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Optimal Exercise for Weight Loss and Health
copyright 2006 by Greg Landry, M.S.





Greg: Tonight weíre talking about developing your optimal exercise program for weight loss and health.  Hi! Who just joined us?

Greg:  Hi, Shannon. Weíre just getting started.  Weíre talking about developing your optimal exercise program for weight loss and health. 

I am going to present an ideal exercise situation for weight loss and health. You want to get as close as possible to this ideal exercise situation. Some weeks you may be there, and some weeks you might not quite make it. Maybe, because of your circumstances, you canít ever do the ideal situation. 

I am not saying, ďeither you do this or itís uselessĒ.  Whatever part of this you can do is good - much better than doing nothing.  So donít be discouraged if it sounds like more than you can handle.  Anything moving in that direction is good.  Anything is better than nothing and that applies specifically to exercise itself. Getting out and taking a 10-minute walk is always better than doing nothing. So never feel like your time is wasted if you canít do as much as you feel you should. 

But, this ideal program is what you should shoot for. Tonight, we are going to break it down into two sections. Weíre going to talk about aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise.  If anybody has questions, please feel free to stop me and ask.  Iíll be glad to stop along the way.

Letís take aerobic exercise first of all.  If you have read very much of my material, you know that Iím a strong believer in daily aerobic exercise. Let me tell you why.  Itís because I see the powerful effect this has on basal metabolic rate, and thus, on weight loss.  Let me give you an example of how powerful it is, and why itís so much better than just exercising a couple of days a week.  

For example, letís say you're exercising three days a week.  You decide to double your exercise and go to six days a week.  Well, you would expect that the results you get from that would also double. But, they actually quadruple! So, thereís a tremendous multiplicative effect when you go from three days a week to six or seven days a week. So for that reason alone, it makes a lot of sense weight loss and metabolism-wise, to do that.

The second thing is, most people find it easier to get into the habit of doing exercise daily simply because it becomes part of your schedule.  Letís say you get up and exercise first thing in the morning.  It becomes part of your routine on a daily basis. You donít have to get up and think, ďWell, am I going to exercise today, am I not?  Is it one of my ďoffĒ days or one of my ďonĒ days?Ē  Anything that you donít do consistently day after day, itís more difficult when you skip days, especially something like exercise.  So, itís easier to get into that daily habit. Plus, the benefits are tremendous when you can do a little bit on a daily basis. Also, your eating habits will improve when you're exercising daily. People always tell me that daily exercise puts them in a "healthy frame of mind" which affects their eating habits.

Now, just as I mentioned earlier, donít fall into the trap of thinking, ďEither I can get out and do 30, 40, 50 or 60 minutes, or itís not worth getting outĒ.  You will have days when you can only get out and take a ten-minute walk. That ten-minute walk is so much better than doing nothing, because you are giving your basic metabolic rate the stimulation that it needs every day. It makes a HUGE difference in how your metabolism is elevated and how you lose weight.  So, even if you only have ten minutes at work during lunch, any time that you can squeeze in a little time is far better than doing nothing.

When people come to me and say, ďGreg, I want to get started with weight loss, but I donít feel like I can jump into everything, eating and exercise all at the same time. What should I do?Ē  My answer is always, ďDevelop a daily aerobic exercise habit. Even if it is only 10 minutes to start with every day.  Get out and take a 10-minute walk tomorrow morning.  The next morning, do the same thing.  It gets easier. It gets to be more of a habit, and your metabolism benefits tremendously from that.Ē  So, the number one thing Iíd say if you are not exercising is, get out and take a 10-minute walk tomorrow morning. Develop that daily habit. Later, you can worry about extending that time.

Now, what is your optimal time goal?  Optimal is 30 to 60 minutes per day. But, some days that is just not going to happen and less is still far better than doing nothing. But, ideal is 30 to 60 minutes.

Secondly, intervals are another very powerful way within aerobic exercise to boost your basic metabolic rate.  Now, if you are not familiar with intervals, they are just short periods of time - in our case, I like to use a minute.  One minute of more intense exercise once every five minutes throughout your workout.  

If you are a walker, hereís what it would look like. You would start with your warm-up.  Warm-up for any exercise is just five minutes of a lower intensity version of that exercise. So if youíre walking, it would be slow walking for five minutes, gradually building up your speed, and then youíre into your regular workout portion of your walk.  So, for the next four minutes, youíre walking at your workout pace. The fifth minute is your interval minute.  For that minute, you pick up the pace. It should be a pretty quick pace to where you are very ready to stop at the end of that minute.  The next four minutes are your regular workout pace. The fifth minute, you pick it up again for a minute. You do that throughout your workout.  It has a tremendous effect on basal metabolic rate, raising your fitness level, and it sort of breaks up your exercise and helps the time to pass a little more quickly. It is something that you definitely want to be including in your aerobic exercise. 

