Positive Path Recommended Reading

Commit to Get Fit
By Matt Church

You drive a car every day. Bit by bit the air creeps out of your tyres and the handling of your vehicle gets worse. The changes in the cars performance are small and they creep up on you so it's not until you actually put air back in to the tyres that you realise how bad things had become - or maybe how good things could be. Frequent exercise has the same effect. The positive improvements you get in energy levels and the general feel good as a result of working out come on slowly, they also take a while to disappear once you stop exercising. In a way this 'creeping' effect plus the separation from the act of exercise and it's benefits are key factors that explain why people struggle to 'commit to get fit'. 

We often exercise for the direct benefits of fat loss and while we know that of the four factors affecting weight loss include exercise we also know that the number one factor is reducing the amount of fat you eat. Exercise alone will not cause significant fat reduction, primarily you need to cut out the fat's in your diet, move more often and eat smaller meals more often. Exercise however can do much more than help you lose weight. 

Exercise comes in so many forms it's worth clarifying what we are talking about. Resistance training with weights is fantastic for a number of benefits including increasing your metabolism, improving mobility and increasing self-esteem - but not what this articles focus is on. Movement, incidental exercise or what the experts are now calling 'Spontaneous Physical Activity' is also crucial to a modern lifestyle plan. I read recently that we are moving a staggering 9 kilometers less each day when compared to our counterparts of 10 years ago, however this is also a subject for another time. Long slow rhythmic exercise with an average heart rate of 120 beats per minute for longer than 50 minutes is great for immediate fat loss but also not what this article is focussing on. It's the tough huff and puff workouts that deserve some attention. 

There is a well known exercise prescription that the 'Norm' and 'Life be in it' campaign pushed which said that if we simply get out and move 3 times a week for 20 minutes we would be doing enough exercise. From a general health perspective this is true. Cholesterol levels, the risk of heart disease and basic circulation all improves as a result of moderate movement. But what about the tough exercise, what about the sweaty hard hitting gutsy exercise? What about the 30 minutes of running, stair climbing, cycling or rowing that leaves you red in the face and sweating for hours? Where does this fit in? Why should we do it in this age of moderation, weight loss and balance? The answer lies in the phrase 'peak performance'. 

To be a peak performer you need to be on 80% of the time and up when life demands it! It is here that the tough workouts pay off. Investing in 2-4 workouts a week that cause you a challenge will build up your energy reserves and capacity for handling pressure. 

We all have a point where our lungs can't extract more oxygen out of the air we breathe, this is called your anaerobic threshold. We can improve this only through tough exercise. If you ever get a chance to physically watch a marathon being run you will be staggered by the speed of the runners, television doesn't do this speed justice. As you stand on the sideline Marathon runners appear to be sprinting past you and they keep it up for hours. They have improved their anaerobic threshold to the point where they can maintain an intensity of exercise that would for the average person cause them to run out of steam in minutes. You improve your anaerobic threshold by training at the point where you are just out of breath. The benefit of this kind of training lies in the fact that everyday activities, which may have previously caused you to be out of breath, will become easy and fall under your threshold. You will have more energy, be able to handle situations that demand high amounts of energy, recover more quickly from stress and strenuous activity and generally feel more capable during the day. 

We also find that the tough exercise causes your body to adapt in more ways than simply how well your body utilizes oxygen. People who improve their fitness also affect the enzymes that regulate how a fat cell operates. Fitter people have more of the fat releasing enzyme Hormone Sensitive Lypase (HSL). HSL is responsible for the removal of fat from the fat cell into the blood so that fat can become your predominant fuel source. Women who typically have less of this enzyme are able through tough exercises to turn their fat releasing chemistry on in a positive manner. 

A final benefit of the tough huff puff stuff is the effect that it has on many of our stress chemicals, which exhaust people under pressure. When under stress our body produces various chemicals designed to make you immune to pain and give you the rush of energy you need to get things done in crisis. Sometimes these chemical are expressed through your system as in the case of waking up while driving and noticing that you had nodded off, at other times they trickle through your system slowly building up over time. These stress chemicals if allowed to build up unchecked may cause heart disease and affect the quality of your relationships. Stress has been linked to cancer, diabetes, depression and other debilitating illnesses. A short list of these chemicals includes cortisol, adrenaline, dopamine and epinephrine. Tough exercise burns off excess levels of these chemicals. 

Exercise becomes a stress management tool for people under high-pressure environments. The downside of this kind of stress management is that you never address the environmental issues that caused the stress you simply buy your self time. A day or so after the exercise your levels of these chemicals have creeped back up causing you to need another fix of tough exercise. You become addicted to exercise and unable to feel good without it. Of course there are worse things to be addicted to - yet people who do become addicted to exercise will exercise when they have the flu or sore knee rather than being able to rest for a day or so and give the body the time it requires to heel itself. 

Most press at the moment regarding the benefits of exercise seems to be focussing on the benefits of moderate activity rather than the tough huff puff stuff. Certainly if our goal is to make exercise accessible to all then this is a good PR campaign. At the same time we don't want to discount the significant benefits of pushing your self when you exercise. 

Note: A vigorous exercise program should always be preceded by a medical check up. 

About the author: Matt Church is a speaker and trainer who travels over 100 days a year delivering seminars to corporations helping their employees lay the foundations for success. If you would like to help your employees get their priorities right or would like to find out more about a seminar run by Matt Church then visit his website at www.mattchurch.com.au

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