Move It Or Lose It Cover Image

Move It! Or Lose It!

We are born to move! Regular, vigorous exercise is essential to our ongoing       biological regeneration. Physical activity generates vitality. It is as fundamental to life as air, water, and good nutrition.

This awareness is not obvious. The consequences of too little physical activity develop over a long time. When we use whatever rationalizations to deny ourselves physical activity, our bodies degenerate at a rate that exceeds normal aging.

We cannot maintain our natural health and vitality. The result is pain, stiffness, low energy, negative attitude, physical weakness, poor health, and premature aging.

On the other hand, the benefits of exercise extend throughout the entire body.

Every system works better for us. This covers the obvious musculo-skeletal and cardiovascular systems as well as the more subtle immune, nervous, and glandular systems.

Our attitudes are improved and we improve our opportunity for greater longevity. Even if we don’t live longer, our days are happier.

 

Move It Or Lose It Cover Image

Topic: FITNESS

Fitness is the true measure of health. 

Recently, in speaking to an older crowd at the University of California at Riverside, Karen White, PhD, PT, declared, “You don’t stop exercising because you get older, you get older because you stop exercising.”

Move It!

Or Lose It!

When It Comes To Exercise:

• What’s The Big Deal?

• How Much Do You Need?

• Is There Anything New?

• Can Supplements Help?

Look Inside And Choose

Whether To Skip Or Just Skip It….

We are born to move! Regular, vigorous exercise is essential to our ongoing       biological regeneration. Physical activity generates vitality. It is as fundamental to life as air, water, and good nutrition. 

This awareness is not obvious. The consequences of too little physical activity develop over a long time. When we use whatever rationalizations to deny ourselves physical activity, our bodies degenerate at a rate that exceeds normal aging. We cannot maintain our natural health and vitality. The result is pain, stiffness, low energy, negative attitude, physical weakness, poor health, and premature aging.

On the other hand, the benefits of exercise extend throughout the entire body. Every      system works better for us. This covers the obvious musculo-skeletal and cardiovascular systems as well as the more subtle immune, nervous, and glandular systems. Our attitudes are improved and we improve our opportunity for greater longevity. Even if we don’t live longer, our days are happier.

“If You’re Trying To Get Out Of Exercising”

This is the title of a short article by Polly Brewster in O Magazine. No one disputes that exercise helps you live longer and better. Ms. Brewster recounts five recent exercise findings:

1. Protects against Alzheimer’s disease. Studying 800 elderly adults, Mayo Clinic researchers found that those who had engaged in moderate exercise 2-5 times weekly earlier in life had a reduced risk of developing the cognitive impairment generally considered a precursor to Alzheimer’s.

2. Boosts your energy. Though it may seem counterintuitive, a study at the University of Georgia showed that 20 minutes of easy pedaling on a stationary bike relieved fatigue by as much as 65 percent in people who had previously complained of exhaustion. These results were achieved after only 6 weeks of engaging in the 20 minute exercise three times per week. One can easily extrapolate these results to any easy going kind of exercise, like a nice walk through the neighborhood or a casual 20 minute swim.

3. Slows aging. Although this is well known, in this study British researchers examined DNA. Strands of DNA have tails called telomeres. Each time a cell divides, the telomere shortens. Eventually, the cell dies. The DNA of more than 1000 pairs of twins showed that the most active twin-partners had telomeres that were longer than those of their siblings. These subjects were biologically as young as sedentary individuals up to ten years younger chronologically.

4. Helps menopause symptoms. This 8-year study of over 400 women comes from Temple University. Women who maintained a daily walking routine decreased the feelings of stress and anxiety that are triggered by reduced estrogen production. These women walked two 17 minute miles every day.

5. Reduces the need for prescription drugs. In this survey of more than 40,000 men and women, walking as little as 3-8 miles weekly reduced the possibility of having to take meds for diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Most interestingly, the segment of this population at the lowest risk went for a long walk – more than 4 miles – at least once a week.

