Because I have been an holistic MD for the last 25 years and anti – aging is one of my specialties, I have an interest in both exercise and nutrition. On the subject of exercising for health, it is impossible to separate nutrition, and stress. You can work out religiously but if you are not eating wisely the full health benefit is not reached, because the body is not receiving the nutrients it needs in order to build healthy tissue and the cellular components for energy renewal. By the same token, if you eat healthy foods but do not exercise the health benefits are diminished. Muscle has to work to maintain or increase its mass. Now if one is doing both of the latter but the routines of either one or both are resulting in stress this can also defeat progress and health. For this blog I will concentrate on exercise; the next blog will be on nutrition. Stress is always a factor in health to me. Not the stress itself but how we react to stress.
After years of abuse, both poor nutrition and lack of exercise can have chronic consequences on the body. This is especially true if proper nutrition has not been followed for long periods of time while the body was under physical stress, such as intense sports training. Mental stresses have similar negative effects because of the constant adrenal – cortisol response to mental stress. (Please refer to my other blogs on stress – holisticsecondopinion.net/vampires). A quick reminder is that the body – mind cannot discern between physical and mental stress. The response to both are equal to cause the same output of cortisol for flight or fight protection and the consequences of chronic stress.
I do believe that both aerobic exercise and resistance (weight) training are necessary to keep a healthy body. The resistance is necessary to build strong muscles and bones and to prevent osteoporosis deflating muscles and to keep strong tendons: the aerobic for cardiovascular health. I have a lot of experience in both and now share my ideas and experience with patients. I find this helpful because many people are either afraid of starting or have no idea of how to start. Stretching both before and after exercise keeps the muscles toned and helps prevent injury. When I was teaching karate I would emphasize to the students that having big muscles is no advantage if the joints do not react properly and are prone to different types of tendon-joint injuries. This is especially true as one advances in age. Exercise does not have to be either strenuous nor boring. In fact, I like to call exercise “funacise.” Today there are many different types from which to choose. Some people would benefit from joining a gym so that the exercise is structured, the equipment is there and varied, instructors are available, and the possibility of a social atmosphere is present. The latter can be especially helpful for those that do not have the incentive to exercise and to those that have depression so they are with other people. (A caveat to this is the many scientifically based studies that demonstrate that exercise is as effective for mild to moderate depression as the pharmaceuticals).There are numerous classes offered in different forms of exercise. Other people prefer to exercise at home, using their own equipment and/or videos. The problem with this is that one may not be using proper form if no one is watching, correcting and teaching and therefore prone to cause injury. It can be beneficial to have an exercise partner so that you can keep each other’s motivation high as well as having time to enjoy the company of each other. The type of exercise that works for you is the one you enjoy. Once in the habit of your choice you may branch out to other forms. Sometimes motivation is diminished because of boredom of the same repetition each time. There is no reason for this. If it is aerobic exercise that one does for 20 minutes or more it is not necessary to do a continuation of the same exercise. One can do 5-10 minutes of bicycling and then switch to rowing or treadmill, Etc.. Of course you can do different aerobic exercises on different days or join certain classes of different types. Walking is still one of the best and least physically invasive forms of aerobics if the person is not a “dawdler.” Your favorite music will help as you can sing with it even if you have a voice no one else wishes to hear (my own personal experience). For myself, I like to combine weights and aerobic by not stopping lifting but rather go right into a different muscle group even if using light weights. This cuts down on the time I spend “funacising” to about 20 – 30 minutes with all the benefits of both. Of course, it is important first to learn good form so you do not injure yourself while trying to improve your health. For those that dislike exercising, especially resistance exercise, you can get around this and be finished quickly if you do the eccentric method. This is done by taking a light weight and doing the extension part very, very slowly. For example, biceps: lift up a weight you consider lighter then normal for yourself but let it down (with good form) to the count of 12 or more. You will ache after 3-5 reps. You can do this eccentric exercise for any group of muscles.
There is a caveat to any form of exercise be it resistance or aerobic.! If you know you are an obsessive and/ or compulsive personality, or competitive personality you need to watch stressing yourself to the point of defeating the purpose of exercising. Why? Because exercising is to relax your mind as you become physically fit. It is not meditation but a form of moving meditation in the sense that you are escaping from the everyday stresses for the time that you are exercising. You do not need to add another stress to the day. When I was running a mile for each round that I fought I would get so aggravated if I did a poor time or was not progressing in my time/mile. This is competitive-obsession. My wife would ask me why do I run and I would say to relax – duh. When I would come home from my emergency-room shift and be “up- tight” and volatile before I was allowed to sit down and eat with my son and wife one or the other would say first go down to the basement and jump rope for half an hour-to-forty-five minutes. It worked every time to get rid of the ER mind trauma so I could enjoy my family meal.
When one starts to do resistance exercise they may get really severe muscle aches the first few times they are working out. Some refer to this as good aches “No pain, no gain.”. This latter is only true if you are going into this for body building and do not care about future osteoarthritis. DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Syndrome) is the proper term. They use to believe that these aches were due to lactic acid buildup from the workout. It is really the muscles healing from the nano tears that are a result of a proper workout. It is the repairing and building up of the muscle. When it occurs be thankful and happy that your body is responding properly. They will not occur after you get through the beginners part except when you decide to start a new plateau or new type of funercise. Sometimes when you leave go of the exercise for a long time and start again DOMS will hit but for a shorter time. Do not forget that form for each muscle group is so important. Above all ”Do no harm!”
Some people tell me that they do not have time to exercise or even relax. Think of it this way; taking time for yourself is doing something.
I point out that they have time to be caretakers each day for their spouse, boss, children, etc, but not an half hour per day for themselves. This is sending a subconscious message to their brain that everybody else is worth their time but they feel they do not deserve time for themselves. “Today I will love myself enough to exercise.”
Alan J. Sault MD, ABHM-Diplomat
Author: Emotional Vampires and Your Hormones: an holistic physician’s view of how stress affects your well-being and what you can do about it