Monday, November 5, 2007

What kind of exercise does your body need?

Your exercise should increase your heart rate and move the muscles in your body. Swimming, dancing, skating, playing soccer, or riding a bike are all examples of exercise that does these things.

Looking at fitness and your body closer up, your exercise should include something from each of these four basic fitness areas:Cardio-respiratory endurance is the same thing as aerobic endurance. It is the ability to exercise your heart and lungs nonstop over certain time periods. When you exercise, your heart beats faster, sending more needed oxygen to your body. If you are not fit, your heart and lungs have to work harder during exercise. Long runs and swims are examples of activities that can help your heart and lungs work better.
Muscular strength is the ability to move a muscle against resistance. To become stronger, you need to push or pull against resistance, such as your own weight (like in push-ups), using free weights (note: talk to an instructor before using weights), or even pushing the vacuum cleaner. Regular exercise keeps all of your muscles strong and makes it easier to do daily physical tasks.
Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle, or a group of muscles, to keep pushing against resistance for a long period. Push-ups are often used to test endurance of arm and shoulder muscles. Aerobic exercise also helps to improve your muscular endurance. Activities such as running increase your heart rate and make your heart muscle stronger.
Flexibility is the ability to move joints and use muscles as much as they can possibly be used. The sit-and-reach your toes test is a good measure of flexibility of the lower back and backs of the upper legs. When you are flexible, you are able to bend and reach with ease. Being flexible can help prevent injuries like pulled muscles. This is why warming up and stretching are so important. If you force your body to move in a way that you aren’t used to, you risk tearing muscles, as well as ligaments and tendons (other parts of your musculoskeletal system).

Exercise: How much & what kind?

You need to exercise for about 60 minutes every day. Setting aside 60 minutes all at once each day is one way to get in enough exercise. If you wait until the end of the day to squeeze it in, you probably won’t exercise enough or at all. If you’re not active for 60 minutes straight, it’s okay to exercise for 10 or 20 minutes at a time throughout the day.
Different exercises

No matter what your shape – apple, pear, ruler, or hourglass – there's an exercise for you!
Pick exercises you like to do and choose a few different options so you don’t get bored.
Aim to exercise most days of the week. If you’re not very active right now, start slowly and work your way up to being active every day.

There are three levels of physical activity.
Light – not sweating; not breathing hard (slow walking, dancing)
Moderate – breaking a sweat; can talk but can’t sing (walking fast, dancing)
Vigorous – sweating, breathing hard, can’t talk or sing (running, swimming laps)

No matter what level you are exercising at, the activity can be one of two types.

Feeling the Burn without Feeling the Heat

The summer is one of the best seasons for outdoor exercising. The sun and the clear skies always seem so much more inviting than the cold, grey winter and the rows of treadmills in the sweaty gym. But as the mercury rises, road warriors and park joggers begin to put themselves at risk for heat-related illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that around 300 people die every year from heat-related illnesses. While the majority of those affected will be the elderly, many more people will suffer from heat stroke and heat exhaustion. The CDC warns, "People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves."

Heat stroke occurs when your body is unable to effectively cool off. During heat stroke, body temperature can rise as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) and can cause serious and permanent disability. Heat exhaustion is less severe, but more common, and occurs when the body becomes severely dehydrated and can no longer control its temperature as a result. Heat stroke can stop the body from sweating, making it even more difficult for the body to cool down. Here are some tips to keep you hydrated and safe all summer long:

  • Drink a lot. Even if you are not exercising, drinking plenty of water is the key to staying healthy in the sun. If you are working out however, water and other fluids will help you replace the water lost through sweat. The CDC recommends that you drink two to four glasses of water every hour during heavy exercise.

  • Avoid Alcohol. It sees like a no-brainer, but alcoholic beverages are the worst things you can drink on a hot day. Alcohol only makes you more dehydrated, so stick with water whenever possible.Skip the Caffeine and Sugar. Like alcohol, caffeine and sugar cause your body to lose fluids. This includes skipping soda, juices, coffee and tea.
  • Keep Drinks Cool, Not Cold. Ice-cold drinks can be too cold for your body and very often causes stomach cramps. So, drink water that only feels cool to the touch.

