Why Should We Exercise

plank

We have attempted to tackle the reason why people either don’t start exercising, or they start and somewhere along the way, stop.  I have spoken to quite a few people who, for one reason or another, do not want to go to a gym to workout, and they do not have workout equipment at home.

Neither of those (we will call them excuses for now) should prevent you from exercising. There are so many exercises you can do in a 30 – 45 minute workout routine (3-4 times a week), that can get you in pretty good shape, without the aid of a gym or expensive exercise equipment.

The first step to any exercise program is to get clearance from your doctor.  Our audience is typically the over 40 crowd, and as we are well aware, the older you get, the more health risks there are.  So, it is always a good idea to make sure you are healthy enough to start an exercise routine.

The second step is to set a goal.  What do you want to accomplish?  Do you want bigger muscles?  Do you want a thinner waistline?  Are you preparing for an athletic competition or event?  Your goal will determine what type of exercises you should be doing and how you should perform those exercises.

For simplicity sake, let’s assume you want to lose some weight, firm up some body parts that for whatever reason (gravity), have begun to sag a bit, and get in overall better health.  All good reasons.

Here is a partial list of some really good exercises you can perform, without weights, kettle bells, dumbbells, bands, machines, etc.:

  • Air squats – one of the best all around exercises
  • Planks
  • Side planks
  • Lunges
  • Floor bridge
  • Push ups
  • Walking/running
  • Balance drills
  • Yoga poses

Weight bearing postures can actually build muscle, which is important to anyone over 40, as we lose a certain percentage of muscle tone each year.  You could add some dumbbell exercises to your routine to assist in strengthening certain muscles.  All it takes is a couple of 5 or 10 pound dumbbells to get started.  Heck, you could even start with a jug of laundry detergent, anything to add resistance.  It is funny, but since we sold our house, I don’t have any exercise equipment in my new living space.  I used a jug of detergent the other day to do shoulder raises.  It weighs about 8 pounds and did the trick. You can get creative here, but make sure the weight is correct (not too heavy for a particular exercise to where you may injure yourself), and it allows for the proper form (also to prevent injury).

Once a good routine is designed, make time in your schedule to exercise.  Put these times in your calendar and treat them like an important business meeting.  In other words, set a high priority to exercising and try not to miss a session.  Once that first session is skipped, it is easy to blow off others and before you know it, you are back to being a couch potato…don’t miss!

You can find information online about the exercises I mentioned above, or you could seek the help of a Certified Personal Trainer to get started.  Blend in some weight resistance as I mentioned above (push ups, air squats, both of which are body weight resistance), or dumbbell work such as shoulder presses, bicep curls, and bench press exercises.  Include core work to strengthen the all important stomach and back muscles. These include the plank, side plank, air squats, and floor bridge exercises mentioned above.  And don’t forget to elevate your heart rate with some cardio work (walking, running, jumping jacks, bike riding).

Once you get the routine down, you can add resistance as you get stronger.  This will continue your improvement and build your strength and endurance, which in turn will reduce the chances of injury performing daily tasks, tone up your muscles, and most likely reduce that waistline.

Give it a try and good luck.  Remember, we want fitness for a lifetime, not just until that big event that we want to look good for.

As We Age, Exercise is Even More Important

 

It’s funny, not ha ha funny, but funny in a different sort of way, but as I talk to people about exercise, they  invariable say, “I just don’t have time to exercise”.  I am really tempted to say, that’s ok, you will have plenty of time when your dead, but I refrain, after all, my job is to encourage them to exercise, not scare them.

I figure the problem is one of a handful of things.  Either a person doesn’t want to exercise, he or she has trouble prioritizing, or they don’t see the importance.  After all, they must figure that they have lived for this long without any type of fitness program, so why is it so important to start now?

