Get Moving: Get Healthy

Review the exercise guidelings
How to know that you are doing the right stuff.


Nothing should preclude you from being healthier, more energetic and feeling better than ever - whatever your stage of life. While the aging process may be inevitable, it certainly can be managed through a complete fitness program.

In 1992, the American Heart Association declared that lack of exercise to be a major risk factor for heart disease, as significant as smoking, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

It's hard to get away from it these days... healthy lifestyle... healthy lifestyle... healthy lifestyle...exercise, exercise, exercise. Well, what do they actually mean by that? Do you have to "feel the burn" or jump around like a roving lunatic, or run for an hour?

It is well documented that being physically fit is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. The benefits of exercise touch on virtually every system of the body. Skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, immune and endocrine systems all benefit from activity. Not to mention the emotional, psychological and spiritual component of moving our body in different ways from everyday life.

Components of Exercise

Cardiovascular Activity:

This is aerobic activity or in other words "with oxygen". This is any movement using the major muscles of the body in a continuous rhythmic fashion. These activities include: walking, running, bicycling, stair climbing, rowing, swimming, dancing..just to mention a few. These activities are measured in time and intensity. In the National Institute of Health (NIH) Consensus Statement (1995), it recommended to set a goal of accumulating at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, and preferably, all days of the week. The intensity has to do with your heart rate during these exercises. The target heart rate (THR) is a tool for measuring the cardiorespiratory benefits of your aerobic workout. It helps you work at an intensity that's safe for your heart and maximally beneficial.

To determine your THR use the following formula:

220 - Age = Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
50% times MHR = Low end of THR
80% times MHR = High end of THR

Example: Age 47

220-47 = 173
50% times 173 = 86.5
80% times 173 =138.4

THR = 86 - 138

When finding your working heart rate while exercising: after about 15-20 minutes of exercise, use your first two fingers, find your pulse on the thumb side of your wrist (with palm up) or in the groove of your neck (carotid artery). Count the beats for 10 seconds, then multiply the number by six. If you are working in your THR, your numbers should be in-between your two numbers you calculated. This insures that you are not working too hard or not hard enough.

NOTE: If you are on any medication that may alter your resting or workingheart rate, this formula may not be accurate for you. In that case it is better to monitor your intensity with the talk test..you should be able to talk but not sing.

Benefits of Aerobic Activity:

In addition to reducing the risk of heart disease, aerobic exercise also helps you do the following:

Decrease the risk of Type II (adult onset) diabetes by helping to maintain normal glucose and triglyceride levels. Increase the body's ability to utilize oxygen
Increase metabolic rate and maintain a desirable body weight
Helps prevent high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity
Releases mood enhancing endorphins and helps in fighting depression

Strength Training:

Strength training, also known as muscle strength exercises, works individual muscle groups to increase strength. It involves building muscle power while working against resistance created by free weights, mechanical weights, or body weight.

In 1990 the ACSM revised their exercise guidelines to recommend a more balanced fitness program that includes strength training along with aerobic activity. It is now recommended that people do at least two strength workouts a week consisting of at least one set of eight to twelve repetitions (reps) of eight to ten exercises that condition the major muscle groups.

In addition to its influence on bone health and osteoporosis, strength training has a dramatic impact on your body composition. Strength training helps you lose fat and build muscle. It increases metabolic rate so you use more calories and maintain fat-free weight. And it leads to a greater sense of physical and emotional power.

Stretching is also an essential component of any exercise routine. Stretching can:

Increase your range of motion and flexibility
Decrease risk of injury and muscle soreness
Reduce risk of back and neck pain from everyday stresses
Enhance body alignment and posture
Help alleviate the physical and emotional effects of stress

It is recommended to stretch your muscles after you completed your exercise. This will ensure your muscles are warm and can now safely stretch them. Hold your stretch for 20-30 seconds, and be careful not to pulse while stretching.

You can incorporate gentle active stretching which moves the limb slowly while it is stretching. Only go as far as comfortable, you should not have any sharp pain.

With all these requirements how do you make your workouts happen? Find the time? Find the place? Find the equipment? Find the energy? Do you ever wonder what separates people who exercise regularly from fitness dropouts? The people who stay with it are generally those who enjoy exercise. It's not a big surprise. If you're forcing yourself to do something because you think you should, it won't be long before you rebel. But if you
choose forms of fitness that are fun, you'll be more inclined to keep going.

You may be worried about heart disease, gaining weight, osteoporosis and aging and know that you need to exercise. Still unless you find a workout that's pleasurable, the fear may not be enough motivation to keep you going.

Recommendations from experts agree that for better health, physical activity should be performed regularly. Experts advise previously sedentary people embarking on a physical activity program to start with short duration of moderate-intensity activity and gradually increase the duration or intensity until the goal is reached. It is also recommended to consult with your physician before beginning a new physical activity program for people with chronic disease, such as CVD and diabetes, or for those who are at high risk for these diseases. It is also advised that men over age 40 and women over age 50 to consult a physician before they begin a vigorous activity program.

With all the myriad of physical activities to explore, there's no reason ever to be bored with exercise. If you find exercise dull, it may be time to find a more challenging activity. Exercise can bring that sense of playfulness and fun back into your life. Enjoy!


Written by: Lisa Hoffman, M.A.
Excerpts from her book: Better Than Ever: The 4-Week WorkOut Program for Women Over 40