The Health Book » Myths and Facts

The Health Book   » Myths and Facts

What The Heck Is An Exercise Modality? 28 November 2008

What are you trying to get out of your exercise program? Are you trying to lose weight? Are you trying to put on muscle mass? Are you training for a sport or an athletic contest of some kind?

Okay, now that you’ve answered the question of why you are exercising to begin with, you are now ready to ask yourself what type of exercise program you will need to get involved with in order to accomplish that goal.

If you answered “aerobics”, “weight training”, “yoga”, “flexibility exercises”, “martial arts”, or pretty much any other form of exercise that you can imagine, then congratulations are in order! You’ve just answered the question, “What the heck is an exercise modality”?

Simply put, an exercise modality is a system or form of exercise that is designed to elicit a very specific response from the body of the individual who is engaging in the exercise. In the case of aerobics, most people are trying to get their body to shed excess bodyfat and to increase their level of cardiovascular endurance. Weight or resistance training exercisers are usually trying to grow or tone their muscles to make them stronger, bigger, or more attractive. People who practice Yoga are usually after a stronger mind/body connection in order to gain more energy or awareness.

The possibilities are endless. There are so many exercise modalities out there that even trying to name them all would be a waste of time. Even as this article is written, and even as you – the reader – take in its information, someone somewhere is probably coming up with a new “exercise modality”.

So why even try to learn them? Why should you care about exercise modalities? Simply put, because you need to practice them!

No, that doesn’t mean that you have to be able to run a marathon, bench press 400 lbs, balance on your pinky toe, and dance a jig all at the same time…

The point is not that you have to become proficient in any specific exercise modality. You do need to learn about different types of training, though. No matter how effective your present exercise program is, one of two things is either already happening, or is going to happen eventually:

1) Your body is adapting to the stimulus provided by your chosen exercise modality, and you are not seeing the same results from it that you saw in the beginning.

2) The exercise modality that you have chosen is lacking in one or more of the measurements of good health: strength, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, agility, balance, tensile strength of bones, tendons, and ligaments, basic survival skills such as starting and limit strength, swimming capabilities, or a heightened level of neuromuscular coordination.

As you can see, simply being able to run through a circuit of weight machines at the gym and then jumping into an aerobics class is not sufficient for a level of health and fitness that is both complete, as well as sustainable over the long-term.

Despite what you may think, there will never be a time in your life when it is appropriate or healthy for you to “back off” and give up on exercise or proper nutrition. From today until the day when you leave this Earth, you will need the high quality of life that is provided by the proper level of health and fitness.

In order to ensure that your health and fitness program does not allow your body to adapt to a certain stimulus, as well as to ensure that your program includes activity in each of the measurable levels of health and fitness, you must practice different exercise modalities on a regular basis.

Don’t scoff at Pilates because you think it is for wimps. Those of you in the aerobics room don’t look at the weight lifters as if they are a bunch of cavemen who know nothing about true fitness. Those of you in the Yoga frame of mind, open up your mind to the fact that Yoga alone is not going to maintain your level of health and your quality of life from now until the end. Martial artists – step out of the Dojo and pick up some dumbbells or balance on an exercise ball once in awhile.

There is no single exercise modality that is perfect for everyone, all the time. Yes, there are certain modalities that work better for certain people, but that doesn’t mean that you should never check out new activities and experiences.

Close-mindedness has never resulted in positive results in the entire history of our planet. It’s not going to start now. Open your mind to new possibilities and you will open yourself to new experiences and a higher quality of life itself.

Who knows? You might even enjoy it!

Use Caution When Exercising in the Heat 25 November 2008

Okay, you won’t need this unless you’re a UFC freak who does push-ups in the sauna… or you’ll be exercising this summer

I’m one of those people who sweat profusely. By the time I am done my body and my gym clothes are soaked. This means I am draining some serious fluids, which is not a problem as long as I adequately replace them, and I monitor any abnormal physical symptoms.

Heat related illnesses are usually due to people ignoring the warning symptoms. They include weakness, dizziness, headaches, muscle cramps and nausea. This means you need to be aware of your mental state. What appears to be fatigue can progress to unconsciousness.

So I have been doing my research and have come up with a list of valuable suggestions to make certain you summer outdoor workouts are healthy and rewarding:

Even in cooler temperatures, there is a tendency not to adequately replace expended body fluids. In the summer it is an absolute necessity. It is important to drink water or sports beverages before and after your workout. If you are engaging in extended outdoor exercise (running, walking, bicycling), replace fluids periodically. For runners, consider a hydration pack. If you do not maintain your fluid levels you risk circulatory failure.