It is important because as we age things break down.  Think about a car for example, always my favorite analogy to the human body.  Over time, wear and tear occurs on all vehicles. We know that to be a fact.  At some point there will be problems.  We change the oil and do tune ups.  Put in fuel regularly, and change all the fluids.  Those things are regular maintenance so your car lasts longer and performs when we need it.

The same is true with our bodies.  We put in fuel (sometimes good, sometimes bad.  What happens when we put bad gas in our car’s fuel tank?).  The older we get, the more important it is to stretch and strengthen our muscles.  Doing so, like the car, will make them last longer and perform when we need them.  Our muscles become less elastic, and we actually lose muscle mass as we age.

I have a saying, “time waits for no one”.  Basically, it’s nature.  Our bodies age.  The question is, how fast do you want it to age?  Your body, if treated properly, and it is never too late to start properly caring for your body, can give you 50, 60 70, 80, and even 90+ years of dependable service.

So I ask, what kind of quality of life do you want in your senior years?  If you dream of an active retirement where you play golf, travel, play with the grand kids, start caring for your body now and you will increase your chances for that fun and active lifestyle, throughout your life.  You can always start by simply walking, as we have said many times, and build from there.  Just do it!

Good luck, and drop me a note anytime to discuss or simply give me a progress report.

It starts with the heart!

Chuck

 

 

There’s Always A Way

Taking steps towards good health

I’m proud of sister-in-law Mary.  She leads an active life, more active than most, and I think she will tell you that a lot of that activity is self-induced.  She has a full-time job and has a very busy social calendar with events, etc.  There are a lot of people I know like that, most everyone these days, and many say they are too busy to exercise.  But does that have to be the case?

I won’t tell you how old Mary is in fear of retribution, however she has a few years on me.  Let’s just say she isn’t a millennial.  So, with all the activities going on in her life, how does she have time to exercise?

First off, if you have been following along, we classify walking as exercise.  For those that aren’t necessarily looking for that beach body physique, those of us 50+, walking is a great exercise with many benefits including relieving stress.  There are more than 10 muscles being used at the same time when you walk, and the heart is one of them.

Mary found time in her busy day by getting up 40 minutes early and hitting the pavement.  She jokes that the first time she ventured out, that she only made it to the cemetery, which is only about 300 yards away.  Over time, however, she has added a little more distance each week and now her morning stroll extends upwards to two miles.

She is a phone person.  In the old answering machine days she once left a message on our machine that nearly used up the whole tape, with the message at the end to simply call her back, lol.  Let’s just say she like to talk and is good at keeping a conversation going.  Anyways, she uses this time to get in her daily call with one of her boys, something she values very much.  This keeps with her active go-go-go lifestyle in that she is using the time to accomplish other tasks as well as getting in her exercise.

Two lessons can be learned, three if you are new to this blog, 1) walking is exercise, 2) start slowly and you will be surprised how all of a sudden you are walking a couple of miles a day, and 3) you can fit it into your day with a little extra discipline.  I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about a 4th lesson, walking can be enjoyable.

Have fun and be good to your heart.  Take a dedicated walk every day, the cemetery can wait.

Chuck

 

It’s Golf Season, Skip The Cart

DSC_0071Golf season is upon us in Michigan.  The piano music you hear during the Masters commercials says it’s so.  The grass is turning green, sort of, and drying out a bit after a very wet early spring.  All in all, the time is here.  So, when you decide to go play the first round of the year, how about walking?

Golf was not intended to be played riding a buggy in a zig zag motion from shot to shot and from tee to green.  Golf is an outdoor sport, and one of its charms is connecting with nature and the beautiful surrounding that most golf courses feature.  The sound of gas powered golf carts, along with those pesky concrete golf paths, violate that charm.

A standard golf course is over 6,000 yards, tee to green, 18 holes.  This doesn’t count the wayward shots into the woods, or the walk between holes.  When you add it all up, walking 18 holes, will net you approximately 4 to 5 miles, or more, worth of steps (8,000 to 10,000+ steps).  Add in the potential elevation changes, and the warm up and actual swings you make hitting the ball, and you have performed a fair amount of exercise for that day.  Carry your bag, and you can truly say you had a good workout.

