The Skinny on Exercise
Not Your Father’s Calisthenics
In Diet and Nutrition, we talked about “calorie in” (what you are eating and drinking). This section is about “calorie out” (burning calories).
If diet and nutrition is half the equation, the other half is exercise. The same general rules of diet and nutrition apply as well to exercise: it is about long term lifestyle rather than quick fixes; there is no easy, magic solution; you don’t want to under do it or over do it; you need to listen to your body; it is individualized rather than “one-size-fits-all.” Because of that, make sure you are talking to your doctor about any new exercise program, especially if you are particularly at risk for health problems.
So even if the reasons to exercise, in the big picture, are the same as those to improve your diet and nutrition, there is something special about exercise. It may be hard to get started exercising, it may be hard work to exercise, but the feeling you get after you’ve done it is so rewarding.
Adding in exercise to a healthy diet allows you to not have to cut as many calories and is an overall healthier option. If you are good at listening to your body, you can almost hear it saying “thank you.” Go ahead, try it!
Quick, answer the following question: Why is Rear Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu famous? Running back for Navy? Sunk the Bismarck? If you said, “he’s the Surgeon General at the time you wrote your book” you’d be correct! Give yourself a Fantasy Healthball high five!
The Surgeon General’s role is to be America’s chief health educator and provide the best scientific information on how to improve health and reduce the risk of illness and injury. The Surgeon General advocates for regular exercise to reduce risk for many diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancers, and osteoporosis. And the good General gets specific about quantity calling for:
- A minimum of 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per day (such as brisk walking), most days of the week, or
- A minimum of 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity (such as jogging/running) 3 days a week, and
- Two days a week, incorporate strength training into your routine. Strength training activities, such as weight lifting, maintain and increase muscle strength and endurance. A goal to reach towards is completing 6–8 strength training exercises, with 8–12 repetitions per exercise.
As the above shows, the Surgeon General understands that these are guidelines with many ways to achieve the same result and that people may need to work up to them. It also shows options of combining strength training with vigorous physical activity or doing more of moderately intense physical activity.
For Fantasy Healthball, you earn the same Healthpoints for moderately intense or vigorous exercise, because we believe that it is doing the exercise in the first place that is important. In Start Playing, you’ll see that to earn Healthpoints you’ll need 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity or at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity – following the intent of the Surgeon General.
If you exercise regularly, it may not seem like a big deal to meet the above. If twenty minutes of vigorous exercise doesn’t seem like enough to you, then increase it. But if you don’t currently exercise, getting started may be the hardest part. Our advice is to start slowly and build up over time to avoid injury or discouragement. For some people, walking a mile may take a gargantuan effort. Some people walk a mile to the spot they are going to start their run! Since everyone is different, use the Surgeon General’s advice as a starting point – but listen closely to your body. You know yourself better than Dr. Moritsugu knows you.
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So what is “moderately intense” or “vigorous” physical activity? If the last time you exercised was in your school’s gym class, you are about to find out that the world has opened up a million new exercise options – with your fun in mind. Spinning, cardio kick-boxing, pilates. We’re not talking about jumping jacks and burpees here, though those are still fine if you are an “old school” type!
Moderate physical activities include:
- Walking/Hiking – good old walking is convenient for most. Round the block with Fido? Good for around 200-250 calories per hour, unless Fido is pulling you. Hiking up the side of the neighborhood hill? Even better.
- Gardening/Yard Work – this one has a big range depending on what you are doing. Pulling weeds or chopping wood? You get the idea. Give yourself some credit for those Saturdays pushing the lawnmower.
- Light Weight Training – burns some calories and builds some strength, an excellent combination. Mikey likes it!
- Golf – walking and carrying the bag? Okay. Drinking beer and eating chips in the golf cart? Probably not.
- Dancing – typically moderate unless you are Kevin Bacon in Footloose, then it is vigorous. Jerry Rice in Dancing with the Stars? Can’t help you there, we haven’t seen it!
- Rock Climbing – indoor rock climbing gyms are getting more and more popular. Great to build strength and balance. Fear of heights need not apply.
- Pilates – a method of exercise and physical movement designed to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body with an emphasis on the core muscles that keep the body balanced and provide support for the spine.
- Playing with the Kids – we can both attest, this can be moderate or vigorous depending on the activity. As they get older, “Daddy WrestleMania” has gotten more and more vigorous!
- Need some more? How about roller skating, rollerblading, water aerobics, ice-skating, table tennis, badminton, fencing, skateboarding, volleyball, Frisbee golf, bowling, jazzercise, yoga, stretching, Tai chi?
Vigorous physical activities include:
- Football – Oh, yeah, you knew we were going to start with this one. Lace ‘em up and head to the park.
- Basketball/Baseball/Hockey/Soccer/Tennis/Raquetball/Handball/Squash – Any of these that get you running and your blood pumping are great.
- Running/jogging – Tried and true.
- Bicycling/Spinning – Varies from a long ride down a country road to an intense spinning class at your local gym.
- Swimming – Good on so many levels. Muscles get developed that you didn’t know you had. Ever see an out-of-shape competitive swimmer? Didn’t think so.
- Aerobics – Any of a variety of stretching and dance exercises with or without a stepping board. Also, stair stepper, elliptical machine, stationary bike, etc.
- Heavy yard work – We’ve all been there. Add value to your property while getting exercise. Digging out tree stumps? Yes. Trying to pull them out by attaching a chain to your car? No.
- Vigorous weight lifting – I think we can all agree on this one. Good exercise. Doing it a lot may get you elected Governor of California.
- Skiing/Snowboarding – Downhill, cross-country or go all X Games and hit the Superpipe!
- Cardio Kickboxing – Combines an aerobic workout with muscle definition. And you get to picture yourself punching your boss repeatedly. “Show me the money, take that!”
- Rowing – Kayak, canoe, or just the rowing machine at your local gym. Great for abs and back muscles.
- Need some more? How about jumping rope, sparring with a punching bag, training for a triathlon, surfing, gymnastics, martial arts?
It’s okay if you are just starting out and you do 30 minutes of walking for your daily exercise, or if you swim the English Channel for your daily exercise. Whatever works for you, as long as you do it.
For much more exercise information, including how to make the time, check out our book - in stock and available to ship now!
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