practice HIIT the more you’ll increase your body’s rate that it can consume oxygen. Your body has a specific rate at which it can consume oxygen while you are physically active and in the high-intensity phases of a HIIT, your body is demanding to be filled with even more oxygen than it would during a lower paced cardio exercise. Each workout can increase the threshold of oxygen you take in, and with that extra oxygen your muscles will perform better and you’ll boost your stamina. 

     
  • We all have busy lives and would probably rather spend our extra time with our families or catching up with friends than putting in the hours at the gym. And that’s another reason why HIIT is so great – it doesn’t have to take up as much time as your other workouts! You can even get a great fat-burning session done in just 20 minutes by practicing the technique of high-intensity exercise bursts mixed in with moderate to low-intensity exercise bursts. 


     
  • HIIT tests both you both mentally and physically. When you’re in the high-intensity phase of the workout you are going faster and harder and pushing yourself beyond what you thought possible. Not only are you testing yourself physically, but you’re giving yourself that mental challenge of pushing back against thoughts that might tell you aren’t strong enough. Guess what though, you ARE and with HIIT you’ll learn you have more mental and physical endurance than you once thought. 

     
  • Diversity is key in your workout regime and high-intensity interval training can be practiced among a range of different exercises from cycling, swimming, running and weight-lifting. It’s easy to incorporate into your favorite workout and you can even try it from your own home.

Although it might sound intimidating, high-intensity interval training can be practiced by almost anyone, anywhere. It’s a great workout to incorporate into your routine 2-3 times a week and will help keep you motivated and energized. Try out an Orange Theory Fitness Class (they’re all about HIIT!) and let us know what you think. 

 

Simple Ways to Burn Extra Calories Throughout the Day

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for the body to be in peak condition. You need to be physically active to make sure your excess fat and stored energy are used up. Staying active is also vital for our mental health as exercise acts as a natural form of treatment for stress and anxiety. You will be at your best health ever only when you have a proper fitness regimen that you stay committed to, watch your health and nutrition, and be an active member in your community. 

That said, busy schedules and demanding lifestyles can mean you don’t always have that extra hour or two to hit the gym every day. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t be in control of your body AND burning those extra calories! Here are a few simple tips to get you through the day when you notice you’ve been more sedentary than usual and you don’t have time to lace up for a run. Don’t think of these as a substitute for working out but as an extra boost when you need to pick up the pace throughout your day! 

  • Park farther away from your end destination. Whether it’s the parking lot at work or at the grocery store, find an empty spot as far away as you can to add in those extra steps. This adds a few minutes on your feet and can give you extra ‘burn time’.
     
  • Cycle to work. This is a great way to pick up a new hobby while joining the movement to reduce air pollution (and save on gas money!).
     
  • Take the stairs. Forget elevators or escalators and always opt for the old-fashioned staircase. To burn some extra calories, take 5 minutes out of your day to run a couple of laps up and down the stairs in your office building or in your home!
     
  • At your desk, when seated, flex your core constantly. Sit upright and flex your glutes, stretch your back, and try your best to not sit idle at any time. 
     
  • Take a walk around the office during breaks. If you are on the phone, get up and walk as you talk. Doing this has the added benefit of no one overhearing your conversations as well, a double win! If you need a reminder, set a timer on your phone every 30 minutes so you know to get up and move around. 
     
  • Purchase a fitness tracker like a Fitbit. This can help keep you accountable as it tracks your steps throughout the day. You can even set goals for 10,000 or 20,000 steps a day and compete against yourself to make sure you're always hitting that number!
     
  • If you have a dog, add an extra 10 minutes to your daily walks with them. Not only will your body appreciate being outside and active for longer, so will your furry friend. 
     
  • Do you already walk to the nearest Starbucks or coffee shop by your home or work? Check out where the second nearest one is and opt for that one each morning when you're going to grab your daily cup of joe! 

Try out any of these tips to burn some extra calories and you’ll feel the difference in your body, physically and mentally. Also, make sure to take the time to examine your day to day routine and find other opportunities that you could be using to walk around and be more active. It’s easy to get caught up in the race to get from point A to B but if you begin to move with more purpose you’ll be one step closer to living your best health ever.  

 

 

 

Your Best Exercise Ever- Mix it Up

By now you likely know that I am a big proponent of diversifying your exercise. And I practice what I preach. An ideal week for me involves two days of high intensity interval training (including weight lifting) at Orange Theory or my local gym, two days of moderate cardio exercise (usually a 50-minute run, 30-minute swim, or 2-hour bike) and an extra day of flexibility and mobility training.