  • Wear Loose Clothing. Bicycle shorts may be more comfortable on a long ride, but a loose T-shirt and shorts will help air to circulate around your skin. This allows sweat to evaporate and cool your body.

  • Steer Clear of the Sun. This can mean either staying in the shade, or doing your exercise in the very early morning or late evening, when the sun isn't as strong. You can quickly feel a huge temperature difference if you move your daily run from the beach to a tree-lined street.

  • Wear a Hat, Sunglasses and Sunscreen. Besides protecting you from the sun, a wide-brimmed hat keeps the sun off your face, keeping it cooler. Also, don't allow yourself to sunburn—burned skin hampers you body's ability to cool off.

  • Slow Down. Most importantly, don't expect your body to be able to work as hard as it would under more temperate conditions. If you head begins to pound and you have difficulty breathing, stop whatever you are doing. Find a shady spot, and rest.

  • Know the Symptoms. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include fatigue, weakness, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, muscle cramps and irritability. If you experience any of these symptoms during exercise, take a break and a drink of water. This will prevent your heat exhaustion from progressing into heat stroke, which can cause confusion, impaired judgment and even coma

Good Exercises for Bad Knees

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush may have their political differences, but both have been avid runners. Shortly before his second term, the current president gave up his favorite exercise because his knees "had finally had it," as he told reporters. Now President Bush can be found zipping around Washington and his Texas ranch on a mountain bike.

Knee pain does not have to be the end of physical activity, explains Lynn Millar, PhD, assistant director and associate professor of physical therapy at Andrews University. She explains how to remain active by switching to excises that have less of an impact on your knees. The key, Millar says, is supplemental conditioning, where you work to strengthen your lower body to withstand the wear and tear of whatever exercise you ultimately choose.

What activities tend to be hardest on the knees?
The ones that involve excessive flexing, especially with weights, such as a full squat or leg press. Or any type of exercise that involves sudden stops, starts and pivots, or potentially awkward jumps and landings - such as basketball, tennis, soccer, racquetball and football. Jumping exercises called plyometrics, which focus on increasing muscle power, can also be tough on the knee joint. A good example of this type of exercise would be a basketball player repeatedly jumping up to touch the face of the backboard. Jumping places a force of two to three times your body weight across your knees, which naturally increases the potential for injury, and people with knee problems would do best to avoid jumps that require a very deep knee bend or could torque the knee on landing. A better type of exercise may be "low plyometrics," like jumping rope or even jumping on a trampoline, depending on how stable your knee is.

Is jogging hard on the knees?
Recreational jogging in moderation actually is not hard on problem free knees. (When we say jogging, we are referring to a slower-paced, short-distance run.) A lot of people say, "Oh, it's going to cause arthritis," but mild to moderate running or jogging hasn't been shown to increase the incidence of osteoarthritis. On the other hand, a history of knee injury is one of the biggest factors in long-term arthritis risk.. So if you've injured your knee and are jogging, then you might run into trouble down the road.

I would say that running cross-country or on uneven surfaces can be particularly hard on the knee especially if you have some inherent misalignment in the joint. If this is the case and you can't live without your morning workout, try running on a treadmill. Treadmills soften the impact of your step while providing a flat and even surface.

Keep on Running

When Jenny Wood-Allen wanted to take part in her first marathon at the age of 71, both her doctor and family were skeptical. But at the age 90, she became the oldest woman ever to complete the grueling 26-mile race, earning her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Now experts are finding that senior runners like Wood-Allen may be doing more than breaking records.

In a study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy, researchers found that avid exercisers in their 60s and 70s suffered less joint and muscle pain over time than their less active peers.

The researchers, led by Dr. Bonnie Bruce at Stanford University, followed 492 members of a senior exercise club for 14 years. Most of the gray-haired grandmas and Jack LaLane's clocked just over five hours of regular exercise a week, including running 26 miles over the course of a week. These athletic seniors were compared with 374 older adults who exercised about two hours a week—still respectable considering their age.

Overall, the researchers found, seniors who continued to exercise vigorously through their 70s suffered about 25 percent less muscle and joint pain than the less active group. This was despite the fact that 53 percent of runners who logged 26 miles a week suffered a fracture, versus 47 percent of those who ran only a couple miles per week.

