In the early 1900s just one in 150 Americans was overweight. In the 1960s about 1 in 5 people were overweight. Today two in three Americans are overweight. Why? We eat poorly, we do not enjoy an appropriate balance of physical activity, we do not obtain adequate or truly restful sleep, and we are too stressed--leading to a damaging imbalance within our autonomic nervous system that impacts body weight and overall health.
The human body is designed to move, work, play, and to be active. The body depends upon the heart to push the blood and hence the nutrient supply throughout the body's blood-vessel network. This supply must feed 30 trillion cells. As cells are nourished, they excrete waste into the intercellular fluids of the body. The waste must enter the lymphatic vessel system where it is cleaned up and excreted from the body.
While the body relies upon a strong heart and a clean cardiovascular system to enable the blood to move through blood vessels, it relies upon body movement, or physical activity, to move the waste through the lymphatic vessel network. The entire design of this waste disposal system is dependent upon you working, moving, playing, and being physically active. The waste in your body does not clean up ideally without the right balance of physical activity in your life. For this reason alone, it is important to establish a daily habit of exercise that you will enjoy and adhere to for the rest of your life. You must move about and be physically active if you desire longevity and good health.
Aerobic enthusiasts too often and too easily dismiss critically important strength-building activities. Similarly, strength enthusiasts too often dismiss the importance of enjoying adequate cardiovascular exercise. Below we will address how to achieve an appropriate balance that leads neither to the wasting of muscle from too much aerobic activity, nor to poor lymphatic health, nor to problems associated with inadequate or too much strength-building activities.
We recommend a minimum of 30 minutes per day of aerobic activities and 10 to 15 minutes a day of strength-building activities. These activities may be combined to lessen the time required to meet important health factors that are associated with physical activity. Let's begin by discussing aerobic exercises and then we will move to strength-building.
Hippocrates said, “Walking is man’s best medicine.” Thomas Jefferson attributed his excellent health to a habit of walking 2 miles each day. According to Dan Buettner, today's healthiest populations of Icaria, Sardinia, and Okinawa—do not engage in high-impact exercises—they walk. Walking is a gentle, low-impact exercise that can ease you into a higher level of fitness. You should walk, swim, hike, bike, or engage in Tai Chi or Yoga for 30 to 60+ minutes each day.
To burn the most calories possible from fat during exercise, choose an aerobic activity you enjoy and maintain and do so at an age appropriate heart rate for burning fat (see Exercise Zones below). As you maintain a fat burning heart rate, you will burn about 50% of your energy needs from fat and 50% from glycogen (simple sugars stored in the liver and muscles). As your heart rate exceeds the fat-burning rate, you will burn far more glycogen and less fat, which can and does lead to the loss of muscle tissue and the emaciated state that is so often associated with endurance athletes. Use the Exercise Zone chart below to determine your ideal heart rate for burning fat during your aerobic activities. Choose activities you enjoy from walking to biking, hiking, swimming and so forth and enjoy at least one such activity six days a week for the rest of your life.
Anaerobic or Strength-Building Exercises
Consider four ideal body weight exercises you can do from home in just a few minutes per day. These same strengthening solutions may also be performed in a gym using weights. However it is important to master their application as body-weight exercises that may be performed at home, as you travel, and so forth.
The following basic exercises and their many variations will help you to rev up your metabolism by strengthening and building all your major muscle groups. As you employ them for your benefit, you will enjoy a noticeably higher level of fitness and strength.
1. Push Up: The push up is one of the best total body exercise; it is an exercise that uses muscles in the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, abs and even the legs.
How to Do a Push Up
- Get on the floor and position your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Raise up onto your toes so you are balanced on your hands and toes.
- Keep your body in a straight line from head to toe without sagging in the middle or arching your back. Look straight at the floor to help maintain a straight line.
- Position your feet either close together or wider depending upon what is most comfortable for you.
- Contract your abs and tighten your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine before you begin and keep a tight core throughout the entire push up.
- Inhale as you slowly bend your elbows and lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle.
- Exhale as you begin pushing back up to the start position
- Don't lock out the elbows; keep them slightly bent.
- Repeat pushups until you achieve a slight burning sensation.
- If a standard push up is too difficult, then select a variation of pushup to get started. You can start by doing pushups against a wall, a table, a chair, or from your knees instead of your toes, maintaining the techniques described above.
- If regular push ups are too easy, try decline pushups by raising your feet up on a box to do pushups, or raise your feet even higher to a bench, or a chair, or even into a hand-stand position. Another variation is that while you are in a regular pushup position, lift first one leg while doing pushups and then the other. Switch legs every five to 10 pushups or so.