 

I enjoy the variety. I enjoy the mix of solitary time and group exercises. I enjoy feeling spent like I have nothing left some days, and feeling refreshed and ready for more on other days.

 

But I don’t just exercise this way because I like it. It turns out, science supports the benefits of moderate cardio exercise, high intensity interval training, and resistance training. Don’t just do them all because I say so. Do them because science says so.

 

The Case For Cardio

 

It seems like moderate cardio exercise, like power walking, jogging, biking, etc. has gotten a bad rap of late. I agree one should not focus only on moderate cardio exercise, but it is still a crucial component to a balanced exercise routine.

 

In a previous post, we talked about the benefits of being physically active during the day, as well as mild amounts of exercise. Those benefits were not minimal or obscure benefits. They were a lower risk of dying. That should make you sit up and take note.

 

In addition, moderate cardio exercise can still be one of the best calorie and fat burning exercises.

 

60-minutes on the treadmill at 6mph burns approximately 580 kilocalories.

 

HIIT is much harder to maintain correctly for 60-minutes. The fair comparison is usually 20-minutes of HIIT which burns approximately 200 kilocalories plus an additional 100 kilocalories in EPOC (Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption, basically continued increased metabolism and calorie burning that results from HIIT but not from moderate exercise).

 

So, if burning calories is all you are after, longer, moderate exercise may be the best choice. Of course, exercise has many more benefits beyond just the number of calories we burn.

 

Beyond Simple Calories

 

Of course, burning calories is only part of the benefit from exercise. What about the type of calories that we burn? Are we burning fat or simply using up our glucose?

 

First, it is almost never an “all-or-none” effect where your body uses ONLY fat for its fuel source or only carbs. It is a ratio. But it is a ratio that can be manipulated both by the type of exercise as well as your long-term nutritional status.

 

A traditional teaching is that we burn fat during moderate-intensity exercise, and rely more on carbohydrates at higher intensities. Again, however, this is not an all-or-none effect. In fact, One study showed that the muscles were more prone to burn fat for energy during high intensity interval training. And other studies show that once your body is “fat adapted” (i.e. physiologically adapted to consuming and utilizing fat as fuel source) you more readily burn fat as fuel and can do it with much greater efficiency.

 

So not only does exercise duration and intensity effect the type of calories you burn, so too does the food you eat. In addition, both moderate cardio and HIIT can burn fat in those who are adapted for it.

 

Resistance Training- Pick Up Heavy Things and Put Them Down Again

 

Lifting heavy things and putting them down again, also known as resistance training, is a valuable addition to our exercise routine.

 

  • Prevents sarcopenia, or loss of muscle mass
  • Improves our resting metabolism
  • Improves bone health
  • Prevents falls and fractures as we age
  • Raises HDL
  • Improves insulin sensitivity

 

Don’t you wish we could put that in a pill and sell it? Well, we can’t. But you can get all those benefits with just two-days per week of resistance training.

 

As we age, we can lose 8% of our muscle mass ever decade. That causes a reduction in our resting metabolism, thus leading to weight gain and specifically an increase in our fat-mass (read more about metabolism and exercise here).

 

After only 10-weeks of resistance training we can increase our lean mass by 1.5kg and improve our resting metabolism by 7%.

 

In addition, we can increase our bone mineral density by 3% and can improve insulin sensitivity and fasting glucose levels.

 

That would take a lot of pills to achieve the same results.

 

A word of caution about resistance training. Form matters. A lot. Your functional alignment is crucial to success with resistance training. I suggest you start with an experienced personal trainer or a well-done video series to help you. Don’t focus on heavy weights or rapid reps when you start. Work on slow, controlled movements with proper form. That means regardless of the exercise, you should focus on standing tall, contracting your glutes and lower abs, retracting your shoulder blades, and then and only then, proceed with the resistance exercise.

 

HIIT- Move Fast, Move Hard, Rest, and Repeat

 

HIIT consists of short bursts of maximal or near-maximal intensity exercise lasting usually less than 2-minues, followed by equal or longer rest periods. And then doing it again. And again. And again. Move fast, move hard, rest and repeat.

 

HIIT used to be reserved for elite athletes training for competition. Now however, it has become part of our mainstream exercise culture. Orange Theory, Barry’s Boot Camp, kick boxing, spin classes etc. have popularized HIIT for the masses.

 

And that’s a good thing.

 

HIIT provides an excellent workout in a short amount of time.

 

A recent study demonstrated that just one-minute of sprint interval training improved body fat percentage and cardiorespiratory fitness similar to 45-minutes of moderate intensity exercise. IN addition, the sprint interval training improved insulin resistance as well.