The Core of The Matter

Most people now realize that the best exercise results come from training programs that involve three elements: aerobics, strength/resistance, and flexibility. Although the types of exercise in each of these categories used to be distinct, there are now many overlaps. For example, Pilates involves both flexibility and resistance while some new types of yoga and some resistance programs have an aerobic component. Also, a new element has been added to the usual three: Stability. Stability is implied in one of the latest trends, which is building the body through the use of the core muscles. 

Rather than discuss the classic fitness exercises, such as running, walking, lifting, yoga, and sports activities, we cover three current trends. All of them seem destined to become exercise basics: 1) Stability ball work; 2) Wii programs [wee]; and 3) Rebounding.

The stability ball offers the ultimate in core muscle work. If you don’t believe this or you’re not sure which are the core muscles, try this. Sit upright on a stability ball for half an hour as you work at your desk, read, or watch TV. The next day, your core muscles will be talking to you. Imagine what this workout can do for you when you actually perform exercises with the ball.

The ball instantly and constantly engages your core muscles and keeps them engaged. The spherical shape also forces you to work your abs through a full range of motion. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared two exercises on the ball with two similar ones performed on the floor. After five weeks, those doing the ball work had greater gains in torso balance, as well as in back and abdominal stability. 

A stability ball (also called a Swiss ball or a yoga ball) costs from $10 to $50. To size the ball, sit on it. Your thighs should be parallel with the floor, and the ball should have a little give. I recently purchased a book to help me train myself on the ball: Ultimate Core Ball Workout by Jeanine Detz (Ulysses Press, 2005) 

Another growing trend is the use of the Wii wireless platform with specific programs for your workouts. Some of the programs offer a virtual trainer that corrects your form while tracking your balance, BMI, and longterm progress. Others offer activities like batting practice and tennis. One even gives you the opportunity to navigate through a jungle filled with exercise challenges, such as logrolling, kayaking, and tossing cannonballs at targets. These games have a multiplayer option so that you can compete against your family and friends. As with other forms of exercise, you’ll get out what you put in – but you might have a lot more fun while “putting in”.

Last is the rebounder or mini-trampoline. This is an exercise technique that seems to reappear every decade of so. Be that as it may, it is a wonderful way to exercise. According to NASA, rebounding is “the most efficient and effective exercise yet devised by man”.  It is 68 percent more efficient than treadmills or other forms of exercise. It burns calories 11 times faster than walking and 3 times faster than jogging. 

Rebounding works by increasing the weight of gravity on every cell of your body over 100 times per minute. That means every muscle, bone, ligament, tendon, connective        tissue, even the collagen and skin, are worked out. The whole body begins to grow stronger, leaner, and more toned from the inside out.

On the other hand, typical exercise is limited to specific muscles or muscle groups. It works by applying weight on these, generally by working against gravity.

Often starting an exercise program seems to be difficult. One of the best suggestions I found for getting started was to insert exercise into your day the same way you would any appointment – and then, keep the appointment. Continue to keep it at least a couple of times a week.

1 + 2 = 3

In general, the benefits of exercise fall into three basic categories: 1) Weight Management; 2) Improved Well-Being; and 3) Increased Longevity. Thus, 1+2=3.

1. Weight Management

Initially, there’s the old, calories in, calories out. The theory is that if you start exercising or add to your exercise program, and keep your calorie intake constant, you will lose weight. Although this can take a while, it is working. You are replacing fat with muscle and gaining a sleeker, more trim body.

In a typical exercise study without dietary restrictions, college women who walk-jogged three days a week for 30 minutes lost an average of 5 pounds in eight weeks. That doesn’t sound like much. However, skin fold tests revealed that they had lost an additional six pounds of intermuscular fat, for a total of eleven pounds. This is a good result for no dietary changes and only an hour and a half of exercise a week. If weight loss remains steady, they could lose another 10 pounds in 16 weeks. 

