All Posts tagged exercise

Sitting Is Bad For Your Health

As you read this, you’re probably sitting, something we all do countless times a day. We sit to eat, to work, and to relax.  However, research has found that this simple action can be incredibly harmful to your health.  A recent editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that people who sit still for prolonged periods of time, such as desk workers or couch potatoes, have a higher risk of disease than those who move a muscle every once in a while.  Other studies show rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even certain types of cancer are doubled and even tripled in people who sit a lot.  A woman’s risk of metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease, jumps 26% for every extra hour she sits in front of the TV, according to one study.

Researchers believe that muscle movement and contractions play a role in controlling important blood fats.  It is hypothesized that sitting stops of the circulation of lipase, an enzyme that absorbs fats.  So instead of being absorbed by your muscles, fat circulates in your bloodstream where it may end up stored as body fat, clogging arteries and contributing to disease.  Just standing up as opposed to sitting engages muscles and helps your body process fat and cholesterol in a positive way, regardless of the amount of exercise you do.  In fact, sitting for any length of time may overwhelm the benefits of exercise to the point that sitting less may be just as important as regular exercise for your health.

In fact, researchers have found that sitting not only has a negative effect on fat and cholesterol metabolism, but it also stimulates disease-promoting processes.  Even scarier, they found that exercising, even for an hour a day, does not reverse this effect.  An article on stated that the enzymes in blood vessels of muscles responsible for burning fat are shut off within hours of not standing.  Standing or moving will re-engage the enzymes, but when people spend most of their waking hours sitting, they lose the opportunity for optimal fat metabolism throughout the day.  So if you do take the time to get regular exercise to stay healthy, you may not want to spend the time you aren’t exercising sitting because it will negate everything you just did.

Other studies found that just sitting may cause you to gain weight.  One study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that those who sat for 7 hours or more during the day were much more likely to be overweight than those who reported sitting for less than 5 hours a day.  In other words, just sitting may cause you to gain weight.  Another study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the longer a man sits at a desk at work, the greater his chances are of being overweight.  In addition, that study found that same man was more likely to have back pain, leg cramps, tense muscles, and boredom.

So what if you have a job that requires you to do a lot of sitting?  What can you do?  The first step is to take the opportunity to stand rather than sit as often as you can.  Stand up while you talk on the phone, when you’re taking public transportation, or when you’re on your lunch break.  The average person can burn 60 more calories each hour just by standing instead of sitting.  Over the course, of a day this can add up to a lot of beneficial health effects.

In addition to standing, try to come up with ways that you can exercise while working. (You can check out my previous blog post on this subject for some ideas)  But here are a few other ideas:  climb the stairs rather than use the elevator, walk to ask a co-worker a question rather than calling them, drink plenty of water so you’re forced to take bathroom breaks, or just get up and stretch every 20 minutes.  According the Mayo Clinic, your body cannot tolerate being in one position for more than 20 minutes before it starts to feel uncomfortable anyhow.  So every 15-20 minutes stand up, stretch, walk around or change your position for at least 30 seconds.

The more you get up and move during the day and the more you stand instead of sit, the better your health will be.


P90X Home Workout Program

A number of my patients have recently been talking to me about the P90X home workout program.  Concerned about what they were getting themselves into, I decided I was going to do some research into the program.  With full disclosure, I personally haven’t tried the workout, I’m just sharing with you the information I learned about it.

From everything I have read and everyone I have talked to, this program is not for someone who wants to get in shape.  It’s for those who are already in shape and want to get into BETTER shape.  The workouts are long and hard so you need to make a commitment to the program before you consider purchasing it.  With that said, some people may just not have the time or the motivation to consistently use the program.

The P90X is a series of workouts presented to you by professional fitness trainer Tony Horton.  There are 12 different workouts that you do over a 90 day period.  The twelve workouts include:  Chest and Back, Plyometrics (an explosive jumping cardio routine), Shoulders and Arms, Yoga X, Legs and Back, Kenpro X (an intense cardiovascular workout with punching and kicking), X Stretch, Core Synergistics, Shoulders & Triceps, Back and Biceps, Cardio X, and Ab Ripper X.  P90X also includes a 3 phase nutrition plan, dietary supplement options, a step by step guide, calendar for tracking and more.