First and foremost, check with your doctor before any exercise regimen.  This includes the exercise I described above.  Our target audience is the over 40 crowd, and possibly those with a higher risk of heart disease, but as we found out on more than one occasion lately, heart disease doesn’t discriminate.  Most people don’t know they were at risk until it is too late.  That is why I continue to advocate regular doctor visits, and knowing what questions to ask your doctor.  It can be a matter of life or death, seriously.

Once cleared by your physician, head to the course and consider walking.  A pull cart might be a good way to start, and once you feel like you can handle it, consider carrying your bag (lighten it up of course).  You may find golf more enjoyable, and ironically, you may even play better.  I know for sure, that you will get more exercise, good exercise, that way as well.  Enjoy the season!

It Starts With The Heart!

Chuck

 

 

Are All Weight Loss Plans Good For You?

Female Doctor Nutrition LabelMaintaining the proper weight as we age is certainly a good thing.  A good rule of thumb to see if you are the proper weight for your height is the BMI formula.  BMI stands for body, mass, index.  It is not the end all be all, but it will tell you if you could stand to lose a few pounds.

The BMI formula is:  your weight/your height in inches squared x 703.  For example, if you are 6 feet tall (72 inches) and weigh 170 pounds, it would be 170/(72×72)x703, or 170/5184 which equals .03279 times 703, which equals 23.05.

That number falls in the normal category.  18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal weight, 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, while over 30 is considered obese.  Again, it’s not the end all be all, which means it doesn’t mean you are unhealthy or at high risk for disease if your BMI is say 26. but it gives you a general idea of where you should be in terms of weight.

With that said, and you believe that you should lose a few of those excess pounds, the question is, how do you go about it?  There are dozens if not hundreds of programs out there, are they all good?  Are they all safe?  Do they all work?  Is any weight loss good weight loss?

The answer to the last question is yes and no.  Gotcha didn’t I?  Your probably thinking, what do you mean, yes and no?  That doesn’t help me.  Allow me to explain.  Sure, if you are overweight, losing that extra weight is good, but it is possible that more harm than good could be done in terms of your health, if you go about it the wrong way.

From a fitness perspective, it is important to first determine your goal.  Why do  you want to lose weight?  To look better?  To fit in an outfit for an upcoming event?  To improve your long-term health?  All are good reasons.  I favor the last of course, but regardless, there are many ways to go about it.  Then there is the question of how much weight you want to lose, and how fast you want to lose it.  I suggest being realistic here and making smart decisions.  For example, excessive, quick weight loss may not be healthy, and it may not be sustainable, which means you will be back in the same boat in a couple of short months.

We advocate a sensible program for losing weight.  This includes a well thought out and executed exercise program, along with monitoring calories while keeping a close eye on where those calories come from.  This includes having a sensible ratio of carbs, fats, and protein.  That way, you will accomplish your goal, and it will be easier to maintain over the long haul.  After all, good health that lasts a lifetime is what we all should strive for.  Here is a common understanding of weight loss, burn more calories on a daily basis than you take in, and you will lose weight.  It isn’t rocket science.

I will close by telling you what I tell everyone, check with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or before starting any exercise program.  Also, to get more detailed information about a good nutrition plan, check out our friends at StrongerUFit.com.  The testimonials will blow you away!

 

Is Walking Really Exercise

 

During recent speeches I have given on heart health, we invariably get into a discussion about my recovery from heart disease and the subsequent procedures.  I explain that my first step in recovery and getting back into shape was simply walking.

When I say that, people typically ask me what else I did to get into shape.  Did you lift weights, bike, swim, surely you had some elaborate routine to recover from 5 procedures and 2 serious complications in 9 months?  Uh, well, not really.  Sometimes I wonder if I missed something.  Should I have been doing more?  Not according to my doctor, and my situation may be a bit different from someone without a freshly stented left anterior descending artery.