If you are exercising for an hour or less, water is sufficient. Longer than an hour and you need to replace carbohydrates. Warmer weather metabolizes these substances faster. Consider one of the popular sports drinks that contain carbs.

When they are predicting some scourging weather, schedule your workout early in the morning or later in the evening. Avoid the mid-day heat and humidity. Workout indoors if that is the only time you have to exercise

Be aware of the relative humidity. The body responds to overheating by the evaporation of moisture through perspiration. When the humidity is high, the air is less capable of evaporating excess moisture. Consequently your natural cooling mechanism is compromised. Monitor your vitals. If you start to feel light headed, or you feel completely drain, immediately stop, find a place to cool off and once again replace those vital fluids.

No, I am not talking about the latest fashions. When exercising in heat you do not want clothing that will retain heat. That includes cotton apparel. Go for synthetic breathable fabrics that release moisture from your body and allow efficient airflow. Hats are good for preventing the sun from heating up the blood vessels lining your scalp. But remove the hat occasionally to let the heat escape.

Due to some misguided political policies and our desire to drive gas-guzzling vehicles, the air quality in urban environments in the summer often sucks. During days when there are orange, red or even purple alerts it is best to limit your outdoor activities. And air pollution is not limited to just cities. For example, the air quality in the mountains of North Carolina during the summer can be equivalent to the air in Los Angeles. The trees are actually dying in the high altitudes. Furthermore, the air quality in a number of our national parks and beaches can be potentially hazardous during the summer months. Excessive physical exertion in areas of poor air quality can be detrimental to your health.

The summer offers an incredible opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature while you exercise. A walk or run on a tree-lined trail or sandy beach surely beats the congestion of a health club. But when it heats up outside use common sense and caution. And if those dog days of summer start barking consider heading indoors.

Too Much of a Good Thing? 19 November 2008

We have all heard the term “overtraining”, but what does the term mean really?  Well, it means different things to different people depending on what activity or sport is involved.  Mostly it means too much, too often and too intense.

If you have been weight/resistance training, you will understand how great it is to see your body change so dramatically and how easy it would be to increase training intensity and frequency too quickly.  Of course, rationally we all know this is a mistake.  But, the desire for an even better shape and “feel good” chemicals (endorphins) can cause us to do just a bit too much…. And ouch.

I had this experience when I started training with weights 15 years ago.  I  had been teaching aerobics classes for 8 years when I started.  Well, naturally the weights changed my body a lot and I LIKED the changes!  Then one day, I decided to do the same workout twice in one day.  I mean, after all, if one is good, two is better right?  Wrong! The result was tendonitis in my shoulder which took forever to heal.

Now, often I spend a fair bit of time explaining to clients how more is not necessarily better.  The key is to workout SMART!  Ok, what does this mean?

First:  rest is very important.  Muscles need rest between workouts.  Working the same muscles in the same way too often results in injury and a reduction in performance.  When a muscle is overtired, the load is taken into the joint.  Joints are not designed for load they are designed for movement.  Tendonitis and joint pain are pretty common indicators of overtraining.

Second: varied workouts.  This is why we fitness instructors recommend doing different sports or fitness activities.  But for “die hard” weight lifters, variation can be accomplished in a variety of ways.  One common way is to work different muscle groups in different days. Another method is to change the way in which a particular exercise is performed so as to train the muscles differently.  An example of this would be to change the speed of the lift from workout to workout, like very slow one day, the faster the next time the muscle group is worked.

There’s lots of ways to vary your workouts.  Check out some books on weight training or talk to a Fitness Trainer if you need some ideas. You will not only help prevent injury, but you will see changes in your strength and muscle development.

But going on foot has other benefits too. Most people will agree that a ten to twenty minute walk in the air is a great way to clarify your thoughts and put your problems into perspective. One aspect of walking that is under-appreciated is how much it can enhance your creativity. “Studies have shown that spending as little as an hour a week in a natural area can have a positive influence on creativity” says James A. Swan, PhD, author of Nature as Teacher and Healer. New ideas, thoughts and emotions often surface during a walk. Be sure to write these down immediately after your walk, or perhaps keep a small Dictaphone on you to record such thoughts. Walking gets you away from the crowds. Studies have shown that 80% of people stay within 300 yards of their vehicle, so by going that extra distance you will quickly get into quieter, less disturbed areas.

