Cardiovascular Stamina: By doing cardiovascular exercise-that is, any activity that raises your heart rate for a sustained period of time (sorry, watching George Clooney movies doesn’t count)-you’ll increase your own overall stamina, burn calories, and improve the function and efficiency of your heart, as well as lower your blood pressure. Getting your body to sweat also helps you to release toxins that would otherwise build up in your tissues. What you need to do: Eighty percent of your maximum heart rate (calculated by 220 minus your age) for twenty minutes, three times a week. For a fifty-year-old, the target would be 0.8 times (220 minus 50), which equals 136 beats per minute. Also, you can measure it through exercise intensity. On a scale of one to ten, rate the intensity of your exercise. You should exercise at about a seven or eight on that scale – 70 percent to 80 percent of your perceived maximum.
Strength: Even if the only barbell you’ve ever seen is the one that’s piercing your buddy’s tongue, that doesn’t mean you should shy away from resistance training. Strength training-whether you use dumbbells, machines, bands, or your own body weight-helps rebuild muscle fibers and increase muscle mass, which will use up all those extra calories that you crave, so you can burn calories more efficiently and help prevent age-related weight gain. Now, here’s the key to making it work: Many Americans tend to spend a lot of time working their peripheral muscles (like their biceps or their calves), but efficient strength training comes when you work the big muscles that make up the core axis of your body-your legs, the large muscles of your upper body (like your chest, shoulders, and back), and your abdominals. They’re your foundation muscles. Best of all, you don’t need a single piece of equipmen6t to see the benefits. One quick note about abdominal exercises: They won’t burn fat per se, but they will strengthen your entire core to help flatten and tone your stomach when you do burn fat. And they’ll give you a layer of muscular support that will also protect your lower back from injury. The tighter your abs, the less excess strain you’ll cause your lower back. You can’t build a house from the second floor down, and, in a way, your abdominal muscles and your entire core provide a base foundation that you can build upon. What you need to do: Thirty minutes of resistance exercise a week.
Walking: We do it at the mall, around the house, and back and forth from the fridge to the water bed. And, yes, any walking is healthy (the optimum is to hit at least 10,000 steps a day). But you also need to dedicate a total of thirty minutes a day to walking (broken up into chunks of at least ten continuous minutes if you need to). It’s the foundation for all other exercise because it not only increases your stamina but prepares your body for strength training. As a daily routine, walking is the psychological discipline that helps you stick with an activity plan. In fact, it has the highest compliance rate of any exercise. Commit to walking, and you’ll start committing to more than just the TV lineup on Thursday nights. What you need to do: Ten thousand steps, total, accumulated throughout the day (with at least thirty minutes of continuous walking).
Physical activity and exercise are like vegetables; they come in all shapes, sizes, and tastes, and just about all of them are good for you. Depending on your health level and experience, you need to be thinking about including these components of activity in your life.
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