This doesn’t continue to happen indefinitely. Once your calories in/calories out plateau is reached, you won’t lose further weight unless you exercise more or cut your calories. In addition, you must continue to exercise to maintain your new weight. This is not a bad thing.

One big bonus of using exercise as a weight management strategy is increased metabolism. The more muscle (lean body mass) we have, the more effectively we use calories and burn fat. Afterburn is the effect that increased metabolism has on calorie use after exercise. This effect can last for up to 48 hours. You are using more calories at a faster rate even when you’re at rest. This is especially important once we enter our thirties, when metabolism begins to slow naturally.

An important benefit of exercising while dieting is that you lose fat, rather than muscle. Regular exercise is far more likely to cause the body to draw from fat reserves for energy. Dieting without exercise increases the probability that weight loss is a loss of lean body mass, not fat. We may weigh less but we are actually fatter. Furthermore, the heart is a muscle. This means it is weakened by exercise-free dieting.

FYI: Here’s the bad news on weight management. Eric Sternlicht, PhD, a nutrition and fitness consultant, cites a study of 7000 male runners. Even regular endurance exercise at a constant intensity level did not totally blunt the tendency for the men to add weight as they got older. As we age, some of us will be happier if we let go of our idealized fantasy weights.

2. Well-Being

Many people feel that the greatest reward of physical fitness is the improved sense of well-being that it brings. At first, this can be traced to the increased production of brain chemicals known to lift the spirits. These are produced more rapidly and in greater amounts by the physically fit. However, benefits go beyond this. Heightened self confidence, personal empowerment, and feelings of accomplishment come from creating the time to do something for yourself and from the transformation achieved as a result of the activity itself.

Relief from stress is another significant benefit. Exercise time provides an opportunity to separate from the demands of everyday life. It also gives us a greater sense of being able to meet those demands. In the face of a difficult situation (a stressful appointment, presentation, or social engagement) twenty minutes spent exercising can ease nervousness and increase feelings of self-confidence.

In fact, exercise works better than medications for the stress of anxiety and depression. “It’s not a magic bullet, but increasing physical activity is a positive and active strategy to help manage depression and anxiety,” says Kristin Vickers-Douglas, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

In addition to improving mood and relieving both stress and distress, regular exercise decreases the severity of physical injury. Because exercise strengthens the entire musculo-skeletal system, bone breaks and other injuries are less likely to happen. When they do, they heal more quickly.

A couple of years ago, I broke my ankle while hiking. I healed rapidly and have no signs of ever having broken it. Through my personal experience, I am a witness to all the benefits of regular physical activity.

3. Increased Longevity

Lifestyle has more impact on aging than genetics. Surprisingly, our genes account for only about 30 percent of physical aging. At the end of an 18 year study of over 16,000 Harvard graduates, Stanford University researchers found that moderate exercise can extend life by up to two years.

This may not sound like much, but remember, they are an extra two years of a higher quality of life. Results showed that those who lived longer expended at least 2,000 calories per week through exercise. This is vigorous exercise, equivalent to five hours per week of brisk walking, four hours jogging, or three hours of squash. 

These longer lived persons also had 39 percent less risk of heart disease. Beyond heart disease, they were at less risk for any disease. Other studies have shown exercise to be of great benefit to sufferers of angina pectoris, hypertension, diabetes, chronic obstructive lung disease, and bronchial asthma, and as mentioned, obesity, depression, and anxiety.

We talked about telomeres above, but let’s consider something we can see. As we age, we automatically lose muscle mass. This leaves us more susceptible to back and joint pain, to falls and breaks, and to a decrease in bone density (osteoporosis). However, significant loss of muscle mass and bone density are not inevitable consequences of aging. 

According to an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, most age-related changes in muscle and bone can be reversed through an appropriate exercise program. In fact, the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology reports that older muscle tissue may have an even greater response to training than younger muscle. Programs examined included aerobic and resistance training.