Another aspect of aerobic exercise that is important is target heart rate range. This plays a big role in how effective you are at weight loss. There are a lot of people you see walking around the streets and neighborhoods who are ďstrollersĒ.  There is nothing wrong with that and it is certainly better than sitting on the couch eating ice cream.  But, the benefit you get when your intensity is high enough is tremendous compared to what it would be if you are just kind of taking a little stroll.  Again, there is nothing wrong with a stroll, but it is much more effective when you have a faster pace and you are actually within your target heart rate range. 

Missy: Greg, what about the fat burning zone?

Greg:  Yeah - in fact, itís a myth.  I have an article on that in the manual.  Itís a myth that thereís a fat burning zone thatís low. And I wonít go into the details, but the myth started with the fact that you are always burning a mixture of carbohydrates and fat when you are doing anything, moving, exercising.  The fat in that mixture is a little bit higher with lower intensity.  But it doesnít relate at all to weight loss.  So, itís kind of this myth that took off 10 or 15 years ago, and just has no end. 

Jennifer: So, it's not as beneficial to exercise at a lower heart rate?

Greg:  Exactly.  Absolutely. Because in fact, itís much less effective for weight loss if your heart rate is down where that is talking about.  But if you use this calculator, the calculation I use in the calculator is the ideal one. Itís recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. So, thatís where you should be for fitness, for metabolism and for weight loss, etc. But be sure that you are plugging in a resting heart rate that is accurate. You want to do that over a couple of mornings and take an average. But be sure that itís first thing in the morning, before you start walking around.  

Now, a lot of times at the beginning of your workout, it wonít jump up there immediately. Sometimes it will take 10 or 15 minutes before it actually slowly rises into that zone. Thatís okay.  You just want most of your workout within that zone.  Questions on that?  Yes?

Sherry: Are the calorie counts on exercise equipment accurate?

Greg:  All of those machines use different calculations and most of them are off. They do it based on weight, so, if you plug a weight into the machine, thatís the only way it can give you an accurate appraisal of that.  But even so, they all use different calculations. They all like to claim that their machine burns more calories than the others.

So here is the thing with caloric expenditure.  In generalóand this is just a good general rule of thumbóThe harder youíre working (and your heart rate is usually a pretty good indicator of that), the more calories you are burning.  And your heart rate usually correlates with the way it feels to youóif it feels moderate or middle of the road, then youíre burning moderate, middle of the road calories.  If it feels harder, you are burning more calories.  So caloric expenditure is in direct proportion to how hard you are working.  I know that there are a lot of numbers on there, and it is nice to see those calories tick off, but a lot of those calculations are off.  They are close, but I wouldnít put much faith in that. Just know, harder work, higher heart rate, means more caloric expenditure.  

Bill: Greg, you talk about daily exercise, but should you take one day off per week.

Greg: This is what I recommend.  Some people like taking a day off, and thatís fine.  One day a week I do what I call a ďvery easy dayĒ.  It might be a leisurely jog, walk, or a leisurely stair-climb. It is usually shorter and easier. I find for myself, and this works well for a lot of people, though some people prefer actually taking it offóI donít like breaking my routine.  So I do something every day.  Sometimes itís just a leisurely 20-minute walk. But it is still in my routine and it helps me to be consistent.  What I have seen with a lot of people is, if they take a day off, then taking the next day off becomes a little bit easier.  For people who are able to just take a rest day and then get back into their routine, there is nothing wrong with that. You do need either an easy day or an off day.  Good question. 

Okay. A couple of other things with aerobic exercise, and then weíll more on to anaerobic exercise.

We talked about doing intervals. We talked about your program being almost daily. We talked about being within your target heart rate range. 

By the way, if you donít have a heart rate monitor, and you can invest $35 or $40, those things are wonderful and very motivational, to just look at a watch and be able to see exactly how fast your heart is beating.  The brand that I really like is called Polar. You can buy those at Wal-Mart, or at least some Wal-Marts have them. Sporting goods stores have them. The kind you want, the only kind that is really accurate, is the kind that uses a chest strap that goes just under your chest against your skin and upper abdomen. Itís like a little rubber electrode. It senses the electrical signal that your heart gives off every time it beats.  It transmits that via radio signal to a wristwatch. So you can look at the wristwatch at any given time during your workout and know exactly how fast your heart is beating.  It is motivational to see it, and it helps you to know that you are actually within your target heart rate range. 