Let’s take a closer look at walking and see if it really qualifies as exercise.  I can tell you this, first and foremost, without question, it is better than sitting on the couch.  Ok, that’s a given, but what does it do for you from a fitness standpoint?  Well, I guess we have to start by defining fitness.  Good old Webster says it’s the quality or state of being fit.  Well, that doesn’t help much.  Let’s try the new fangled Dictionary.com.  They refer to fitness as the capability of the body of distributing inhaled oxygen to muscle tissue during increased physical effort. Ok, that is a little better.  I interpret that as being able to move freely, without restriction, reasonably without resulting in exhaustion and without overly taxing your heart and various muscles, that is being fit.  In a tangible sense, it may mean being lean, having some strength and endurance, and being able to perform daily tasks without getting sore or injured, or even becoming out of breath.  I think that covers it for the sake of this discussion. Certainly there are different degrees of taxation of the cardiovascular and muscular systems, but for now, let’s stick with this definition of being fit.

Now that we know what fitness is, how does walking help?  Here is a list of muscles used in order to walk: all four muscles that comprise the quadriceps.  Hamstrings (back of upper leg), and glutes (butt muscles).  Tibialis anterior (front side of shin, lifts toes off the ground).  Calf muscles (lift the heel off the ground, includes the gastrocnemeus and soleus muscles).  Abdominal muscles support your torso as well as stabilize your pelvis while the muscles of your back work to maintain posture and keep your body in the upright position. Your shoulders are exercised continually as you swing your arms back and forth.

Whew, I didn’t even know I had all those muscles.  Now you know that there are a lot of muscles involved to move the human body through something as simple as walking.  But, does it really do the things I mentioned above, such as create endurance and strength?  It can.  Walk at 3.5 MPH on a treadmill for 20 minutes and check your heart rate?  It will probably be over 100 beats per minutes.  Put the incline up to say, 3%.  Tell me how you feel the next day.  Go on a 2-3 mile walk at a brisk pace pumping your arms, or better yet, carry a 2 or 3 pound weight in each hand while walking and pumping those arms.  How did that work for you?  How did you feel the next day?  If you are not used to it, I bet various muscles would be pretty sore, which means they are being worked.

Let me sum it up this way:  walking is good exercise.  It won’t build large body builder type muscles (actually, it can for certain muscles if you add variables such as steep hills and increased pace to your walks), but it can instrumental in getting you “fit”.  Here is another thing to consider, a 160 lb person, walking 3 MPH, burns 85 calories and hour.  Increase it to 4 MPH, and you burn 92 calories an hour.  At 5 MPH (slow jog), you burn 116 calories an hour.  Remember, calories are a form of energy, it takes considerable energy to walk a mile at any pace.

I will leave you with this suggestion.  If you don’t track your steps, start.  Set a daily goal.  Start with say 5,000 steps.  At the end of the day, if you are short, go for a walk and hit your goal before hitting the sack (you will probably sleep better).  Increase it by 1,000 steps (about a half mile) every two weeks until you get to 10,000 a day (about 5 miles).  Here is a helpful tip, if you work at a desk, get up once an hour for 5 minutes and go for a brisk walk.  Over an 8 hour day that is an additional 40 minutes of walking.  Your employer shouldn’t mind because you will be healthier, more energetic, and probably more productive.  40 minutes of walking at 3.5 MHP is over 2 miles (over 4,000 steps) of walking during the day, that you wouldn’t have done otherwise.  You will burn, approximately, an additional 150-180 calories a day, depending on your weight. So now, you are not only building strength and endurance in all those muscles we mentioned above, but you are probably losing weight too.  Now do you agree with me that walking is exercise?  All that’s left is to do it.

Enjoy, and always check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to begin an exercise program.

