Many of us have busy schedules, enjoy high calorie foods and relaxing in front of the TV, but making small changes to your daily lifestyle will add up to big changes over time. The question is how do we motivate ourselves to make more of the choices we know are good for us?
One way is by reminding ourselves of the benefits of exercise which are profound, numerous and far reaching. More exercise guarantees a healthier, happier life, improved sleep and work productivity, mood and relationships will improve and a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heat disease, diabetes and cancer. Can any of us afford to say no?
Research has demonstrated that diseases such as heat disease and cancer are all lower in people who exercise regularly. Exercise can also be good for the mind. Many studies have shown that exercise not only lowers the rates of anxiety, depression and memory loss, but also helps prevent and slow the progression of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
People can see the benefits of regular exercise from just 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, which is recommended by World Health Organization (WHO). This doesn’t mean you have to join the local gym or running club, even household chores like vacuuming or gardening, or walking to work are classed as moderate exercise as long as you do 150 minutes per week. More vigorous exercise could be running, swimming or football. 1 minute of vigorous activity is considered the same as to 2 minutes of moderate activity.
High intensity exercise is a popular activity marketed as HIIT classes at your local gym and makes you fitter and healthier. The higher intensity forces the body to adapt more quickly, benefitting your lungs, heart and circulation. It also boosts your circulation, reverses cell ageing and the deteriorization of your mitochondria, the energy batteries of the body.
On the subject of burning fat, many people like to exercise in their "fat-burning zone". There is a common misinterpretation of certain types of exercise; that is to say exercising at lower intensities can burn more fat than strenuous exercise. This idea came from research showing the body quickly turns carbohydrates into energy and therefore they are the fuel of choice during an intense workout. Since fat is burned more slowly it is more suited to moderate exercise. However, this is slightly misleading as at very low intensity we burn proportionally more fat than carbohydrate, but the amount of both burned will be much higher during intense workouts. So if you want to burn fat, unless you are prepared for a very long, slow workout your are better off increasing the intensity.
Diet is obviously an important part of exercise and as a general guide eating 8 to 12 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per 24 hours for 1.5 to 2 days before big events such as football matches or marathons is good preparation. You may have heard "carb loading" is known to increase exercise performance. But unless you are planning a hard 90 minute workout it may be better to skip the big bowel of pasta.
Try to match your energy requirements to your energy input. If you are having a big day with lots of activity you may need more food than a quiet day at the office. Sports drinks and gels are full of carbohydrates and can give a person a performance boost, enabling people to push their bodies further. But caution should be applied here because excess carbohydrates for long periods can lead to diabetes and other health issues. Some people train their bodies to use fat as a primary fuel by eating low-carb diets. Eating a low-carb, high-fat diet where your intake is 5% carbohydrates and 70% fat, 25% protein, makes the body better adapted to burning fat and can lead to weight loss. However, there is no strong evidence they improve athletic performance.
After exercise "post-workout" is when research has shown it is important to eat protein, the building blocks of our muscles and bodies. Guidelines suggest 20 grams of protein within 30 to 60 minutes of finishing exercise to build new muscle. Your main meal should also include 20 grams of protein (which does not have to be animal based!!) in every main meal for the next day or so as your muscles need it and you have definitely earned it.
If you would like further information on the benefits of regular exercise and a healthy diet, please give us a call on 01480 455221.
Post by Anthony McEwan - BSc Biology, MOst in Osteopathy.