The key seemed to be that the most active seniors did more than just run; they swam, walked and lifted weights, which left them with significantly less pain compared to those who were less active. And exercisers who stopped running but still kept up high levels of other activities enjoyed benefits similar to those of hard-core runners. The point, Bruce says, is that just about any type of exercise is helpful, regardless of your age.

"The studies on the benefits of physical activity just keep piling up," she says. It’s possible, according to Bruce, that the vigorous exercisers reported less pain because they tend to have a higher threshold for pain to begin with. But having followed the study participants for so long, she says she is confident that the exercise itself had genuine effects.

Indeed, Bruce believes that physical activity fits a natural need that many forgot with the invention of the couch.

"Humans were meant to move, not sit," she says. In the very early days, exercise was geared toward running away from predators and hunting for food. But the same principles apply today.

Of course, not every 71-year-old is meant to launch a marathon career, as Wood-Allen did. Seniors who are sedentary or have chronic health conditions should talk with their doctors about safely starting an exercise regimen. And don’t feel you have to jump from the couch to the running trail.

"Any exercise that you enjoy is good to do," says Bruce.

Making a Commitment

You have taken the important first step on the path to physical fitness by seeking information. The next step is to decide that you are going to be physically fit. This pamphlet is designed to help you reach that decision and your goal.

The decision to carry out a physical fitness program cannot be taken lightly. It requires a lifelong commitment of time and effort. Exercise must become one of those things that you do without question, like bathing and brushing your teeth. Unless you are convinced of the benefits of fitness and the risks of unfitness, you will not succeed.

Patience is essential. Don't try to do too much too soon and don't quit before you have a chance to experience the rewards of improved fitness. You can't regain in a few days or weeks what you have lost in years of sedentary living, but you can get it back if you persevere. And the prize is worth the price.

In the following pages you will find the basic information you need to begin and maintain a personal physical fitness program. These guidelines are intended for the average healthy adult. It tells you what your goals should be and how often, how long and how hard you must exercise to achieve them. It also includes information that will make your workouts easier, safer and more satisfying. The rest is up to you.

U.S. launches school commute exercise plan

DECATUR, Ga. - When Amy Lovell dropped off her son at school, she had to make sure the fifth-grader didn't dash off without his French horn. It was strapped to the back of her bicycle with a pair of bungee cords and rope.

Each morning, Lovell and her 10-year-old son Allen don helmets and ride their bicycles for the 10-minute commute to Glenwood Academy in the Atlanta suburbs, joining dozens of other parents and pupils who wheel into the public elementary school the same way.

On a nearby sidewalk, parents lead a group of children to school on a "walking bus" — a convoy of kids without the bus. It's part of the Safe Routes to School program, a $612 million effort to increase physical activity among students throughout the nation by getting them to bike or walk to school.
The program's first conference will be held in Michigan next month.

"When we started the pilot project two years ago, there were three bikes, now there are 60 to 70" attached to the school's bike rack, said Fred Boykin Jr., a local bicycle shop owner who is the chairman of metro Atlanta's Safe Routes coalition.

Today, only about 15 percent of schoolchildren travel to school under their own power. The program seeks to change that by offering federal Department of Transportation funds to help build sidewalks, post traffic signs and find ways to make it easier for students to bike or walk to school, said Robert Ping, of Portland, Ore., who assists states with the Safe Routes program.

"Safe Routes is potentially the tipping point to increasing opportunities for kids to be physically active," Ping said. "The trip to school is happening anyway."

Overcoming obstacles
Planners have to overcome the reasons why many children don't bike or walk to school. It's easier for busy parents to make a quick drive to drop off their kids. Or parents worry about their child's safety because of traffic or strangers. Plus, buses pick up children at street corners and it's common for students to live miles from school.

The program seeks to overcome those obstacles by getting parents involved. Parents go with students on short walks or bike rides to school and work with police departments and city planners to make the commute easier for kids.

Another problem is the program doesn't provide much money to states, especially smaller states.

About 20 states have Safe Routes programs rolling and some of the most successful programs are in largely populated areas such as California and Florida. Advocates say the program may be easier to carry out in urban areas with plenty of sidewalks as opposed to rural locations where children live far from school.