It's not all about cosmetics, it's truly about health. Your body changes in response to exercise in ways that improve anxiety/depression, balance hormones, increase brain function and memory, reduce inflammation, keep you from getting sick, and also the extra benefit of being able to keep doing stuff when you get older. Like not falling over. Additionally, these effects of exercising regularly are still there even if you are overweight. (Yes, really.) Today's post is on the many amazing benefits of that thing that most of us totally hate... Exercise!
Fundamentals of Health: Sleep, Exercise, Diet
The first post will attempt to persuade you to the idea that exercise is a fundamental part of the puzzle of health and well-being. The second post will go into a small sample of the vast amount of research and data-driven analysis on the many ways that exercise benefits us.
As a massage therapist, I encounter all sorts of imbalances in a persons body. As much as we want to blame it on having bones out of place, blame it on genetics, or posture, or just blame it on atmospheric pressure... many minor imbalances can be corrected with exercise. As much as I love my clients coming to me for repeat treatment for problems that pop up over and over again, I really do want people to be healthy and have the tools to take care of themselves.
There are two main points I want to make in this post.
About 3 times a week for 30 minutes is all that many of us need for many of the benefits associated with exercise. After that much time, the benefits start to plateau, so unless you are looking to compete in a sport, your general maintenance can be done in as little as 30 minutes 3 times a week if you are able to do a vigorous workout for 30 minutes, or 5 times a week for moderate intensity. (1) The benefits do continue as you add more time exercising (up to a point) but this number (3x30) is a really good starting goal, especially for those with a sedentary lifestyle.
Types of exercise
As for the different types of exercise, there are some simple categories: endurance training, strength training, and stretching. Endurance training helps your heart health, immune system, and brain function, strength training (when done correctly) helps keep you upright and balanced, strong, and is good for your immune system and your brain/memory too. Endurance refers to high repetition (doing the same movement over and over again), and your muscles adapt by using oxygen more efficiently. Strength training refers to lower repetitions with higher weight (8 to 10 repetitions). This can be done by lifting weights, using a resistance band, or your own body weight. Each type give different benefits, so it is recommended to include some of each in a weekly routine (2).
Invest in your health
"I can exercise on my own, why would I need to employ someone to help me exercise?" To learn the things you don't know that you don't know. In other words, to help become well balanced, invest in a few training sessions with someone who can help customize a well-balanced routine for your specific body type. For example, you may not know that "the rhomboids retracts the scapula and rotates it to depress the glenoid cavity, functions to stabilize the scapula against the thoracic wall, is antagonized by the serratus anerior, and can be effectively targeted to help upper-crossed syndrome and neck pain" but you don't have to know what all that means if you have a trainer who instead says "Ok we're going to pull your arm backward for this exercise and it's going to help your back and neck". Let someone else do all the research and then boil it down for you. Invest in the person who is willing to do that, because it's saving you a ton of time and will leave you more well-rounded as a result.
Maybe you are clued into the idea of "buy local" ... it helps support your local vendors, you can feel all warm and fuzzy about buying from a local source and helping your home town economy. You can do this by finding a local personal trainer as well. Just like any other business, there will be good and bad representatives of the field. My best recommendation is to actively look for a class you can take (such as yoga, pilates, zumba) for the community exercise aspect (especially if you are very introverted) and a 1-on-1 trainer such as a personal trainer, who has proper certification, and expertise in working with people like yourself.
Things to look for: You want your trainer to be knowledgeable, especially if you have any chronic conditions that need to be taken into account. A good trainer will know that you need to be pushed in order to grow, but will know how to do it in a way that will avoid injury. The risk of injury can be minimized, but not completely avoided. The second part of the equation is that you need to communicate with your trainer.
You don't have to see your trainer 3 days a week for 30 minutes, you could see them once a week, or twice a week. Or see them once a month for a 'check up' depending on whether you are a self-motivated person. My recommendation would be to see someone twice a week for a month, then scale back to check-ups. I feel like this is a great way to get comfortable with their routine, see the progress you get in a month, then evaluate. Just remember, if your goal is muscle growth, you need to expect several months to see real progress. For those who have a sedentary lifestyle, you will see a lot of progress in your first couple months, though.
The second post (Coming Soon™) will start getting into the hard-hitting research on things like the benefits of exercise on chronic inflammation, depression, anxiety, oxygen usage in tissues, immune function, memory and brain function, adaptations to bones, muscles, nerves, hormones, and all the other stuff that you just can't wait to hear about! So stay tuned!
What's going on with me, research articles, interesting little blurbs. This blog is an attempt to consolidate research into an easily digestible format.
Alex Moon has been a Licensed Massage Therapist since 2012, did his undergraduate studies at Utah State, and is currently working on his Doctorate in Physical Therapy.