We all know that 30 minutes per day of strenuous exercise will provide many health benefits. Recent Federal guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services1 have even made this official.
The real question for most of us is how to find the time to exercise regularly and consistently. All we have is 24 hours each day to get done all the things we need to get done. Exercising often takes a back seat to work, shopping, cooking, cleaning, getting the kids ready for school and ready for bed, and all the other million-and-one little details that demand our attention every day.
Most of us have the motivation to exercise2 - we want to do it and we know it's important and good for us.3 But when to fit it in? A few hardy souls bite the bullet and get up at 5:00AM - making more time in the day by getting less sleep. Others exercise at the end of a long day, but sometimes that's stressful and counterproductive. However they do it, many people make real efforts to exercise a few times each week.
Most likely - over time - our good intentions get stymied by our daily concerns. Deadlines and scheduling take precedence and the most easy-to-jettison item on our to-do list - exercise - gets lost in the process. And sooner rather than later we're back to not exercising at all. Public health experts and policy makers have been struggling, too, with this apparent no-win situation. The outcome is brand-new recommendations relating to short bursts of activity during the day. These three- to five-minute bursts have been studied and shown to provide real health benefits to real people under real-world circumstances.
Instead of taking coffee breaks at work, people are beginning to take activity breaks. Three to five minutes of climbing office building stairs or brisk walking outside the building or a quick series of calisthenics are all it takes. Six to ten such breaks fulfills the daily requirement of 30 minutes of exercise. No separately scheduled exercise time is necessary. You're already at work, you're already taking breaks. So the breaks become exercise breaks. And you get your exercise done. And you feel great for the entire day, due to bursts of endorphins occurring throughout the day.
These bursts of activity are also ideal for people working at home, as well as for school children. Studies in schools are showing increased attention spans and increased learning as a result of short bursts of intense physical activity.
Everyone can do this. And finally, everyone can have a workable system for getting the exercise they need. Your chiropractor is a fitness expert and will be glad to help you design an exercise program that works for you.
1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Washington, DC, DHHS, 2008.
2Vallance JK, et al: Maintenance of physical activity in breast cancer survivors after a randomized trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc 40(1):173-180, 2008
3Heckman GE, McKelvie RS: Cardiovascular aging and exercise in healthy older adults. Clin J Sport Med 18(6):479-485, 2008
Lean Muscle Mass
We often hear that building "lean muscle mass" is one of the key benefits of strenuous exercise. The human body adapts to environmental stresses, and building lean muscle mass is an important adaptation. Lean muscle mass is a metabolic furnace - muscle cells are high-energy cells that actually burn calories when your body is at rest.
Your internal thermostat is turned up owing to your increased amount of lean muscle mass, and so you burn fat to fulfill these increased energy needs.
Lean muscle mass is not only energy efficient, it is also much more shapely than the pounds of fat it replaces. Lean muscle mass creates long lines, outlines, and bulk along your arms, torso, and legs. The result is a supple, shapely body, filled with energy and purpose.