"I'm too busy to eat."
"Sleep? Who has time for that?"
"I try to take a bath or shower on the weekends. I've got too much work to do during the rest of the week."
You won't hear people talk like this. Eating, sleeping, and bathing are all part of the normal person's daily lifestyle. Yet 63% of all Americans do not take part in another regular activity that's just as vital to our well-being and health—exercising!
Exercise is not a daily part of most people's lives. And that's very strange, especially when you consider that over 90% of all adults agree that proper diet and regular exercising would do more to improve health than anything that physicians or medicines could do for us (or to us).
Why isn't exercising more popular? Well for one thing, exercise requires some hard work, a little time, and a good measure of self-discipline. You have to make room in your life for exercise and vigorous activity. Once you put daily exercise into your life, the rest is easy. The difficult part is to first devise a lifestyle that includes vigorous activity. That is what this lesson is all about—how to develop a lifestyle for yourself or for your clients that includes regular exercise and daily vigorous activity.
What Is Vigorous Activity?
Almost everybody is active throughout the day. Performing our normal chores, doing our work and running errands, even simply sitting and reading requires a certain level of activity. Even in sleep, the body is still active, tossing and turning, using up to 60 calories per hour in this reduced metabolism.
Yet vigorous activity is needed by our lungs, our circulatory system, our muscles and nerves for optimum health. Otherwise, we become sluggish. Bodily functions are impaired, the health of the organs deteriorates, and we suffer from poor sleep, digestive problems, constipation, and poor posture. Vigorous activity is different from normal activity in that it makes our entire body work, strive, grow, and vibrate. It makes our breath quicken, our pulse race, and our heart pound. In short, it makes us feel alive.
Is Exercise Unnatural?
Thousands of years ago, there was no such thing as "exercise" or calisthenics or daily workouts. Life for primitive man was one of continual vigorous activity. He climbed trees for fruit, migrated 25 to 50 miles per day during the seasonal changes, and did a fair share of sprinting, running, and swimming just to avoid wild animals and his enemies. Daily life was full of "exercising" for our ancestors, and their bodies remained supple, lean, and strong from just responding to the constant demands of survival and living out in the open twenty-four hours a day.
So you see, exercise is unnatural. If man himself led a purely natural life, unfettered by the demands of civilization, he would receive a full range of vigorous activity that would keep the body in superior health. However, almost no one on this planet today has such a pristine existence. We sleep in buildings at night, "gather" our foods from supermarket bins, and ride in an automobile to a job that requires us to sit at a desk for most of our waking hours. As Dr. Herbert M. Shelton has observed, "Some people often urge that the normal activities of life should supply all the exercise needed after maturity is reached. The reply is that the activities of civilized life are not normal."
Still, many people scoff at the idea that they might need daily periods of vigorous activity. They still see exercise or jogging or weight-lifting as something artificial, unnatural, or abnormal. The real reason for their mistrust of exercise may be far simpler, however.
"It is often contended," writes Dr. Shelton, "that formal exercises are unnatural or abnormal, hence, of no benefit. But there is no difference between the contraction of a muscle in formal exercise and its contraction in what we may designate as primitive activities of life. There is no such thing as artificial contraction of a muscle. No exercise using spontaneous movements, whether in primitive activities or formal exercise, can be called artificial or unnatural. The objection to exercise seems to be the expression of that laziness that stems from a lack of vigor, the very vigor that exercise provides for."
Still, people resist the idea of devising a lifestyle that includes vigorous activity. As you deal with your clients and friends, you may hear an all-too common excuse: "I don't need to exercise because my job or my daily work provides me with all the activity I need."
Work Isn’t Exercise!
Exercising may be hard work, but hard work isn’t exercise. A common mistaken belief is that if you perform hard work or heavy labor at your job, then you don’t really need to exercise during your nonworking hours. I remember talking to a city employee who repaired streets with a pneumatic drill or “jackhammer” all day long.
The man’s forearms were immense knotted muscles that had been developed through years of holding a heavy jackhammer in place to rip up old asphalt pavement. His wrists were powerful and he had a grip that made handshakes a must to avoid.
Yet when you looked past his arms, you saw a sagging potbelly, spindly legs, and stooped shoulders. His complexion was a dirty yellow, his eyes dulled, and his hearing almost gone from years of hammering at the pavement. Had his daily work kept him in good shape? Only the arms!
The sad fact is that most work performed today is not adequate, all-around exercise. “There are no less than 400 muscles in the body, each in need of regular exercise,” writes Dr. Herbert M. Shelton. “The belief that the ordinary activities of life provide adequate exercise for the muscles of the body is a blind one. Anyone may readily see this for himself when he examines the limited extent to which his muscular system is used in his daily activities. Even in the man who performs manual labor, many muscles are neglected. Modern specialization, both in work and in play or athletics, neglects many muscles.”
The busy mother and housewife who picks up dirty clothes and toys, straightens closets, and puts away dishes may be doing plenty of hard work, but very little significant exercise. Even a manual laborer such as a groundskeeper who mows, rakes, and trims yards for eight hours each day uses only a limited set of muscles.
