Wednesday, January 26, 2011
What is exercise?
Today let's focus on burning some of those additional calories we have been gathering. But first lets focus on our perception of exercise. When you think about exercising what is the first thing that comes to mind? For a majority of people fitness and exercise has a negative impression. It is a wide variety of negative impressions, PAIN, Uncomfortable, Miserable, a negative memory of a gym class, being the last chosen for the team at school, No Pain-NO GAIN. Exercise is hard, you have to push yourself if you want results. What is the typical cycle of exercise? You get frustrated with your weight or fitness level and finally get so irritated that we decide we are finally going to do something about it. You decide that you are going to hit the gym or go for a jog or bike ride. We have good intentions, "That's it I'm getting back in shape and I'm going to do this EVERY DAY!!" Remember, we want quick results so we go from 0-60 and off we go. Our bodies are happily stuck in Newton's Law (A body at rest tends to stay at rest) when suddenly we are off and running. While the human body has an amazing ability to adapt to stresses placed on it, it also has mechanisms if place if to much stress is placed on it all at once. While the tissues in our bodies (muscle, tendon, bone, ligaments, etc) will react to gradual increases in stress by increasing their size and strength, they will just as easily be damaged by placing to much stress on them or placing the stress too quickly. Once again we want to jump over the laws of physics as they apply to the tissues in our bodies because we want quick results "I want it and I want it NOW!" All of the tissues in our body (muscle, tendons, bones, etc) succumb to the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands). So, if we place NO demands on our body, it will respond by decreasing the amount of muscle mass, the density of bone, the density of tendons and ligaments (works for the brain as well) because this additional tissue is not necessary. If we place gradually more stress on the tissues they will respond by adding muscle mass and increased density of the other tissues to meet the amount of stress, but here is the warning-only to a point. Every substance has a breaking point steel, wood, concrete and yes human bone, muscle, tendon and ligaments. If you go past this point the tissue is damaged and then must go through a healing phase. Now we are in physical pain and most of us human's don't really like things that hurt us, so we stop exercising to heal. Then when we think about starting again we talk ourselves out of it with a multitude of excuses, reasons, stories but the truth is that 'last time that really HURT!!!" The amount of information in this area is incredible and well beyond the scope of this blog but maybe in the future we can get there. But for now, suffice it to say, if you place the right amount of stress over the right amount of time the tissues will respond appropriately. If you go to fast or with too much the tissues will break down. So, what is the right amount? It is simply a little more than you did before. My definition of exercise is 'something your body hasn't done before' period. Oh, and let's get this straight, exercise is simply activity, any activity that moves the body. It doesn't have to be done in a big gym while dressed in tight leotards while looking in a mirror. The human body was made to move and adapt over time, so let's get it moving. Two of the cardinal rules for activity(formerly known as exercise) are to make increases gradual and make the increases small. If you have not been walking then activity is taking a 5 minute walk, then increase 1-2 minutes a day. In 10 days you will be walking 15-20 minutes without the pain. Once you get to 20-30 minutes and you "don't have time" to do any longer simply increase the intensity of the walk. First, we have to build a base then slowly increase. It never fails that someone will say 'but I walk 2 miles everyday and I can't lose weight!" My first question is 'How long have you been doing that?" and they usually answer for several months. Lets, go back to my definition...Activity (exercise) is something that your body hasn't done before. So if you have been doing the same walk, the same distance, your body long ago adapted to those stresses and it is part of your daily routine. Our bodies are tricky that way, remember Gradual Increases Over Time. Now, let's get moving!