Exercise is for everyone

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From local experts to national authorities, here are some tips on how to start a regular fitness routine

By Shannon Brock

Look no further than 210 W. Main St. to find three examples of community members who know the benefits of leading a healthy, active lifestyle.

Tammy Butler, Dee Cox and Missy Verbeck work in the office of Verbeck and Kaleher and usually spend their lunch break taking in the sights of downtown Taylorsville by foot.

The women have been taking their lunchtime walks on and off for a few years, and recognize the benefits of that almost daily physical activity.

“We get tired of sitting in the office,” Verbeck said. “It just feels good to get up and move around.”

Taking that half-hour walk clears the mind and breaks up the day, Butler said.

“You feel refreshed,” she said.

Cox said she has made a conscious effort to exercise more, and this daily walk, along with walking on the treadmill at home, helps her feel better overall each day.

“I didn’t know I was feeling bad before,” Cox said. “But now I know I feel better.”

“It makes you feel good and feel better about yourself,” Verbeck added.

Butler, Cox and Verbeck certainly have the right idea, according to the American Heart Association and local physical therapist Becky House of Spencer County Physical Therapy.

The association recommends getting 30 minutes of walking and moderate physical activity each day, and that’s right on par, House said.

“The recommended time for exercise is 30 minutes per day, five days per week for moderate exercise,” she said. “This can be broken up into 10- to 15-minute sections. Moderate is defined as increasing your heart rate and breathing, but still being able to carry on a conversation.”

House said some weight training is also suggested a couple times a week.

“Do about eight to 12 exercises for 10 reps in three sets,” she said.
Those who prefer exercising at a vigorous level can stick to 20 minutes, three times a week, House said.

“Vigorous exercise means you have elevated your heart rate, breathing and can only speak in short phrases,” she said.

The American Heart Association also encourages walking with a friend or in a group.

“The thought of being alone can be enough to keep some people from walking,” the website says. “The best way to solve this is by finding a friend to walk with. You can plan walking paths that are convenient for both of you, or map out routes that take you places you’ve never been before. It’s a great way to exercise and spend time with friends.”

Cox said spending time with her coworkers out of the office is a treat.

“[Walking for exercise] is no fun by yourself,” she said.

Verbeck agreed.

“I can walk and read a book, but you all are better than a book,” she said.

But what do I have to do to lose weight?

Exercising to stay healthy and exercising to lose weight are two different things, House, the physical therapist, said.

“You must burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat,” she said. “That means 3,500 calories above what is your normal activity level. To lose weight you can decrease your caloric intake and/or increase your physical activity level.”

I’m getting older, should I stay active?

Senior citizens should definitely stay active, House said. But it is important not to overdo it.

“The older you get, your metabolism tends to slow down,” she said.
“So it is more important as we age to keep active.

“Seniors are especially at risk from decreased activity. Falls are the number one cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries to people over the age of 65.  Exercises that improve strength, balance and walking are crucial to reduce falls. Tai Chi is now highly recommended for balance training for seniors.”

Seniors who are not active should check with a doctor about exercise before starting a program, House said.

A wide range of benefits

The benefits of regular exercise or physical activity are numerous, House said.

“[Exercise helps with] disease prevention, control of heart disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, stroke, back pain, and it helps with depression and stress,” she said.

The website for the Mayo Clinic – a large, not-for-profit group practice that includes more than 2,600 doctors and scientists across three cities – lists 10 reasons to engage in physical activity.

Those reasons, taken from the fitness section of www.mayoclinic.com, are:

1. Keep excess pounds at bay - Combined with a healthy diet, aerobic exercise helps you lose weight — and keep it off.
2. Increase your stamina - Aerobic exercise may make you tired in the short term. But over the long term, you’ll enjoy increased stamina and reduced fatigue.
3. Ward off viral illnesses - Aerobic exercise activates your immune system. This leaves you less susceptible to minor viral illnesses, such as colds and flu.
4. Reduce your health risks - Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of many conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer. Weight-bearing aerobic exercises, such as walking, reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
5. Manage chronic conditions - Aerobic exercise helps lower high blood pressure and control blood sugar. If you’ve had a heart attack, aerobic exercise helps prevent subsequent attacks.
6. Strengthen your heart - A stronger heart doesn’t need to beat as fast. A stronger heart also pumps blood more efficiently, which improves blood flow to all parts of your body.
7. Keep your arteries clear - Aerobic exercise boosts your high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol and lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol. The potential result? Less buildup of plaques in your arteries.
8. Boost your mood - Aerobic exercise can ease the gloominess of depression, reduce the tension associated with anxiety and promote relaxation.
9. Stay active and independent as you age - Aerobic exercise keeps your muscles strong, which can help you maintain mobility as you get older. Aerobic exercise also keeps your mind sharp. At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week seems to reduce cognitive decline in older adults.
10. Live longer - Studies show that people who participate in regular aerobic exercise live longer than those who don’t exercise regularly.

Creating a healthy habit

Everyone should find a few minutes a day to exercise, House said.

“Exercise will benefit everyone,” she said. “You just need to be sure you are doing the proper exercise and at the proper intensity. Don’t jump into exercise full force, take it slowly and build up your stamina. This prevents burn out, injury and failure.”

Finding time to exercise is easier than it sounds, House said.

“Make regular chores or activities count by doing them more aggressively to increase your heart rate, increase your breathing and even to make you sweat,” she said. “Things like hoeing, raking, push mowing, scrubbing the tub or floor. Take 10 minutes of your lunch and get a group to do a brisk walk.”

The best exercise is one that you will stick with, according to familydoctor.org, a health information site operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

To make sure you’ll stick with your plan, familydoctor.org suggests following these guidelines:

- Exercise the same time each day.
- Sign a contract with yourself to commit to exercising.
- Mark times in your calendar when you plan to exercise. If you think of it as an appointment, you’ll be more likely to keep it.
- Check your progress. Can you walk farther or exercise longer? Seeing your results provides extra motivation.
- If you can afford it, join a health club. Paying for a membership might give you motivation to exercise on a regular basis.

There are plenty of places to start a regular exercise routine, including Spencer County Physical Therapy.

“We welcome people to call us for help in designing an exercise program,” said House.