Last week, much to my dismay, my friend was successful in taking my flabby winter thighs to the gym for a pilates class. While doing some breathing exercise in the birthing position, she yelps out “It’s A Boy!” All eyes in the class went immediately to us and I was all to ashamed that I was unable to do 1 sit-up without rolling to the side for a push. I just had a baby, give me a break! Oops! That was four years ago. Okay no more excuses. My friend Bryan offered to post a little advice for those of use breaking back into the exercise routine:
“Literally every system in our bodies is healthier with regular exercise. We should strive to get at least 30-60 minutes of vigorous exercise every day. Other than smoking or other substance abuse, leading a sedentary life is the most unhealthy thing you can do. If that’s not enough incentive, to reduce healthcare costs many employers are creating financial motivation for people to get active, hitting people in their wallets if they refuse to make exercise a priority.
So, keep some things in mind as you begin to exercise routinely:
To burn fat from around the midsection or hips, do NOT focus on exercises that “target” those particular areas…it doesn’t work that way. Working those muscles is good but they will still be covered up by the fat, so have realistic expectations. Fat is stored calories; get rid of it by doing ANY exercises that burn calories effectively.
Perhaps the best exercise for the average person is not running, but instead the stairclimber, especially taking 2 steps at a time. It combines an excellent cardiovascular workout while building leg muscle (by having to work against gravity) with very low impact and joint stress. Building muscle helps the body burn more fat 24 hrs/day, and helps maintain strength and therefore independence with aging. As adults we are getting weaker every day unless we are actively working to build muscle. Running will burn calories, but it is hard on many joints and is more likely to break down muscle than to build it.
Focus on weight-bearing exercises with functional movements, promoting balance and helping prevent osteoporosis. Core strength is extremely important for all of us for many reasons. Emphasize the eccentric (muscle lengthening) phase of any type of weight lifting by taking about 4-5 times as long to lower the weight as to lift it. This gives even better results with using less weight, reducing injuries and actually stimulating tendon healing. Keep in mind that stretching right before exercise has consistently been shown NOT to prevent injuries. A gradual warmup is much more important, and then stretch either during or after your workout when it is much more effective.”
Bryan R. Mayol, MD
Indiana University Health Physicians, Indianapolis