Summer is upon us and it is a great time to enjoy all of the activities available to us in the Pacific Northwest. I encourage you to get outside and exercise to your full potential. It is always good to talk with a doctor to find out what kind of exercise is safe and healthy for your heart and body.
The best type of exercise to build up your cardiovascular health is anything that gets the heart pumping. The heart is a big muscle and the more heart pumping exercise you do, the stronger it will get. How do you know if you are getting a good cardio workout? Most people cannot carry on a conversation during the efficient cardio workout zone, for example while they are running or biking or doing an exercise class. Cardiovascular exercise is also good for weight loss, detoxification and it is the number one antioxidant activity activator (think anti-aging to the maximum!). Running is good for building leg muscles and core strength, but this kind of weight bearing exercise may not be right for people with osteoarthritis in the knees, hips or ankles. Weight bearing exercise like hiking, running and weight lifting is good for people with low bone density, to help rebuild healthy bones.
The next type of exercise is called non-weight bearing exercise. Examples of this include swimming, biking, and yoga/Pilates. People with joint pain or arthritis may benefit from non-weight bearing exercises to help increase circulation to the joints and improve flexibility. This type of exercise does not help build bone density, but depending on the intensity it still helps build cardiovascular health. It can also help with strengthening muscles to prevent falls and building core strength.
Core strengthening exercise is known as anything that helps to build the “core” muscles of your abdomen, such as sit-ups or planks. Building core strength has benefits like creating more abdominal tone, preventing back pain and improving posture. Pelvic core strength can also help with urinary incontinence. Test your core strength by performing a floor plank, see how long you can go, work up your time to 2 minutes or longer, keep your back straight and your belly button tucked.
The last form of exercise I would like to mention is light weight-bearing activity. Muscles tend to atrophy with age and inactivity. If you are wanting to tone muscles without bulking, pick a low weight and increase the number of repetitions. Think 5-10 lbs. at 20-30 reps daily. If you want to bulk up the muscles, pick a higher weight at a shorter number of repetitions. Building muscle helps to increase resting metabolic rate, therefore helping increase metabolism and the natural fat burning process.
Another reason to exercise is because it is the number one oxidative stress fighter; it is a natural anti-aging tool. This about all the oxidative damage caused by eating a poor diet, natural aging, and sunlight. Exercise helps your body naturally detoxify and fight off damage from the environment. I hope these ideas inspire you to get out and try some new outdoor activities this summer!
Dr. Allison Apfelbaum provides this Guest Column and is a primary care physician at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine clinic in Woodinville. To learn more go to www.treeofhealthmedicine.com or call 425-408-0040 to schedule an appointment.