Each P90X workout resistance day (Chest and Back, Shoulders and Arms, Legs and Back, etc.) is roughly around 1 hour.  Each resistance workout is then followed by the 16 minute Ab Ripper X.  On Cardio Days (Kenpo, Plyo, Cardio X, etc.), you are looking at around 45 minutes to an hour depending on the workout.  Finally, on Yoga X you are looking at 1 hour and 30 minutes.  So with these times you now know that you will need at a minimum 45 minutes a day to complete your workout and at a maximum you will need 1 hour and 30 minutes.  This means you will need from 7 hours and 15 minutes to 8 hours and 15 minutes a week to exercise, depending on if you perform the Stretch X portion.

The P90X itself is an incredible system that will undoubtedly get you in shape if you follow the program consistently and also eat a clean and healthy diet.  You just need to make the commitment to use it consistently.


What Does Your Pulse Say About Your Health?

I have a number of patients who like to exercise at home with videos.  My attitude has always been, whatever works best for you personally is what’s best.  However, the concern that I have with some of these videos is they tell you to check your heart rate, but they don’t tell you what you should be working towards.  I remember when I was in high school, my mother had a Richard Simmons video and he’d always say, “Ok, let’s check our heart rates.  If it’s too high, take it a little slower.”  I’d check my heartbeat, but I didn’t have a clue if it was too high or not high enough.  So if you’re anything like I was, here’s some information about a healthy pulse rate and what you should be striving towards in your exercise regime.

To begin with, pulse (or heart) rate is defined as the rate at which the heart beats in one minute.  As the heart pumps blood into the body, the blood vessels at the wrist, upper arm and neck start pulsating and throbbing.  While the normal pulse rate is usually between 60 to 100 beats per minute, there are certain medical conditions such as cardiac arrhythmia which may alter the normal pulse rate of an individual.  The factors that can influence your pulse rate are your age, gender and fitness level.  So a toddler’s pulse rate is significantly higher than an adult’s.  Similarly females tend to have faster heart rates than men.  Conditioned athletes may have heart rates as low as 40 beats per minute.

How To Calculate the Pulse Rate
You can check your pulse rate by placing the tips of your index, second and third fingers on the palm side of your other wrist, below the base of the thumb or on your lower neck, on either side of your windpipe.  Make sure you do not use your thumb because you can sometimes feel your heart beat in your thumb and that will skew your number.  Now count the beats for 10 seconds and multiply this number by six to get your pulse.  Checking your pulse rates when resting, during exercises or after it, can give information about the overall fitness.

Resting Pulse Rate Chart: The lower your resting heart rate, the healthier your heart tends to be.  To calculate your resting pulse, sit quietly for 10 minutes.  Here is a table to demonstrate the ideal resting heart rates.

Babies to age 1:100 -160
Children aged 1 to 10:60 -140
Children aged 10+ and adults:60 -100
Well-conditioned athletes:40 – 60

Heart Rate During Exercises: Strenuous exercise increases the pulse rates.  A heart beat calculator can help measure the increase in heart rates.  It should be noted, that exercising above 85 percent of your maximum heart rate increases both cardiovascular and orthopedic risk and does not add any extra benefit.  It is therefore advisable to check with your health care provider, before starting an exercise program. Check the heart beat chart below, to find whether you need to increase or decrease your rate of exercise.

AgeTarget Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%) Predicted Maximum Heart Rate
20120 – 170200
25117 – 166195
30114 – 162190
35111 – 157185
40108 – 153180
45105 – 149175
50102 – 145170
5599 – 140165
6096 – 136160
6593 – 132155
7090 – 128150
Your actual valuesTarget HRMax. HR

Checking your pulse rates, using these healthy pulse rate charts, can indicate good health while an irregular pulse is a symptom of heart disease such as a blocked artery.  Consult a health care provider in case of any unusual observation.


Kettlebells: A Whole Body Workout

The past few months I’ve been having some problems with my spine and have been seeing my own chiropractor rather regularly.  When I go in for my appointments, he’s been telling me about the results he’s been seeing with his Kettlebell workout.  Another colleague of ours convinced him to try it, and it seems to be working well for both of them.  I had never heard of Kettlebells before, but after hearing both of my colleagues rave about them I decided to do a little research.   Kettlebells are cast iron weights that look like a cannonball with a single looped handle on top.  They range in weight from 2 pounds to over 100 pounds.  They are common strength training aids in Eastern Europe and are starting to take off among mainstream athletes.

