IF you want to improve your health and change your body shape you must get moving, starting gradually and building
IF you want to improve your health and change your body shape you must get moving, starting gradually and building up gradually. Forget short cuts.
You need to aim for two hours of movement per week at least to start with, building up to at least five hours. This can include walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, climbing the stairs or 15-minute dog walks. When exercise is done frequently at a low level you can improve your fat-burning metabolism, your heart and lung capacity, strengthen your bones and joints, improve your immunity and increase energy levels.
Were we born to walk or sprint?
An interesting study published in 2007 in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine revealed that an intense sustained workout — such as going for a hard bike ride or run — disrupted the immune system function, destroyed some white blood cells and triggered whole body inflammation for up to three days afterwards. By contrast, there are lots of studies supporting the benefits of interval workouts. This is where we raise the intensity of exercise but for only short bursts. This type of exercise improves oxygen-efficiency in breathing and body composition. A word of warning, though — you must have a strong foundation of basic movement before you start sprinting in order to prevent injury.
Performing long, intense cardiovascular activity for a sustained period can lead to issues such as the following:
l Hormone Imbalance — raising the stress hormone cortisol and decreasing testosterone and growth hormone. This compromises fat burning, lean muscle development, energy and sex drive.
l Metabolic irregularities — requires more energy from sugar, so produces more insulin, which means the body is more likely to go into fat-storage mode.
l Injuries — repetitive muscle fatigue and impact on the joints. Restrictive footwear can put excess strain on the entire body.
l Too much stress — this can lead to a weakened immune system, accelerating the ageing process.
l Loss of muscle mass — if you limit yourself to this type of exercise you actually lose power, speed and strength, and develop muscular imbalances and inflexibility.
Think about it — unless you are a marathon runner, do you ever really need to run for an hour in your everyday life? On the other hand, how often do you need to run for a train, lift up heavy shopping or lift up and throw the kids around?
It’s all about primal living. Rediscover variety. Don’t just run. Learn to lift, sprint, swim, fight, throw and jump, even dance! Move frequently. Try to avoid long periods of sitting. If working in an office, get up at least once an hour for five minutes to move and stretch.
Learn how to lift heavy things properly. It’s sad when parents can’t pick their kids up or complain of a bad back. When you learn how to lift it stimulates patterns of flexibility and releases important hormones for longevity. Seek help if you’re nervous.
Finally, play a little. When we play we enhance social skills and move quickly. Play is a essential element of a healthy, active life.
l Richard Hawkins is a personal trainer at Expert Fitness Studio on Bell Street. Contact (01491) 413416 or go to www.expertfitnessstudio.com