Exercise moderately for best effect

April 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Fitness & Sport


You know that you need to exercise to stay healthy and lose weight, but if you are feeling guilty because you haven’t enough time, don’t want to ‘go for the burn’ or end up red faced, sweating and out of breath then take heart. You don’t need to exercise like a fast forward Jane Fonda video, in fact it is much better if you don’t.

Aerobic and/or cardiovascular exercise for at least an hour, four days a week is often recommended, but the best way to lose fat, build muscle, strengthen your heart and lungs, and add years to your life is with short duration, high intensity exercises.

Typical cardio and aerobic exercises can not only put you at risk for repetitive motion injuries, but can make your heart and lungs less resistant to stress. Exercising over a longer period means they get used to the routine and don’t have to work as hard so can actually shrink. A recent study showed that the muscle fibre of marathon runners actually had decreased and atrophied – in other words they had shrunk.

If you exercise to lose weight and look leaner, then be aware that those who train at low to medium intensity for long periods have a much higher body fat percentage and less muscle than people who train for strength with short duration, high intensity, interval-type exercises. Working out in short bursts of high intensity exercise will burn glycogen stored in muscles as fuel rather than fat. This then teaches your body to store more energy in the muscles and not as fat. This process helps you burn fat and get lean.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that men and women who exercised at a higher intensity had lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides, higher HDL (good cholesterol) and less body fat. Plus, short bursts of high intensity exercise can also help you exceed your aerobic capacity, which increases your lung volume and lung capacity is the best predictor of longevity and absence of disease.

Back to that red-faced sweating, because when you push yourself to where you need to stop and pant, as with high intensity exercises such as a 50-yard sprint or a good set of calisthenics, you are asking your lungs to provide more oxygen than they are able to use at that time. This response signals your body to increase your lung volume. It is important because as you age, you lose lung capacity so that by the time you are 70, you will have lost 50% of your lung capacity. If you stick with high intensity, short duration exercise, you can prevent this from happening. But if you run marathons or do hour-long aerobics classes, you will make this loss even worse.

Ideal Workout? Really 10 to 20 minutes a day is ideal to strengthen your heart and lungs, and exercise so you work at a pace that gives them a challenge. You want to break a sweat, but not so intense that you can’t finish at least 10 minutes.

This is a simple routine you could try:

Run sprints, walk briskly on a treadmill, or cycle at high intensity for one minute and follow up with a period of recovery. During recovery slow down to an easy pace to give your body a chance to rest and recover. Repeat that sequence 5 times.

Do this outdoors if you can for maximum benefit and if you want to increase the degree of difficulty exercise on streets with an incline, or use your staircase.

Heart disease and depression link

Being diagnosed with coronary heart disease can be frightening and stressful, however optimistic the prognosis. It can be a time to revaluate lifestyle, relationships and work and can place enormous pressure on the individual and their family, affecting all aspects of life – including mental health. Now, the American Heart Association has recommended that coronary patients should also be screened early and regularly for depression. They have spoken out because of the growing body of evidence that shows a link between depression in cardiac patients and a poorer long-term outlook.

Many studies have now shown that major depression is associated with worse prognosis in patients with coronary disease. What has also now been confirmed is that more severe depression is associated with the patient having earlier and more severe cardiac events.

In many cases, depression can often be treated with exercise, counselling, good nutrition and cognitive-behavioural therapy. American Psychiatric Association suggests that two questions can identify patients who may need further follow up and treatment. The doctor should ask: ‘Over the past two weeks, how often have you been bothered by the following two symptoms?

1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things

2. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless

If the answer to either question is yes, they have been bothered by those symptoms then the follow up questions are: ‘how often have you been bothered in the past two weeks by:

1. Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much

2. Feeling tired or having little energy

3. Poor appetite or overeating

4. Feeling bad about yourself, that you are a failure, or that you have let yourself or your family down

5. Trouble concentrating on things such as reading the newspaper or watching television

6. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed or being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual

7. Thinking that you would be better off dead or that you want to hurt yourself in some way.

This is not a definitive way to define depression, but it is a useful tool to evaluate how someone is coping after having a coronary and can help you decide whether or not help is needed.

Often used strategies for patients who have coronary disease and depression are antidepressant drugs, cognitive behavioural therapy, and physical activity, such as aerobic exercise. Diet can also play a part, and most nutritionists would recommend a diet that excluded sugar, caffeine and alcohol.