 

As it turns out, insulin resistance may just be the holy grail for health and longevity.

 

Insulin is a necessary hormone in our body that signals our cells to take glucose from the blood and use it to make energy. Insulin is also a fat-storage hormone that tell sour body we have more fuel than we need so we can start turning the rest into fat for longer term storage. For our ancestors, this made sense. Times of abundance would be followed by times when food was scarce. Our bodies would then use this stored fat for energy. In today’s industrialized societies, however, we rarely if ever experience food scarcity. Insulin, therefore, can be detrimental to our health as it causes us to store more fat.

 

Insulin sensitivity, therefore, is crucial for our health, It allows us to maintain a healthy blood sugar level with the minimum amount of insulin required. Many health experts believe this is the key to preventing most of the chronic disease that plague our society such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s dementia (read more about how Alzheimer’s is now considered Type III diabetes here), chronic inflammatory disease and others.

 

Short bursts of high intensity exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in previously sedentary individuals, and a meta-analysis showed a consistent improvement with HIIT in regards to insulin, glucose, and HgbA1c.

 

Even interval walking showed better glucose control that moderate continuous walking.

 

So why should we include HIIT as part of our overall exercise routine?

 

  • Shorter duration means greater compliance
  • Improves glucose and insulin sensitivity
  • Improves both aerobic and anaerobic fitness
  • Maintains lean body mass and helps reduce fat mass

 

A word of warning. If you are new to HIIT start slow. Even better, start with a personal trainer or group class, such as Orange Theory or boot camp or spin class.

 

Make sure you do it right. That means the intervals should be HARD. You should be suffering and your heart rate should be in the 90-100% maximum range.

 

Don’t forget to recover. You can safely do moderate cardio exercise every day if you choose. Properly done HIIT, on the other hand, requires adequate rest between sessions. Two to three HIIT sessions per week is great with the other days dedicated to moderate cardio or active rest days. Doing HIIT more than that can prevent our bodies from fully benefiting from the intensity and can promote instead a state of chronic inflammation and breakdown.

 

To learn more about the principles of HIIT, watch our video here.

 

Diversity is King

 

In conclusion, which is the best exercise to do? HIIT? Moderate cardio? Resistance training?

 

All of the above.

 

Combining all three varieties will not only make your exercise routine more enjoyable, it will allow you to get the most health benefits to ensure you are on your path to health and happiness.

 

You can learn more about our recommended exercise plan in my book, Your Best Health Ever! A Cardiologist’s Surprisingly Simple Guide to What Really Works. Now available on Amazon.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Cardiologist, author, founder of Boundless Health

www.DrBretScher.com

 

Action Item:

Try this interval training program for your next exercise day. You can do this on an exercise bike, running, elliptical or rower.

  1. Warm up for 5-minutes
  2. 30 seconds VERY hard (85-90% of your maximum predicted heart rate)
  3. 60 seconds easy
  4. Repeat 3 more times
  5. Take an extra 2-minutes recovery after the 4th repetition
  6. 60 seconds VERY hard
  7. 2-minutes easy
  8. Repeat one more time
  9. Cool down 5-minutes

(To calculate your maximal heart rate, take 220-minus-your age. That is your theoretical maximum. Of course it is better to have it professionally measured with an exercise physiologist, but 220-your age works well enough to get you started)

Our Best Medicine- Pills Not Required

“Walking is man’s best medicine”- Hippocrates (Greek physician 460 BC-377BC). That is one of my favorite all-time quotes. I can’t say it enough or hear it enough. Hippocrates didn’t have scientific studies, he didn’t have fitness trackers, yet it was inherently obvious to him that physical activity and simply moving our bodies provided unparalleled physical and psychological benefits.

 

Combine that with more modern observations from Dan Buettner’s book The Blue Zones, and it becomes clear that regular physical activity is an essential key to our health and longevity. Mr. Buettner evaluated the most common personal habits in societies where they routinely live into their 90s and 100s. He found that they didn’t hit the gym every day, they didn’t train for marathons. They simply moved their bodies consistently. They worked in the garden, they walked to do their errands, they walked for social purposes.  They moved their bodies.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big proponent of regular exercise, including high intensity interval training and resistance training (more on this in another post), but it is becoming clear that the basis for health is moving our bodies.  But why is this a challenge?

 

Technological Advances = Health Disintegration

 

Our society does not encourage regular physical activity. Most of us work desk jobs sitting in front of computers for hours at a time. We live as part of urban sprawl with longer commutes. And what minimal leisure time we have is spent on computers, tablets and video games. The days of centralized communities encouraging regular physical activity are largely gone.

