Exercise: A healthy habit to develop and keep 1. What is exercise? Exercise does not have to mean going to the gym. Classic activities such as swimming, walking or cycling are a great way to get and stay fit. Weight training is also recommended for overall health. In addition to the above, everyday activities such as walking on the beach, playing ball with the dog, chasing the kids or mowing the lawn can burn extra calories. 2. How much exercise do I need? The amount required depends on your current fitness level and your goals. To begin with, 10 or 20min of light exercise such as walking or riding a bike a few times a week is a good start. For general health, 3 to 4 times a week for 30 to 40 minutes are recommended. If you are trying to lose weight, you may want to increase this to 5 to 6 days. The basic formula is very easy: the more you do, the more you burn. Remember though that exercise has so many benefits, any amount is better than none. 3. How do I get started? Start by talking to your doctor. This is especially important if you have not been active for a while, have any health problems, are pregnant, or are over 50. Begin slowly. Overdoing it too early can cause injuries. First, try a 10min period of light exercise, and then gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts. 4. Do I need to lift weights? Weight training (also known as strength or resistance training) is an important part of every exercise regime. Especially as we get older, retaining muscle mass is vital to protect joints, prevent injuries such as falls, decrease the risk of arthritis and osteoporosis and lower blood pressure. Other benefits include improved posture, lesser risk of type II diabetes, more strength in everyday activities, increased vitality and a healthier body image. 5. How do I stay motivated? There are many things you can do to make sure you will not give up too easily. Here are a few ideas: • Choose a type of exercise that suits you. For example, if you have problems with your knees, swimming may be better than running. • Get an exercise buddy. Exercising with a friend or partner is more fun. • Vary your routine. You are less likely to get bored or injured if you change what you do regularly. A great five- day training schedule consists of two short, very intense (relative to your fitness level) training sessions of 10-15 minutes, two longer, moderately intense sessions of 30–45 minutes and one long session (60-90 minutes) of a slower/longer distance activity (e.g. yoga). • Choose the time of day wisely. Do not work out too soon after eating or when it is too hot. Also, find whether morning or evening suits you better; there is no point in exercising early if you hate getting out of bed. • Do not expect results overnight. Depending on the individual, it can take weeks or months before changes become apparent. • Listen to your body. While a little soreness is normal after you first start, stop when you feel dizzy, faint, nauseous, or notice any pain. • Make exercise fun. Listen to music, learn to dance or play a ball game with a group of friends. • Stick to a regular time every day. Making exercise a habit helps many people to continue. • Put “exercise appointments” in your calendar and keep a daily log or diary of your workouts. • Check your progress. Can you walk a certain distance faster now than when you began? Is your heart rate slower now? • Think about joining a Gym. The atmosphere, professional advice and even the cost give some people the extra incentive they need. • Enlist a Personal Trainer. The one-on-one motivation, expertise and attention of a fitness professional cannot be underestimated. 6. What is the best exercise for fat burning? Remember the rule: “the harder you work, the more you burn”? Gradually push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Interval training (short, intense bursts) is highly effective, particularly as the burning continues after the workout! Many athletes train this way. Also do not forget that more muscles means more fat burning, even when you are resting. 7. Do I need to stretch? YES! Stretching is an important part of your exercise program. Be careful to stretch only when you are warm (therefore static stretching is not a good warm-up!). If you like stretching before exercise, use “dynamic” (i.e. moving) stretches, such as circling the arms or swinging the legs (you often see footballers doing this). Generally, stretching is recommended in-between the sets when doing weights, and always after any exercise. Try to hold each stretch for at least 20sec (the longer the better), and aim to stretch all the major muscles in your body, with particular focus on the ones you used the most during your workout. Experts recommend working on lengthening your muscles for the same amount of time that you have worked on strengthening them, seven days a week (!). 8. Will sit-ups and crunches give me a flat stomach? No! It is a common misconception that performing lots of abdominal exercises will somehow flatten your stomach and give you a perfect six-pack. This is not true. A “wobbly” stomach is not lack of muscle, but excess fat. You may even have really strong abdominal muscles underneath, but they are hidden. The fat carried on your stomach can only be trimmed down by decreasing the calories you eat and increasing the calories you burn off. Sensible abdominal exercises mainly serve the purpose of stabilizing your spine and protecting your back from taking too much strain. 9. What does it take? If you ever wondered why some people are overweight despite working out daily, below are a few examples of common food items and the amount of exercise required to burn them off: 1 average chocolate bar (45g) 1hr 15min bike ride 1 cup of salted roasted salted peanuts 5hrs 20mins walking 1 large pepperoni pizza 8hrs playing tennis 1 large muffin 1hr 30min bike ride 1 average slice chocolate cake 3hrs walking 1 small packet of crisps (50g) 1hr walking 1 small bucket of hot chips (114g) 1hr 30mins swimming or 1hr aerobics class 1 full-strength beer 15min walking uphill 1 nip of spirits 20min washing the car 10. DO try this at home As mentioned in question number one, a gym is not necessarily required to get fit and be active. There are lots of exercises you can do in the comfort of your home or garage, in your garden, the park, or on the beach. Push- ups, squats, lunges and dips are all examples of great strengthening options requiring no specialised equipment. Every chair or park bench will do. To raise your heart rate, walking, running, cycling and swimming are inexpensive and easily accessible. Other activities include dancing, ball games, skipping or aerobics. So if you have not done your “30mins a day” yet, join your kids in dancing to the Wiggles (or put your own favourite music on and close the curtains!), borrow an exercise DVD from the library or invest two dollars in a skipping rope. Sorry to say, you have no more excuses! Get up and get active for a long and healthy life! Sources: Herbalife handout, Calorie Counter, Weight Watchers.