A couple more things on aerobic.  Do cross-training. Cross-training simply means doing different types of exercise. Walking, cycling, rowing, exercise videosómix it up. You always want to do most of what you like. For example, if you are a walker and  you really enjoy walking, then do that four, five or six days a week, and on the other days try to mix in something else. Mentally, it helps to take some of the monotony out of it.  Physically and physiologically it helps because you are giving your muscles a little bit of a different type of work. Sometimes that helps because the muscle is used in a bit of a different way, and it helps with improvement.  Also, it helps to decrease the incidence of injury because when you do the same thing over and over again, you are more likely to develop repetitive use injuries, which are simply injuries that occur from doing the exact same thing over and over again.  So, I am not saying not to do what you like. Do that mostly, but occasionally try to mix in some other things. 

By the way, I mentioned exercise videos. They are a great way to do something inside, even if itís not your favorite. Maybe you canít get outside, you have kids at home and you canít leave, or the weather is too hot or too cold or rainy or snowyóThatís a great way to get a quick workout inside. There are some really good ones out. If you have a few of those at home, itís very easy. I mean, we donít need much of an excuse not to exercise.  If you wake up and you are going to go out for a walk and itís raining, it is real easy to say, ďWell, forget exercise for today!Ē  But having an exercise video, even if you just do 15, 20 or 30 minutes, is a great way to get something in, indoors. 

Now letís talk about a couple of things on anaerobic exercise, which is commonly what we refer to as weight training: Weight training is an important part of the one-two punch in your assault on weight loss. It is really critical, and brings a complement to aerobic exercise. Without it, you are really missing a lot of the benefit that you can get toward weight loss. 

Most people do not weight train for a variety of reasons.  But I really want to encourage you that if you are not weight training, it is something that does not need to take a lot of time. In fact, in 20 minutes three days a week, you can do enough weight training to really get a powerful benefit from it metabolically, raise your metabolism, and also to tone your muscles. So, it doesnít have to take long, but there is really a lot of benefit there.

On the member site, you can click over to the Every Day Exercise site. On there I have animated illustrations of about seven or eight different weight training exercises that you can do at home, inexpensively, with small hand weights - dumb bells.  You donít need expensive equipment. This can really be done quickly and inexpensively at home.  On the site, you can see exactly how to do the exercises. If you do all the exercises there you are getting a very comprehensive workout that will help with metabolism, help with weight loss, and tone your muscles.

There are a couple of important things about weight training. It only needs to be three days a week, preferably with a day in between. So Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for example, is good.  You can really do the workout in about 20 minutes.  So again, it doesnít need to take very long.

One critical mistake that most people make when they're weight training is that they're using a weight that is not sufficiently stimulating or challenging the muscle. Here is how you choose the proper weight. This is through trial and error. You choose a weight that fatigues your muscle for a particular exercise somewhere between 12 and 15 repetitions. If you use a weight and you canít do more than 8 or 10 repetitions, then it's too heavy.  Vice versa, if you can do 25 repetitions, it's too light. Ideally, between 12 and 15 repetitions, you reach the point of failure where you can barely do another repetition. That is the weight that you want to use for that particular exercise.  You determine that individually for each exercise.  Write it down so that the next time, two days later when you come back to do it again, you know the exact weight you should be using for each one.  This is very important, in order to really see results with weight training. You should start with one set of 12 to 15 repetitions of each exercise for two weeks. After that, move to two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions, and that is where you should stay.  That is ideal.

One more important thing with weight training is that you should be using slow, fluid movements.  You have seen people lifting weights quickly and kind of swinging the weights. When you are doing that, momentum actually does a lot of the work, and not the muscle. So you want to be sure that your movements are slow.  You should take roughly two to three seconds in each direction and actually allow the muscle to do all of the work.

WHEN should you do weight training?  Ideally, it should be done after aerobic exercise. The reason is that it is very easy to injure your muscles and tendons, to develop tendonitis when you are exercising cold muscles. If you exercise just after your aerobic exercise, walking for example, your muscles are warm and supple and very much less prone to injury. Muscles work better when they are warm too.  That is ideal.  If you canít do it just after aerobic exercise, try to at least get in five or ten minutes of some type of movement, walking in place, something to warm up your bodyís musculature a little bit before you actually do the weight training.

Okay. I would just encourage everyone again.  Realize that this is an ideal scenario and donít feel like it is worthless if you canít do everything that you really should be doing.  ANYTHINGóand I really mean thatóis better than doing nothing. Tomorrow morning if you are pressed for time, a 10 minute walk is so much better for your metabolism than doing nothing. Having that daily stimulation, even if it is just for 10 or 15 minutes, is so important. And it has such a different effect on basal metabolic rate compared to doing nothing. 

So start with what you can, gradually build up, but keep in mind that if you can do a little bit, squeeze something in at lunch time, that ANYTHING is better than nothing. 

Okay!  Thanks everybody!




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