Incidentally, in a recent issue of the Weill Cornell Medical College newsletter (Food & Fitness Advisor), a reader asked if he should give up running since he was in his late 60s. Orli Etigin, MD, answered, “No”. She cited a 20 year study from the Archives of Internal Medicine showing that older runners live longer and suffer fewer disabilities than non-runners. In a related study, running wasn’t linked to greater rates of osteoarthritis or more total knee replacements in older runners than in non-runners.

Your Workout Nutrition

Staying in The Zone is the way to go. Refer to the glycemic index and follow a loosely 40-30-30 diet (40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat). The goal is to support a healthy blood sugar balance. Here are six eating “rules.”

1.Eat 4-6 smaller meals, nourishing your body throughout the day, about every three hours.

2.Make sure what you eat counts by eating wholesome foods.

3.Cut back on carbohydrates and eliminate refined carbs such as sugar and white flour.1

4.When you eat carbs accompany them with protein and/or 

fat, or eat high fiber carb foods such as beans or fresh fruit.2

5.Raise your protein intake.

6.Be sure you get enough water.

To supplement your workout, take a multivitamin-mineral and some antioxidants. Most multis contain sufficient amounts of the B vitamins, important to stress and energy production. Besides the multi-, a basic program will include magnesium (400 mg), chromium (200-600 mcg), vitamin E (200-800 IU), vitamin C (500-3000 mg). Add vitamin D3 (at least 1000 IU – not necessary if you train out of doors). Don’t forget omega-3. We recommend supplementing 3 grams per day from fish oil and eating plenty of oily fish. People over forty may want to take digestive enzymes with meals and supplements.

Besides vitamins E and C, antioxidant protection includes alpha-lipoic acid, N-acetyl-cysteine, selenium, and astaxanthin (from sea algae, very powerful). CoQ10 is needed by those over 40. There are any number of plant-based antioxidants that are useful, including milk thistle extract (silymarin) for the liver. A comprehensive review of studies conducted by world- renowned antioxidant specialist Lester Packer, PhD, and his team at Cal Berkeley concluded that antioxidant supplements reduce tissue damage, increase tissue repair, and enable athletes to train more effectively.

We conclude this section with several supplements having either protective or energizing effects. The first is creatine monohydrate a precursor to ATP (adenosyltriphosphate), the principal form of chemical energy in the body. ATP disappears rapidly when muscle is working. Several university studies show that it can increase lean muscle mass, strength, and anaerobic endurance. Although creatine is widely used by athletes, it is also helpful for people just starting to get into shape. Be sure to         follow the instructions on the container.

During intense training or dieting, free amino acid pools in the muscle decrease, reducing the body’s ability to build new muscle. Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) with added glutamine supports muscle recovery and combats soreness. The powder is taken before and after exercise.

Studies have revealed that the amino acid precursor acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) stimulates testosterone production. This supports muscle growth in men as well as women. Secondly, ALC reduces the negative effects of exercise induced cortisol, the stress hormone. Overproduced, cortisol can have a deleterious effect on the body. General recommendations are 1000-2000 mg in the morning and again in the afternoon. Don’t take at night as ALC can interrupt sleep.

Protection of the joints is important to those engaged in any athletic or fitness program. The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a meta-analysis of controlled studies of glucosamine and chondroitan. They concluded (as natural products shoppers concluded many years ago) that these substances really do work against joint pain. The two   nutrients provide the body with the important chemicals it needs for joint health.

A third joint-protector is SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine). Known for its antidepressant effects, SAMe in the joint tissue helps the manufacture of cartilage. TMG (trimethyglycine) and DMG (dimethylglycine) are both precursors to SAMe in the body and can be used in its place by people who make the  conversion normally. Follow the instructions on the label to determine your own needs. The substances are not toxic.

1 Certain carbohydrates are grey area carbs. These are white rice, pasta, potatoes, and some fruits. These foods stimulate greater insulin release in some people than in others. Stay away from them if you feel lethargic or bloated after eating them.

2 Don’t eat bread, pasta, and dessert in the same meal.