 

Walking Across America

When planning to walk across America, my first objective was to do some research.  You know, talk to people about how they…wait, what?  You know, pick the brains of those that, uh, oops, where are those people?  Do they exist?  Yeah, it isn’t something that you can really research, at least from a living first hand perspective.

So, back to the drawing board.  What is it going to take to plan to walk across America.  I guess at this point I can only assume.  I have no idea what kind of toll it will take on my body, specifically my legs, ankles, knees, and feet.  I mean, I’m not 25 years old anymore.  Heck, I am not even 35, or 45.  I am 55, and will be walking on freshly stented legs.  Will they hold up?  Will I get blisters on my feet?  What will the terrain be like?  How about the inclines?  Will it be like my treadmill?  So many questions, so few answers?

I’ve determined that I have to plan for just about everything.  Exhausting heat, frigid cold, unbearable inclines, heck, even animals and bugs that you really don’t want to have to deal with.  I will have my trusty back pack and a wife who has the knack of preparing for things (although this one might be a bit different, just saying).

Here is what I came up with, it is February 20th and the walk starts in seven months and eight days.  From a training perspective, I am in first gear and I need to push it into second gear quick.  I need to get some real street miles in, 10-15 per day.  I need to push the core stability training up a notch, and I need a fantastic nutrition plan to not only maintain my already low weight, but increase it a few pounds even during the intensive training.  All of this for 6 months of 20 miles a day in heat, cold, wind, and hills.

Can it be done?  It has to.  This is more than a challenge, it is a calling, and I have committed to it like nothing I have committed to in my life.  It is not for me, or even about me.  It is for the many people that this walk could potentially inspire to help them make a change in their lives, and to get them to treat their bodies and hearts properly, so that the body and heart responds in kind.  It is about changing a culture.  It can be done!chuck-north-berwick-law

Is It Really Fitness?

I read an article today with fitness in the title.  In a nutshell, it stated that you didn’t need to go to the gym to lose weight.  Ok, that is probably true, but my question is, without exercise, are you really getting fit?

For some, losing weight can be a great goal.  You feel better, look better, fit in some of your old favorite clothes better, and above all, it should improve your health, or at least a couple of your risk factors.

Being fit however, isn’t just about being thin (or thinner than you were).  Muscle volume and muscle quality is also important.  Strength, combined with range of motion is key to performing daily activities, and avoiding injury.

The older we get, especially the 50+ crowd, the more muscle mass we lose.  It is a scientific fact.  With less muscle, we have less power and strength, and I’m not talking about the power or strength (two different things by the way) it takes to throw a 16 pound shot put.  I’m referring to the ability to get in and out of a car, vacuum a house, paint a room, load and put away groceries.  These tasks, and many more, all take a coordinated effort, to a varying degree, to perform.  If our muscles have deteriorated, are not regularly used, and the range of motion has all but vanished, there is a greater risk of injury.  Elderly people who have poor muscle tone and injure themselves, either don’t recover very easily or quickly, or don’t recover at all.  Most of us have seen that with loved ones.

So, when thinking about losing weight, I encourage you to consider a fitness regimen that includes improving stability (core work), strength, power, and flexibility.  If you do, you will truly be…FIT.  Of course, prior to starting any new exercise program it is recommended to check with your doctor.

Chuck

It Starts With The Heart

How’s that fitness resolution working for you?

It’s January 26th and many New Year’s Day fitness resolutions are already shot.  Why is that?  I’ve done it, you]ve probably done it, we’ve all done it.  It’s easy to quit a fitness program, but why do we let it happen, sometimes, over and over again?

I have some thoughts on that subject.  As with anything, there are many reasons why.  Let’s go over a few and see if they fit:

  1. The place where you exercise is not convenient.  It’s too far from home, or too far from work, or it is too crowded.  Sound familiar?
  2. You are too sore from the first time you hit the gym.  Been there, did that.
  3. You injured yourself, working out too hard or incorrectly.  I did that too.
  4. Your exercise program didn’t fit your goals.  In other words, you want to lose weight but are lifting heavy weights in a manner that builds large muscles.
  5. Lastly, I’m too busy and tired to exercise.  Very common.

