Why should I exercise at all?
The majority of people have one or more pain sources. Back pain is at the top of the list. Why is this and how can we prevent pain?
Exercising is one of the most important forms of prevention. The stronger the muscles the more support your bone and tissue structure is getting. Independent of age, resistance training with weights is recommended. To train the cardiovascular system do interval training and yoga.
Get fit with these 3 fun and effective workouts
There is a misconception that only body builders lift weights, but resistance exercise with weights is one of the basics everybody, no matter of age, should do. You don’t need expensive machines, like in a gym, to perform controlled slow motion movements with weights. A set of simple dumbbells gets you started. Due to the effectiveness of the slow motion weight lifting a 25-minute workout once a week is sufficient. The secret is to move until muscle failure is reached while keeping proper form. When the muscles cannot move anymore, hold the weight for a few seconds, when the muscle cannot hold the weight anymore gently put it down. Always be in control of the movement. Don’t do exercise movements where you need somebody else to secure your weights and avoid momentum with weight lifting. Unfortunately, the internet is full of videos where people injure themselves by performing unnatural exercise moves with momentum. With these exercise movements you might also get fit, but with a price: potential damages on vertebral discs, knees, neck, Achilles tendons and other parts of the body. Do it, natch!
The good news first: it is proven that it is not necessary to sweat long hours with cardio exercise. Long, slow to medium paced exercising creates wear and tear on your body through the accumulation of free radicals. The result diminishes the health benefits that sport provides. You don’t get healthier, you only age faster. Instead, the way to go is to exercise in short, intense intervals. This very efficient way of exercising saves time and is more effective due to a longer after-burn. Your body gets a higher level of stress impulse and therefore gets stronger in a shorter period of time. While the exercise itself has a higher impact over all, it is more gentle to the body because of the very short duration of the workouts. Beginners should start with walking intervals or do exercise intervals on stairs: Walk very fast for 1 minute followed by 1 minute of very slow recovery speed. Repeat 6 times. Pause for 3 minutes and than go back and do 6 more intervals. The same works on stairs. Look for a long stairway for a minimum of 30 seconds to walk up quickly. Walk down slowly. Repeat 6 times. Take a break for 3 minutes and repeat the set of 6 intervals. Pro-athletes take two stairs at a time and/or are running up the stairs. These intervals are magical, they take only 25 minutes once a week. Enjoy getting faster. Do it, natch!
A lot of people still smile at yoga. Beginners think the moves are too difficult, athletes think it is too soft. Both wrong. YOGA IS MAGICAL! Yoga is a self-regulating regime, the power and strength you have automatically adjusts the performance level, it’s that easy. In most pro-sports training-plans yoga holds an important place. Very interestingly: in contrast to other workouts it can be performed almost daily, so it is great for beginners as well. All you need is a yoga mat and some hours in a yoga studio to learn the basics and the correct moves. From there you can develop your own program and do yoga at home, in the park or at the beach. Due to this self-regulating mechanism it is great to do it in a group as well, yoga can be enjoyed together without being competitive. After you have learned the basics a great way is to simply use a DVD or an app at home. Feel the magic. Do it, natch!
No need to run, no need to stretch
So, you have decided to change your life. A great energy level is pumping through your veins. You are thrilled and motivated and you get your old tennis shoes out to start running. While willpower is important, try to do things smartly and avoid injuries or long term damages.
Here is why.
Skip the jogging and running
Of course, the human body is made for running but only for short distances.
But you love to run?
If you are a runner, okay run, but treat it preciously and perform it once a week only for joy and fun. Simply don’t use it daily as your basic exercise routine. Use that time to increase your muscle strength, speed and balance through interval training and yoga to protect your joints and increase performance. That is valid for every sport: cyclists don’t get faster through long, moderate rides, these are for fun and joy like group rides.
Everybody who has run a marathon knows what running is doing to your body, especially to your knees. Scientists have tried to prove that during running the time of contact with the ground is less than with walking, but there is one important fact: even during easy jogging the impact of the running movement is 8-10 times the body weight, an unbelievable impact. Another myth, besides running slowly creates less impact, is running with shoes with lots of cushion. While running shoes with a big cushioning take away the impact on the ankle, the impact to the knees and hips are even greater. The foot and ankles are made to absorb the majority of the running impact. Some even choose to exercise/run barefoot. Now running shoe companies are offering alternative shoes with less cushion to enable a more natural way of running.
Bottom line: While slow jogging is a low intensity workout, it remains a very high impact workout to the joints of the body. If you run, do fast, short intervals, preferably uphill, up stairs or up ramps and never run downhill. Give your body enough time for recovery, this will strengthen your muscles and relieve the joints which is essential no matter what age you are.
the misconception of stretching
If you do a regular yoga routine there is no need to stretch additionally. Stretching was very popular but has been questioned because the positive effects do not outweigh the risk of an injury. Many athletes (e.g. elite runners) have stopped stretching certain muscle groups. Stretching the supportive muscle can easily result in an injury of the main muscle due the lack of the needed counter support. Another side effect showed that the runner got slower the more they stretched.
Yoga is a great alternative. While yoga does stretch muscles it is mostly combined with a position where you hold tight the entire body, improving strength and flexibility at the same time.
If you stretch, never stretch a cold body. Warm up thoroughly with some easy twists, lunges and gentle yoga head roles to loosen up your body.
Be careful with stretching, do yoga instead to keep your body flexible. For athletes the daily foam rolling combined with a couple of yoga hours per week do the trick and you can skip stretching all together. This New York Times article gives a good summary about latest studies.
The importance of recovery
Once you have made a commitment to change your life for the better, great things happen. You are energized and nobody can stop you. But too much can hurt. A stressful job combined with too much training and exercise can be exhausting. Worst case, it can lead to over-training and/or burnout syndrome. Once you feel too tired it is too late. This is why we consciously have to plan recovery.
why we need to relax
The body is not a machine, it is a sensitive, balanced biochemical mechanism. Once out of balance the result can be severe. Over-training in athletes is very common and dangerous, burnout syndrome can kick you down for months and can damage your body. Therefore, relaxation and recovery is very important with every exercise regime. But to relax does not mean a bag of potato chips and a TV show. Active recovery is the best, walking outside to get some sun is important for the vitamin D production and gives your brain the important time to calm down. Watching TV is actually very stimulating and should be avoided during recovery, read more about how our brain works in THINK at natch.
Another overlooked contributor to recovery: sleep. Latest research confirms that 80% of all people in the western world do not get enough sleep in terms of quantity and quality. How much is necessary? A rule of thumb is to get at least 6 hours of quality sleep. How do you get quality sleep?
Firstly, try to stop eating at least 2 hours before you go to bed. Your body absorbs nutrition best in the evening. Going to bed with a full stomach is not a good idea because it does not allow your body to switch back a gear.
Secondly, free yourself from negative and exciting thoughts. Put your smartphone to sleep long before you go to bed, take a good book, talk with your partner or kids about the highlights of the day, the positive highlights not the latest news about a war, shooting or killing.
Tip for athletes: For every hour you did exercise add two more hours of sleep. Napping immediately following a workout can be rejuvenating as well. Similar positive effects have been shown from power napping.
Summary: As long as you are active the body will break down cells. These cells only can be restored while resting after the right food intake with proteins. Muscles are built during recovery not during workout.