- To develop added power, push yourself up with enough power to allow you to clap your hands in midair, before lowering yourself. Be sure to work up to more aggressive variations of pushups and do not hurt yourself.
- You can also shift your hands into a diamond position during intervals to focus strength-building toward the inner part of the chest.
2. Pull Ups: The pull up exercise builds upper body, back, and core strength. It requires a simple piece of exercise equipment that can be used in nearly any doorway, or you can obtain more sophisticated equipment.
- Stand below the bar with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Grip the bar with an overhand grip.
- Bend your knees and cross your ankles for a balanced position.
- Pull yourself up until your chin is level with the bar.
- Lower yourself until your elbows are straight.
- Repeat the movement in a slow and controlled motion until your form deteriorates; then stop and rest.
- Repeat the above sequence one to several times.
If you can't do a pull up yet, try some of the following options to build up your strength until you can begin doing pull ups.
- Human Assistance: Have a spotter "assist" you by providing a gentle lift. Spotter can lift facing the front of you, lifting from your waist, or from behind you while gripping the tops of your feet or your ankles. With your knees bent and your ankles crossed is it fairly easy for a spotter to provide necessary lift to help offset your weight as you pull upward.
- Static Pull Ups: Use a box, chair, or step to lift yourself into the pull up "finish" position. Hold your chin at bar level for as long as you can and repeat this activity. This will build upper body strength over time. Then slowly transition into the negative pull up exercise (see below) over several weeks.
- Negative Pull Ups: From the "finish" pull up position described above, hold your chin at bar level for several seconds, and then slowly lower yourself in a controlled motion. As you lower stop and hold your position at several points along the way. Repeat the process for several repetitions. As your strength improves, move on to half pull ups below.
- Half Pull Ups: From a box, bench, or chair, stand at a position where you can grab the pull up bar with your elbows bent to about 90 degrees to the bar. Then pull upwards, unassisted, until your chin is level with the bar. As you gain strength doing pull ups in such a manner, gradually lower your starting position, until you have sufficient strength to begin and complete a pull up starting with a fully extended elbows.
- Lat Pull Downs: The lat pull down machine is another way to build the necessary strength to do pull ups. With this machine, you stay seated with your knees held down and you pull the weight down to you. Begin with a weight that you can pull down slowly, at least 10 times before exhaustion.
3. Inverted Row: enjoy the following video to see how you can do inverted rows from home; in addition to the simple techniques show on this video you can also go to Home Depot and create extended rings that you can hang from your pull-up bar to do inverted rows. You will get the idea in this video how to do inverted rows and new ways to do pushups.
4. Squat and Lunge Variations: Squats and lunges are perhaps the most important exercises you can do at home, on the road, or in a gym. They give you the most return for the time spent of any exercises. Take a moment to watch each of the following videos; determine your experience and where to begin. It is important to work into these exercises beginning first with developing perfect form and then by working toward greater repetitions and variations of the basic exercises. After watching the following videos, determine the best way for you to begin and get started. If you have questions, you will need a trainer.
After you've perfected the squat and lunges, then then try this fast and efficient routine:
5. Abdominal Exercises: San Diego State University compared 13 abdominal exercises in order to discover which ones best strengthen the abs, including both the external and internal oblique muscles. Each exercise was ranked for muscle stimulation (measured with EMG). The Bicycle Crunch Exercise was determined to be number one rated exercise for overall muscle stimulation.
How to do the Bicycle Crunch Exercise
- Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground.
- Put your hands beside your head.
- Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion.
- Touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.
- Breath evenly throughout the exercise.
- Continue the exercise until you achieve a good burn in your abdomen.
- Rest and repeat this routine up to three times.
Pushup, pull ups, and inverted rows will help keep your major upper-body muscles fit, and will also help to strengthen your core muscles. Squats and lunges and bicycle crunch exercises will hit the core and major lower-body muscle groups. Keep it simple by mixing up your workouts to include the following:
- one upper-body "pull" exercise, and
- one upper-body "push" exercise, along with
- one lower body squat or lunge exercise.
- Also include an abdominal work out at least once a week.
In addition to important strengthening exercises, enjoy any other fitness related activities, such as basketball, tennis, walking, hiking, bicycling, swimming and so forth. Enjoy at least 30 to 60 minutes of sustained physical activity daily, six days a week for the rest of your life! If you enjoyed this article and found it to be practical and useful to you, then please use the share feature that is found immediately below this article to share it with others. Our resources are provided freely and they will remain so, provided they are adequately used and shared. If you enjoy and benefit from these resources, then please use the invite and share features to share these benefits more freely with others!