Phoenix Life Coaching


Regular’s better than you thought.

You have probably heard it since childhood: exercise is good for you. Recent studies suggest that this might be even more true than previously thought. It is common knowledge today that regular weight bearing exercise (e.g., weight lifting) can help stay off the bone loss that often accompanies aging, and that aerobic exercise (any sustained activity that is vigorous enough to get your heart rate up and cause you to break a sweat) is critical to cardiovascular health.

Many may have heard that a recent Stanford study found regular exercise to mitigate some of the impact of poor lifestyle factors such as smoking and poor diet. A few more of the many recent findings include:

  • as little as three hours of moderately vigorous exercise per week can reduce the risk of developing insulin insensitivity syndrome, a common precursor of diabetes and heart disease, by half (1)
  • the immediate pain generated by exercise in people with osteoarthritis is short lived and is associated with a decrease in osteoarthritic pain in the long-run(2)
  • weight training can stay off and even reverse the muscle mass loss associated with aging(3)
  • a well designed aerobic training program can, in as little as six months, enable men in their 50's to regain the aerobic power they enjoyed in their 20's(4).

We’ve seen a surge in such research into aging in the last decade and the accumulating body of scientific knowledge is pointing toward this: Most of the degenerative changes we see in people as they age are not the inevitable result of aging itself, but are due to disuse, misuse, and abuse of our bodies over time.

There is every reason to believe that most of us have the option of retaining youthful vigour and optimal health right up to the very twilight of our lives. Regular exercise may well prove to be the most important factor in ensuring this. If you do exercise regularly, congratulations. Perhaps I’ll see you out there when I’m surfing in Kaui in 50 years.

If you don’t exercise, why not give it another go? Here are a few guidelines that may help you establish a balanced approach:

  1. Don’t call it exercise if that word is a turn off. Call it tending to your physical portfolio, physiquing, buffing, or just about anything else that has a positive ring to it for you.
  2. Whatever you choose to do, make it fun. Although working out often seems difficult at first as your body adjusts to the new demands being placed on it, if it is fun you’ll stick to it and get over that initial period of discomfort. Choosing a variety of activities can help prevent boredom and usually provides a better, well rounded program.
  3. Try to do something moderately vigorous each day. Four days a week is really all that is needed, but doing something daily can help integrate it into your lifestyle. Even a brisk 30 minute walk a day can substantially reduce the risk of heart disease.
  4. Mix aerobic activities, with those that build muscle strength, such as weight lifting. Alternating days between the two is a good idea.
  5. Look for hidden opportunities to work it: Taking the stairs rather than the elevator; walking / biking rather than driving; parking at the far end of the store lot.
  6. To increase and maintain flexibility, add in a stretching routine. This can be done as part of a warm up or cool down for your daily routine of aerobic and strength building activities, or it can be done separately, perhaps as part of your preparations for bed.

Stretching is an excellent way to relax after a long day. When you begin to discover the true joys of stretching, you may want to try a few weeks of yoga.

(1) Laaksonen, D. E., Lakka, H. M., Salonen, J. T., Niskanen, L. K., Rauramaa, R., Lakka, T. A., Diabetes Care 2002 Sep;25(9):1612-1618.

(2)The unique and transient impact of acute exercise on pain perception in older, overweight, or obese adults with knee osteoarthritis. Focht, B. C., Ewing, V., Gauvin, L., Rejeski, W. J., Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2002 Summer;24(3):201-210.

(3) Reversing sarcopenia: how weight training can build strength and vitality. Evans, W. J., Geriatrics 1996 May;51(5):46-47, 51-53; quiz 54.

(4) A 30-year follow-up of the Dallas Bed Rest and Training Study II: effect of age on cardiovascular adaptation to exercise training. McGuire, D. K., Levine, B. D., Williamson, J. W., Snell, P. G., Blomqvist, C. G., Saltin, B., Mitchell, J. H., Circulation. 2001;104:1358.


Copyright © 2002  Phoenix Life-Coaching.

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G. Stephen Renfrey, Ph.D



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