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Thursday, February 9, 2012

How Much Exercise Is Enough?

After working out this morning, I began to think about my exercise routine.  I have been feeling that it's time for something new as I don't feel my muscles are improving.  Then I began to wonder.  How do you know you are getting enough exercise or just going through the motions and wasting your time?  As usual, I started doing a bit of research.

For those just starting out, who may be more loose and pillowy than lean and mean, it is probably best to start any exercise routine slowly.  You don't want to injure your body and thus set yourself back right at the start.  You should expect muscle soreness from most any activity you choose.  Muscle soreness is a sign that you have worked your muscles and that they are getting stronger.  Give yourself a couple of days rest between workouts to recover at first but don't quit just because you're sore.  You should try to push yourself to the point where you are a little fatigued, breathless and sweaty.

Exercise can be as fun as dancing.

Learn to distinguish between soreness, even if it's pretty bad, and true pain which indicates an injury.  Yes, it may hurt to get out of bed and walk the next couple of days after starting an exercise routine but if you really can't get up or move a limb, you've gone too far and possibly injured yourself.  Also, check with a doctor or work with a specialized trainer if you have a medical condition like Parkinson's or have had a previous heart attack.  Remember that soreness leads to stronger muscles; however, you don't have to be sore after a workout to strengthen your muscles.

Once you have achieved a level of fitness, move up and challenge yourself.  Working with a trainer periodically can help motivate you to try harder.  A trainer can access where you are and help you set new goals.  A study released by the Harvard Medical school shows that to really be fit, you should do strength training of all major muscle groups at least twice a week.  Ideally you should also perform 30 minutes of moderate aerobic workouts 5 times a week, as well as balance and flexibility training.  If your routine has become easy or you no longer can see improvements in your body, it is time for a change.  Otherwise, there is no point in wasting time at the gym.

To ease or prevent soreness, always include a cool down phase.  Jog or walk about 10 minutes then stretch all major muscle groups.  When stretching, move slowly, breathe and don't force the stretch or you could injure something.  However, do make sure you are feeling the stretch and achieving more flexibility over time.  You can also try soaking in a hot tub or applying ice to a particular area.  Also rest a day or two between secessions.

Exercise can be really hard.

I'll leave you with these thoughts.  A pound of muscle burns about 10 to 20 calories a day while a pound of fat burns only about 5 calories a day.  Makes a good case for working out as it definitely helps you loose weight and keep it off.  Those who work really hard, like athletes, can eat more of the food they love (but not junk food, that's always bad for you).    

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