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Simple Steps to Attaining a Healthy Lifestyle (2)

Updated on October 4, 2012

How Do I Exercise???

In my last article of this title we talked about general eating guidelines. Now, we'll delve further into healthy lifestyle practices with a discussion on exercise. Healthy exercise for you may be different than for someone else, depening on your health, weight, age, status of joint health and a myriad of other factors. I cannot stress the importance of some kind of resistance training, for those that can safely perform such exercise.

The Benifits of Resistance training

If you can safely perform resistance training, I strongly advise you to do so. First, you'll want your doctor to clear you for this, then start off slow and easy- you'll be sore after you first start anyway, and there's no point in making it worse because you won't benefit from being more sore. Increased soreness will only increase the amount of time until your next workout. If you are new to resistance training, I recommend starting off with various machines and guided movements to help build a little strength before moving to free weights. Most gyms have a plethora of machines to target legs, chest, shoulders, abs, back and even biceps and triceps. I would avoid, at least to begin with, any isolation exercises. These would be exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, chest flies and pretty much all ab exercises.

To start off with, you want to focus on compound movements- or exercises that utilize and recruit multiple muscle groups. The bigger the muscle groups, the better. So, this would automatically point us to legs, since the legs harbour the body's largest muscle groups. My gym has a "machine" called the v-squat that requires loading plates, but the movement itself is guided and is an excellent choice for beginners or those lifting for the first time in a long time. That should be your first choice, but after that the incline leg press is my suggestion. Another good method for working the legs if your a beginner is the Smith machine. This contraption allows you to complete a squat (and several other exercises as well) with a guided movement to protect from injury and assist in maintaining proper form.

What!? No Ab Exercises!!!

If my previous comment about avoiding isolation exercises (that target the arms and abs) sent you reeling, then you're in for an eye-opener. The concept of spot reduction is probably the most prominent myth in the fitness world today. Spot reduction means trying to burn fat off of a specific part of the body by targeting that part of the body. An example would be doing sit-ups to burn fat off of your midsection, or bicep curls to "tone" your arms. This type of training is ultimately fruitless- you cannot isolate fat stores. Instead, you must elevate your metabolism by recruiting large muscle groups through compound movements. Don't worry about getting "bulky" or "chunky"- if you perform the right exercises the right way, you will get leaner without adding bulk to your frame. Read on to learn how.

Exercising Basics

Unless you're looking to get huge, bulky muscles, exercise should consist of performing compound movements with lighter weights, higher rep ranges, and longer sets. This means instead of performing 4 sets of 8 repetitions (not very long sets) of a very heavy weight, you'll do 4 sets of 15-30 repetitions (much longer sets) with a light weight. This method of training allows your body to cruise straight through the muscles' initial burst of energy and reach deep into your glycogen stores, ensuring that you: 1- bring your muscles to failure, 2- keep your metabolism elevated for hours, and 3- use energy from calories you eat long after exercise is completed. Incorporating this kind of training with the healthy eating practices we discussed earlier will ensure that you get the nutrition you need without overloading your body with calories that you don't. Remember, exercising will increase your metabolism's demand for energy, and eating right will keep you healthy and happy without overloading your metabolism with energy (when your metabolism becomes overloaded with energy from extra calories, that excess energy is often stored as fat). Cardio is overrated- simple as that, but that doesn't mean you should overlook it completely. I advise performing resistance training about 3 to 4 times per week and never on consecutive days- you need time to recover. However, on your "off" days, cardio can be useful to help elevate your metabolism for a short time and keep you in a exercise mindset. Some people find that if they take too many days off they lose thier resolve and focus and fall back into old, sedentary habits.

Plan Your Workout

One aspect of exercising that people often overlook is planning. Planning is essential for several reasons. First, you must vary your day-to-day routine to so that your body doesn't become accustomed to it and stop responding, and there's no better way to ensure a varied workout regimen than to plan it all out ahead of time. You may need help doing this, so I'll come back to that in a minute. Another good reason to plan your workouts ahead of time is the feeling of accomplishment when you complete each exercise session. Many people very much need that structured list to give them the confidence and focus necessary to workout for real and take it seriously. Now, back to the workout plan. You may be thinking, "I don't know where to start", and that's okay, there's a lot of options and you may be new to this. I'm including an example session below, but I strongly encourage you to consult someone in person who is either a professional or someone who can give you professional advice- like an experienced exerciser. A good routine will always incorporate compound movements, lighter weights, longer sets, higher number of repetitions and never, never, never neglects legs. Remember to get a sample of different routines with the previously mentioned traits from a knowledgeable source, and then get cleared by your doctor before starting a routine.

Sample Workout Routine

1. Squats (with Smith machine- leg press will also work) - 15 repetitions- low weight

2. Lat pulldowns - 15 to 20 repetitions- low resistance

3. Lunges - 15- repetitions - low weight or just body weight

4. Push ups (or a pushing machine for chest/shoulders) - 15 to 20 repetitions- low resistance

Perform this cycle 3 times with a rest of about 2 minutes between exercises. Repeat 4 times if you are able. If you can perform 4 rounds easily and do not seem to be reaching muscle failure or significant cardiovascular deficit, then consider increasing the resistance as needed to illicit these physiological effects.


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