by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~

With obesity becoming an epidemic in the United States, particularly among children, we need exercise more than ever!

I get many emails a week about exercise and how and when to go about it. For the most part, you can find the general answers here: Healthy Exercise.

For heart health, cardiovascular and fat burning needs, aerobics is essential. I am always telling patients that by simply moving (a brisk walk, jogging, cycling, skating…) you will increase your heart rate, increase energy levels, improve circulation, work the heart and lungs, improve your mood, increase lean muscle mass, decrease body fat and relieve stress, especially when done on a long term basis.

Frequency, duration, and intensity are the three determinants. How many times per week are you working out? For what period of time? At what level of intensity? These determinants will establish the overall effectiveness of your exercise program.

Most experts recommend, that if you are a beginner, start with 3 times per week, 20-30 minutes per session. If 20 minutes is to difficult to begin with, that’s fine just keep at it until you reach the 20 minute goal. (In order for your heart to benefit, you should try to exercise aerobically for a minimum of 20 minutes.) By
beginning slowly, you can gradually work up to more exercise. Those who start right into an exercise routine 5 or 6 times a week will burnout and probably injure themselves as the go.

For those who are comfortable with aerobic activity for at least 20 minutes, 3 times per week, it is NOW TIME to increase the length of your workouts to 30 minutes and to exercise 4 times a week (rather than 3). If 20 minutes of exercise has been the goal you have reached for two weeks now, try increasing the duration in small increments by 5 additional minutes. This will make the transition easier.

For those who are comfortable with aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes, 4 times per week, it is NOW TIME to increase the length of your workouts to 40 minutes and to exercise 5 times a week (rather than 4).

A variation on this theme is to increase the resistance/intensity in your aerobic activity. By doing so, you will increase your caloric burn by a large percent! If you are using the stair master, steps or elliptical machines, try increasing the “effort number” or height of the incline on your machine and you will appreciate the additional effort! If you are in a cardio class, jogging or fast walking, take a small weight with you. 2-5 lbs. will make a world of difference.

To avoid overuse injuries such as tendonitis, shin splints… you should cross train (one day try walking, the next day ride a bike, the following day participate in an aerobics class…).

Remember, aerobic exercise is essential for weight loss, cardiovascular fitness and body-shaping. Current research supports a complete fitness program. A complete program should include aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise and stretching. To be successful, you must incorporate it into your lifestyle, like eating well and getting good quality sleep.

It’s time to step it up!