The good news is that all of these challenges can be overcome.  First and foremost, figure out what you want out of exercising.  What is important to you?  Most people forget that it is important to your overall health, both physical and mental.  Keep that in mind and make it a top priority.  Then determine what you want to achieve.  Weight loss, a toner body, lose the muffin top, prepare for a particular sport, increase muscle mass, etc.  Just remember, in a world of instant gratification, results from exercise can take time.  It is a marathon, not a sprint.

The next step is developing a plan that will help you achieve your goal.  That is where an instructor can come in handy.  A good plan will build on itself.  You will start slow and work on core endurance first, and then go from there.  Each phase will last about 4 weeks.  This can help eliminate the old, I’m too sore excuse typically experienced in the first week, and lower the risk of injury.

Now that you have your new plan, determine when and where you can exercise.  Maybe some of the exercises can be done in your own home, removing the inconvenience of going to the gym.  Many exercises that can provide various benefits do not require weights or machines.  They are posture bearing or cardiovascular based exercises.  Determine a schedule and mark it on your calendar.  Treat this calendar item the same as you would an important business meeting.  In other words, don’t miss it.  Having a workout partner can also help.  It makes it more fun and each person can put a little pressure on the other not to back out or miss a session.

You definately want to keep your workouts interesting and challenging.  You can do this by using different pieces of equipment for an exercise.  For example, you might use a kettlebell for a specific exercise for a couple of weeks, then change it up to dumbbells.  Keep increasing the intensity of your exercises every few weeks.  That not only challenges you, but it pushes you through plateaus to where you will see improved results.  It is also popular to add music or TV to your routine when possible.

There are tips and tricks to help ensure that you stick to your workout routine.  But when the rubber meets the road, you have to want it.  You should want it, after all, it will most likely lead to improved health. Most importantly, as with anything in life, you have to be disciplined.  Now get your butt to the gym!

 

 

Fitness, stick to it

I’ve done a lot of exercising in my 55 years.  Some was well thought out and planned, and other times, well, not so much.  The first step everyone should complete, before a dumbbell is picked up, or the tread mill is stepped upon, is to have a goal.

What is it that you want to achieve?  Do you want to lose weight?  Do you want to pack on muscle?  Do you want to firm up those abs and that back side?  There can be quite a few goals when it comes to exercise.  Now that I am 55 and still fighting coronary artery disease, my objectives have changed.  At one time in my life I wanted to build muscle.  This meant a regimen of lifting heavier weights.  The amount of sets and number of reps in those sets, along with the rest in between was designed for muscle-building.  That is a completely different program than what would be designed for someone looking to lose weight, or simply “tone” their body for golf or other similar sports.

There are many variables that go into exercising, and many different exercises.  They all lead to certain results.  So, you decide you want to get in shape, which is the first step, and before you step one foot into the gym, think about what it is you want to accomplish.  It is at that point you can construct a workout plan that helps meet your objectives.  Your choice will be to do it on your own, or get help from a personal trainer.  With the complexity involved in exercising, the latter is recommended.

I will finish with this, moving is better than sitting still.  For those wanting to lose weight, it is simple, burn more calories than you consume.  Understand this, most people start a program and somewhere along the way, stop.  Heck, many New Year’s resolutions are probably already broken.  Secondly, fitness planning is a very complex subject for the average person.  I always recommend to get help.  After learning what I now know about fitness training, I realize that I made some major mistakes in the past when it comes to working out.  Those mistakes led to injury and loss of motivation.  That is what you want to avoid.  You want a sustainable plan, where you can see positive results, and a plan that avoids injury and leads to long term success.

So best of luck in reaching your fitness goals in 2017.  If you need help, give me a shout.

Chuck