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Starting a New Exercise Program, not a Luxury

When my patients use their age to justify their declining health and energy, I just say "Jack LaLanne, still going strong at almost 95 years young," to encourage them to set their sights on preventing disease, and to strive for feeling healthy, energetic, strong and vital. Regular, vigorous exercise is a requirement for this to occur!

Because “not having time” is the No. 1 reason people give for not exercising regularly (3-5 sessions per week), below are a few reflections on an effective, practical, time-efficient exercise regimen that comes from cutting edge scientific research and experience:

1.   Exercise is not a luxury. It is absolutely essential for optimal health. The American Amish, who walk an average 16,000 steps in their daily lives (compared to the average American's 2,000 steps), are rarely diabetic or overweight. Since most of us don't have physically demanding jobs, it is critical to schedule exercise time and make it a priority. If it is not scheduled, it will usually not happen.

2.  A common way to sabotage success in a new exercise program is to over commit oneself in the beginning. Enthusiasm is essential, but it is just as critical to be smart. Starting gradually, and not overdoing it will reduce chance of injury, soreness, and burning out. What’s most important is to exercise for the long haul, rather than being the hare and exhausting oneself after a few weeks or months.

3. If you don't have 30 minutes a day to exercise, do 20, if you don't have 20, do 10, etc. The point is: START today, and get moving. "A body in motion tends to stay in motion." Certainly you have 10 minutes. Walk at home, or around the block, stretch your muscles, etc, but get going! Once you start, you will no doubt continue to expand your commitment to dedicated exercise time.

4. Train smarter, not longer or harder. In future articles, I will be elaborating on cutting edge research and training techniques, that I believe are much more efficient and effective ways to exercise than the way people have been taught.

To give a hint: Do "interval training" rather than same-paced "aerobic activities." If you like to walk, run, swim, or other "aerobic" activities, vary the intensity. For example, if you normally walk at 3 miles per hour pace, for a half hour, try walk/jog for several minutes at a faster pace, then slow to the 3 miles per hour you are used to and speed up again. 
If you do weight training with light weights and many reps, switch to heavier weights with less repetitions.

Exercise is as natural to the body as breathing or eating. Preventing disease may be what motivates people to start an exercise program; what sustains people over the long haul with exercise, is feeling fully alive, and improving one’s quality of life.

Until we meet again, may you reap the wonderful benefits of exercise, and an emerging healthy mind, body and spirit.

Dr. Dennis Godby, Doctor of Naturopathy, Sutter Medical Foundation.
He may be reached online or at his Sacramento Office (916) 446-2591.

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