All entries for July 2012

Exercise is Medicine: July 30th, 2012

 Fourteen mile run along the beautiful Lake Michigan coast.

I recently read a book that is a "must read" this summer. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, written by John J. Rates MD, a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. 

Don't think you must be a healthcare professional or a PhD to read this. Dr. Ratey has written this book for all of us to understand and appreciate the relationship of exercise, nutrition and improvements in brain function . Through very interesting and easy to understand studies and examples, he takes us through the process of how exercise helps our brains literally grow and we become smarter!

His premise that exercise is medicine is Revolutionary. Dr. Ratey discusses comparisons of exercise versus medication in treating depression. The studies suggest strongly that exercise does have a significant effect equal to medication. However, he does stress to never make changes in your medical care without discussing this with your doctor.

I highly suggest you take the time to enjoy this book. It's an exciting step toward anyone's healthy changes in their lives.

Stay Active My Friends

Fartlek...It's No Stomach Ailment! June 23rd, 2012

Seven mile Fartlek run on Chicago's beautiful lakefront

Fartlek is a Swedish word meaning " speed play." It's a form of interval training that can enhance your workouts, making them more fun, more effective, utilize more calories, and even make you faster.

You can utilize this type of training for any choice of exercise that you participate in, i.e. walking, running, biking or even in the gym on an eliptical or stationary bike. Simply, just increase the speed you are moving for an interval of time.  For example, if you are jogging, start out with increasing your speed a bit for 30 seconds and then slow down to your normal speed.  Repeat a few more times throughout your regular run. 

Some people choose a distance that they will run to at a higher speed, and others choose to run past a certain number of fellow runners before they slow down. You can even choose to run faster until you tire and then slow down.

Especially for beginners, keep this fun. Don't run so fast and long that you can't complete your normal running or walking distance. You also don't need to do a Fartlek run each day you exercise. Use it as a reward or a diversion from your regular routine.

I find that it builds my confidence as well as my speed and I can feel those calories just burning away as I fly past other runners! 

Use common sense, listen to your body, and start slowly into Fartlek. Don't forget to make it fun. Write me with your comments. See you as you fly past me! 

Stay Active My Friends

Fuel Utilization for the Exercising Muscle

As Krista stated a few weeks back, we're constantly using the food we eat (fats and carbohydrates) as fuel, both during exercise and at rest. Understanding how our body uses that fuel can make a huge impact in knowing how to tailor exercise to create an effective weight loss program.

During lower intensity cardiovascular exercise, we mostly burn fat. However, we can't burn huge amounts of calories in short periods of time at low intensity. Contrarily, during higher intensity cardiovascular exercise, we use a much higher percentage of carbohydrates, but we also use all of the fat that is expended at the lower intensities as well. Therefore, we burn more of calories. During resistance training, we utilize a much larger amount of carbohydrates, even at moderate intensities, and the maximum amount of carbohydrates at higher intensities. So, how can we use this information to our benefit?

Theoretically, if we exercise at maximum intensities for extended periods of time, we would be using a large amount of carbohydrates, as well as fats. In this way, we burn the most calories and therefore lose the largest amount of weight loss. Unfortunately, this doesn't always work, because of many reasons. 

First of all, exercising at high intensities for extended periods of time can be a hassle and is certainly not enjoyable day after day. Secondly, exercising this hard, coupled with resistance training can use a large amount of the carbohydrate stores. This, in turn, lowers blood glucose,  which is a good thing for people with prediabetes or diabetes, but not good for those of us with normal blood glucose.  Low blood glucose can cause hunger, which we all know is difficult to ignore. The hunger associated with low blood sugar usually results in a person eating all the calories back in a desperate frenzy. Lastly, using such high amounts of carbohydrates causes muscular fatigue and lowers the pH of our body, which results in even more fatigue. Therefore, even if we wanted to exercise at high intensities every day, our bodies could not handle it due to soreness and fatigue. 

The alternative option is to exercise at lower intensities and just burn fats, but this isn't a realistic option. Most of us don't have three hours to spend on the exercise it would take to burn the amount of calories required to lose weight. 

Armed with this information, how can we make the most efficient workout for weight loss?

The answer is that everyone is truly different, and the workout that works for YOU is the best! Don’t trust anyone that says they have the perfect exercise program if they don’t know the physiology of your body. Everyone is different, and their bodies use different amounts of fuels for different exercise intensities. 
That being said, a very effective approach for new exercisers is to start slow. This will make things manageable in the short term and reduce muscular fatigue and soreness. As you become acclimated, work towards a moderate intensity program for large portions of your workouts. Moderate intensity will burn fat, of which we have an essentially endless supply (~20,000 calories). Then, integrate intervals which burn high amounts of carbohydrates for shorter periods. This causes the body to burn large amounts of calories, along with forcing the body to adapt to a higher intensity exercise. 

Physiologically, the reason our bodies can adapt to this high intensity is due to increased capillarization: the increased ability of the muscle to remove wastes, along with increased mitochondria. In layman’s terms, mitochondria are energy factories within every cell in the body, with the sole purpose of using oxygen to convert food to fuel for cells. By increasing mitochondria, we have a greater capacity to utilize fats instead of carbohydrates, even when exercising at higher intensity for longer periods of time. 
The bottom line is that a balanced approach to fitness will yield results without being so intense that you hate it. I've had clients who hated exercise and hated to be pushed.  But, because we started slow, they can do things today that they never imagined possible.  And that continued participation yields results 100% of the time. 

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