The reason kettlebell training is starting to take off is it gets back to basic training that requires functional, whole body fitness.  Kettlebell workouts are intended to increase strength, endurance, agility and balance, challenging both the muscular and cardiovascular system with total-body movements.  Kettlebells require the person to focus on whole-body conditioning because lifting and controlling it forces the entire body, specifically the core, to contract as a group, building both strength and stability at the same time.  The kettlebell has a reputation amongst its followers as being able to condition the whole body with a relatively simple plan.

If you want to start using kettlebells in your workout, it is highly recommended that you get personal instruction from a personal trainer or coach who has experience teaching kettlebell exercises.  When used incorrectly, kettlebells can cause some nasty injuries.  Proper use of this cast iron weight requires strength, coordination, and lots of practice with lighter weights before increasing the weight.  Each exercise involves multiple joints and multiple muscle groups working together.  It takes most people time to adjust to these new movements that are different from traditional weight-lifting movements.  After the basics are mastered, increasing the weight provides a strength workout unmatched by machines or even dumbbells.  The biggest mistake beginners make is lifting too heavy a kettlebell before they can control it.  This can result in serious injuries to the joints, and especially the neck, back, and spine.


Ways to Exercise While Working

Stiff neck, back and wrist pain, poor circulation – these are just some of the health hazards that can come with having an office job.  Sitting for long stretches of time every day, especially at a computer, can take a toll on your body. Add to that poor posture, stress, and a work station that doesn’t work for you, and it’s no wonder you’re feeling aches and pains at the end of the day.  Human bodies are made to move.   That’s why it’s important to take advantage of times during the day when you can get some exercise while at work.  There are simple exercises you can do at work that don’t take much time and also help you stay fit.   There are also simple things throughout the day that you can modify so you’re actually getting some exercise while working.  So why not de-stress, re-energize, jumpstart your brain, and work the kinks out of your body, each and every day? Here’s some suggestions:

1. Make the most out of your commute.  Walk or bike to work.  If you take public transportation, get off a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way.  If you drive to work, park at the far end of the parking lot so you can walk into and out of the building.

2. Look for opportunities to stand – You’ll burn more calories standing than sitting.  Stand while talking on the phone.  Eat lunch standing up.  Trade instant messaging and phone calls in for walks to other desks or offices.

3. Take fitness breaks

–       Strength train. You can easily store water bottles, a resistance band, or small hand weights in your desk or office and do a few sets between meetings or telephone calls.

–       Do some quick cardio. Squeeze in a few rounds of jump rope or 10 quick pushups or sit ups. You also can climb stairs during your workday and take brisk walks in or outside your building during lunch. Every little bit helps.

–        Lift and rotate. Try some simple leg lifts, even while you’re on the phone or reading emails or memos. Keep one foot planted on the floor and raise the opposite leg several inches off the ground. Gently pulse the leg upward a few inches 10 or 20 times and repeat on the opposite leg. You also can rotate each foot around in small circles (in both directions). Do the same with your arms: hold your arms out straight on each side of your body and make small circles with your hands.

–        Breathe and meditate. Close and rest your eyes while breathing deeply, meditating for five minutes or picturing yourself in a favorite place, like the beach or mountains.

–       Stretch. Stretching can relieve stress and make you feel better all over. You can stretch right in your desk chair, or close your office door and sit on the floor or use the wall. Why not start by getting out of your chair and touching your toes?

–       Yoga.  Web sites and books can show you yoga moves and poses to do at your desk or on the floor in your office. Instead of a snack or coffee break, take a yoga break!

4. Trade your office chair in for a fitness ball.  A firmly inflated fitness or stability ball can make a good chair. You’ll improve your balance and tone your core muscles while sitting at your desk. You can even use the ball for wall squats or other exercises during the day.

5. Get social.  Organize a lunchtime walking group. You might be surrounded by people who are ready to lace up their walking shoes—and hold each other accountable for regular exercise. Enjoy the camaraderie and offer encouragement to one another when the going gets tough.

6. Conduct meetings on the go.  When it’s practical, schedule walking meetings or brainstorming sessions. Do laps inside your building or, if the weather cooperates, take your walking meetings outdoors.

7. Pick up the pace.  If your job involves walking, do it faster. Keep your chin up and your shoulders slightly back—and remember to breathe freely while you walk.

8. If you travel for work, plan ahead.  If you’re stuck in an airport waiting for a plane, grab your bags and take a brisk walk. Choose a hotel that has fitness facilities—such as treadmills, weight machines or a pool—or bring your equipment with you. Jump-ropes and resistance bands are easy to sneak into a suitcase. Of course, you can do jumping jacks, crunches and other simple exercises without any equipment at all.