 

This isn’t necessarily all bad. The technological advancements in the past few decades are unprecedented. It just hasn’t been good for our health. The priority has shifted. Now it’s time to shift it back!

 

It is time to re-examine all our unconscious habits. Why do we automatically go to the elevator or escalator? Why do we instinctively look for the closest parking spot? Why do we automatically sit on the couch instead of going outside for a walk?

 

Don’t just read these questions and keep going. Stop. Think. Answer the questions in your mind and resolve to re-examine those reasons and change them! Look at your daily habits and find places to purposely add more physical activity.

 

As I frequently say, you don’t have to try to be perfect. Just try to be better. If you can change one unconscious habit today that helps you move your body more, then you have a major success. If you can change another one tomorrow…even better!

 

Activity Trackers

 

My advice: Get an activity tracker and use it!

“But wait! Didn’t I just read a story about activity trackers being useless? Doesn’t that mean being active isn’t helpful?” I’m glad you asked.

 

There was a study in JAMA that asked a specific question: When it comes to weight loss, is a simple pedometer better than a program with regular encounters and encouragement from research staff? The answer, not surprisingly, was no (read a more detailed analysis of this study here).

 

Regular human interaction and encouragement is one of the most important factors when it comes to successful lifestyle changes. In this study, those in the activity tracker group didn’t have that interaction. It’s no surprise that they didn’t fare as well.

 

It is important to realize that activity trackers are one part of an overall health program. They are not an end-all tool for weight loss. And remember, weight loss is not the best marker for health. Healthy habits themselves should be the goal, the weight loss will follow.

 

So, don’t throw out your Fitbit, Jawbone or Apple watch just yet. When used correctly, activity monitors are a powerful tool to get you moving.

 

You may feel like you did a good job being active today. But then you glance down at your wrist and see a measly 4000 steps for the day. Now you know it is time to get moving. You can’t talk your way out of that one!

 

Or you may notice you hit your 10,000 steps and you are feeling good about yourself. You log in to the computer and see your good friend is already at 12,000 steps today. Time to put down your remote control and get another 2,001 steps in just to show him that you can!

 

That’s the power of activity monitors. Objective motivation day after day. Get one. Use it. Listen to the motivation.

 

Exercise Lowers Risk of Death

 

Ok. So, it’s well established that being consistently physically active is important for our health. But what about exercise? Aside from being physically active, how much exercise should we try to get?

 

It turns out, we don’t need that much to save our life.

 

A 2015 study in JAMA followed 661,000 Middle Aged adults over 14 years. They found the highest risk of death in those who did not exercise at all. Even a “little amount” of exercise (less than the official guidelines but more than no exercise) reduced the risk of death by 20%. The benefit continued to increase linearly with increasing exercise duration until it plateaued at 450 min per week.  The following table summarizes the results.

 

Amount of exercise per week

Cardiovascular/Mortality result

Sedentary

Highest mortality and cardiovascular risk

Less than 150min

Reduced death by 20% over sedentary

150 min

Reduced death by 31%

450 min

Reduced death by 39%

More than 450 min

No additional benefit, but no increased harm either

 

In addition, the Copenhagen City Heart Study  showed that “light” running, even just 20-minutes once per week, resulted in reduced risk of death. The maximal benefit was in those who jogged at a slow or average pace between 1-2.5 hours per week.

 

So, although the official recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, even minimal amounts of exercise provides some benefit. And it wasn’t an obscure benefit that you may or may not care about. It was reducing the risk of dying! That’s something we can all get on board with.

 

Move Your Body

If your goal is to reduce your risk of death, move your body.

 

If your goal is to improve your health, move your body.

 

If your goal is to feel better, move your body.

 

Be active, and add in at least small amounts of exercise.

 

The science supports. Hippocrates supports it. Now it is your job to get out there and do it.

 

(Read more about Resistance training and high intensity interval training Here)

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Cardiologist, author, founder of Boundless Health

www.DrBretScher.com

 

 

Action Item:

 

Tomorrow, wake up and set your intention to seek out ways to move your body. Spend the entire day parking further away, taking the stairs, walking or biking to do your errands, go for a walk with your kids, and anything else you can find. Make it the focus for your day. You will be amazed at how many ways to can improve your activity level. Then, if you can do it once, you can incorporate it into your life and make it a new healthy habit. But you have to start with the first step. Wake up tomorrow and set that intention!

 

 

858-799-0980Dr Bret Scher