Monday, January 01, 2007

Investment Strategy for a Healthier Lifestyle

How much is good health worth? How much would you pay to stay healthy? Would you do anything that would sacrifice you health? These are questions I ask my clients during our initial evaluation before we start training. Almost everyone has the same response, “my heath is a top priority” or “staying healthy is priceless”. Of course, most people would not do anything to intentionally sacrifice their physical health but many do due to the lack of exercise, which of course is not helping matters any.

Now here is where I start to get concerned. When I ask if staying healthy is so important, why has it been so long since you last exercised? The common responses are, “I don’t have enough time”, “work has been hectic lately”, “I mean to exercise but something else always seems to come up”. I’m not saying that commitments such as work, family and social obligations should be shunned; however taking the time to exercise is a great step in continuing to lead a healthy lifestyle. This is not anything new or revolutionary.

A majority of people would tend to agree that staying physically fit is extremely beneficial in promoting good health. The fitness boom of the seventies and eighties did a wonderful job of promoting and establishing the long-term benefits of leading an active lifestyle. The next hurdle we face as fitness enthusiasts is the public’s persona on how much time is needed to become and stay fit. Let’s face it, we live in a time-starved society, where “there never seems to be enough time to get anything done”. Walk around any office building and you will hear sayings like this all the time. Compound that with the exercise protocols that state, for improved health one has to perform cardiovascular exercise 3-5 days a week for 20-60 minutes in addition to strength training 2-3 times a week with multiple sets in order to keep the muscles and joints strong. If you were to add up all that fitness activity that is “required” to stay healthy, it would be between 3-5 hours a week or 100-200 hours a year! With that kind of time commitment required no wonder people can’t find the time to exercise. So, the common misconception is if an individual can’t commit to exercising at least 3 days a week for an hour than they can’t be fit. This is simply not true!

Studies, as well as personal application for myself and my clients, have shown that resistance training 3 times per week using one set to muscular fatigue will increase strength and cardiovascular benefits. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but for many 3 times a week is still a large time commitment. It was never stated or proven that 10-12 exercises performed 3 times a week was the “secret” to improving fitness, but working hard with a high level of intensity or effort is, so what if rather than 10 exercises to address the entire major muscle structures the volume was limited to only 5-7 total sets performed twice a week? Based on the overload principle, as long as the exercises are made progressively more challenging, then the body will adapt and become stronger, regardless of the volume. The exercise selection could be as follows:

Multi joint leg exercise (squat, leg press, deadlift, lunge)

Multi joint pushing exercise (chest press, overhead press, dips, push-ups),

Multi joint pulling movement (chin-ups, lat pulldown, seated row)

Round out the program with an abdominal and a lower back exercise and either grip/neck or calf work.

All exercises are done with a high level of intensity (until no more repetitions can be performed with good technique). The time between exercises should be minimized (20-40 seconds) so that the heart rate can stay elevated. This adjustment in volume and frequency will reduce the amount of time invested from 4 hours a week (208 hours a year with traditional guidelines) to 1 hour (or less) per week (roughly 52 hours a year). This reduction in the amount of time needed to become physically fit should have a great impact on how people view exercise and hopefully lead to another “fitness boom.” I am not saying this is THE best method of exercising for everyone; some may enjoy performing more activity and that’s fine; the main goal is realizing the benefits of maintaining an active lifestyle and making time to pursue it.

"Train With A Purpose"

Fred Fornicola