Many people enjoy listening to music while walking. Personally I do not like being divorced from my natural surroundings. I find that a better use of walking is to increase one’s sensual awareness, particularly if you are in a natural setting. Use all your senses to gain a greater appreciation of your environs. Learn to read the countryside with your eyes – the broader canvas painted by  glaciers and erosion, the impact of humans and especially older traces thereof;  the presence of old habitations, field walls and drains, quarries, gravel pits, decaying fence posts, second growth forest. Watch for animal tracks and signs, listen and try  to identify bird song, the drumming of woodpeckers, the rustle of creatures rummaging in the undergrowth, the sighing of wind through the trees, the first flowers and buds to appear, shapes and patterns in the clouds. Feel the shape and texture of bark, flowers and leaves (but learn to identify and avoid poison ivy).

Smell the aroma of freshly mown grass, the varying scent of new flowers, the rich scent of different fungi, decaying wood and leaf mould, the warm air from the south, and the cold, crisp air from the north.

A walk is a great way to share valuable time with family, friends and colleagues. Rather than always going out on your own, ask someone to join you. Next time you have a meeting why not take it outdoors? You may well find that the fresh air will help you ‘think outside the box’ and inspire greater creativity.

Walking and hiking is an easy way to meet some wonderful people, perhaps even your next partner, and many clubs offer hikes especially for singles, dog owners and others. For those seeking to blend a physical challenge with fun, orienteering is the ideal  participation sport for young and old. Called a “thinking sport”, it involves a combination of map reading and decision-making skills. There are levels to suit all ages and skills, in addition to enjoying a great workout.

Walking vacations are becoming an increasingly popular mode of exploration. Rambling through the countryside gets one closer to its heart than any other mode of travel. Close your eyes awhile and imagine the scent of wild rosemary and sage assailing your nostrils as you brush past these herbs on a trail in France, or the coolness of a mossy glade in an Irish oak wood. Birds and other wildlife flit around you, while all the while you are absorbing information imparted by your guide on the local history and culture. Hiking uphill to a castle or a town gives you a greater appreciation for what life might have been like there during the mediaeval period, or why that situation was chosen in the first place. And your reward? Arriving at a shady taverna for lunch, ordering a cool drink, then sitting and perusing the menu of fresh, locally produced foods. There are few better experiences.

Such small group travel experiences particularly suit single travelers. It is a safe environment, sharing experiences with others, and having the advantages of a knowledgeable local guide. From a good guide, someone inspiring and entertaining, you will learn infinitely more than from any number of guide books, get introduced to locals, and have your personal interests attended to.

The Effects Of Exercise On Body Temperature 13 November 2008

If you are having trouble sleeping, and you don’t already have a regular exercise program, you should start one if you want to sleep better. Exercise is beneficial to sleep in several ways. For example, exercise raises the body temperature rhythm and allows your body temperatures to ‘peak’ at a higher level. This, in turn, increases your energy level during the day, so you’ll feel more motivated and alive. And just as body temperature reach its maximum at a higher level through exercise, the body’s temperature will also drop further and more easily. This lets you sleep more deeply without interruption.

A regular exercise routine prevents your body’s temperature rhythm from remaining relatively level throughout the day. With an appropriate body temperature rhythm, you will find that you can get a deep sleep even if you’ve had a stressful day or can’t perform your regular exercise on a certain day. Exercise also delays the drop in the body’s temperature in the evening, and this delay lets you remain awake and alert for a longer time without feeling drowsy or tired. And, as everyone knows, exercise is a great stress reliever, and stress is one of the main reasons for the development of sleep disorders.

If you don’t already have an exercise program, you really should consider starting one right away. The best time to perform exercise is in the morning because it encourages a quick rise in temperature. You should avoid exercise for three hours before you go to sleep, since your body’s temperature will likely still be rising, and you could find falling asleep or sleeping deeply to be more difficult.

You don’t have to run right out and join a gym in order to get regular exercise. It is possible to obtain the benefits that exercise brings through its effects on your body temperature by taking less dramatic actions. Research shows that even moderate exercise during the day has many healthful benefits. If you can’t seem to get motivated to exercise on a regular basis, you should find a less intense, but physical, activity you enjoy several times per week. The activity could include such things as taking a brisk walk, going for a bike ride, or going rollerblading. All of these activities will have a significant effect on your body temperature and encourage its rhythm to function at beneficial levels.

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