Most work in the modern world, because of its highly repetitive, specialized and limited nature, cannot supply the full range of muscular activity that is required for beneficial exercise. This is one reason why people find work and their jobs so tiring. “Modern man,” observes Dr. Shelton, “spends most of his working hours using but limited parts of his muscular system in specialized activities, and often using these only slightly, and so becomes but a caricature of a man. He is undeveloped, one-sidedly developed, and almost always lacking in vigor.”
Exercise actually increases our vigor. Energy expended during proper exercise is quickly returned following rest and relaxation. Not only that, but a half-hour of intense and concentrated exercising can accomplish more conditioning than a full day of hard manual work.
In contrasting the benefits of selective exercising versus most daily labor, Dr. Shelton notes: “Greater strength and development and more symmetrical development may be obtained by appropriate exercise than by most forms of physical work. Actual tests have shown, for instance, that a few minutes of proper exercise daily will produce a greater increase in the size of the arms, legs, back or chest in a given time than work will do.”
But Don’t Stop Working!
Although more can be gained in an hour of structured and regular exercise than can usually be obtained from a day of regular work, we can still use our jobs as a form of beneficial exercise. After all, we spend the greater portions of our lives involved in some sort of productive labor. By using our imagination and becoming more creative, we can turn our regular daily jobs into mini-exercise periods all through the day.
Perhaps one of the most effective ways to devise a lifestyle that includes vigorous activity is to incorporate exercising into your daily job. This method is appealing because it doesn’t take up much extra time. Since you’re already working, you might as well be getting some form of vigorous activity. Let’s look at a few case histories of people who have put the “exercise” back into their “work”.
Rub-adub-tub: Exercise in the Bathroom
One group of people who need to exercise the most are those that seem to have the least time: young mothers and busy housewives. “Exercise?! After changing diapers, scrubbing floors, and cleaning out the garage. Just give me rest, thank you,” said a young woman of three pre-school children.
Ann Dugan, a 55-year-old grandmother, however, disagrees. “You have to clean up the bathroom every day, and if you have to do it, you might as well make it productive,” said Dugan, author of 12 books on exercise and weight training. She developed a series of “at-home” exercise that housewives can do while getting the necessary housework out of the way.
“You might as well toughen up your body while you’re toughening up the bathroom,” said Dugan, who also emphasized that her exercises can be done in homes, offices, cars, and airplanes. “With all the bending and stretching needed to get to high shelves, inside cabinets, and under furniture, it’s easy to turn those movements into a tough workout.”
For example, Dugan suggests that when you clean your bathtub, instead of getting down on both hands and knees, you can kneel on the right knee only and clean the tub with the right hand. This position causes the pectoral muscles to be used and the hamstrings to be stretched. By reversing the knees, you can achieve an equalizing stretch while giving the shoulder and chest muscles a workout.
Even cleaning a toilet bowl can turn into a beneficial exercise by using Dugan’s “dip-and-disinfect” method. The cleaner stands, facing the toilet bowl, with legs bent so that the hips are low. The thighs should be parallel to the floor, with the left hand braced on the water tank as you scrub with the right hand. During this scrubbing process, you should raise and lower the heels at least ten times. This modified form of the “squat” exercise is the same one that is used by weightlifters to develop their lower bodies and reduce fat around the thighs.
Of course such intermittent exercising while doing housework cannot take the place of sustained and vigorous activity. Yet the extra bending, stretching, and flexing that may be done while at a regular job can help keep the body supple and ready for more intense physical activity later in the day or during the weekend leisure time.
Some jobs, such as yard work, carpentry, construction, and farming, provide many opportunities for incorporating vigorous activity programs throughout the day. The construction worker may simply carry heavier and heavier loads while on the job to develop his musculature, while the farmer or gardener can take a shovel and hoe for an added hour of a combined exercise and work “workout.”
Even the deskbound office worker can add activities to his daily job routine that will sneak in valuable minutes of vigorous activity. Here’s how one Life Scientist got an hour’s worth of jogging in without ever leaving his office building!
“I worked on the sixth floor in a large office complex, and was behind a desk all day. My thinking became dulled and fuzzy from just all the inactivity. By the end of the day, I was so fatigued from the unnatural environment that I just couldn’t drag myself out to a track where I could run in the evenings. Then one day I read that climbing stairs actually gave more of a cardiovascular workout than jogging for the same amount of time.
“I rarely ate lunch while at work, since I was sitting most of the day, so I decided to get some on-site exercising done. Like other large buildings, my office had hidden flights of stairs for a fire escape. Almost everybody rode the elevators, leaving the stairways unused. That day I walked down to the bottom of six flights of stairs, and then ran to the top. Walked down, and then ran to the top again. After twenty minutes of this running upstairs, I was breathing very heavily and my heart was pounding in my ears. I knew I was on to something good.
“Now everyday I’m out running up and down the stairs, sometimes three times a day in order to break up all the inactivity at my desk. I feel that I think much better after a period of stair-running. My only fear is that someday my co-workers will see me and think I’m running down the stairs because the building is on fire!”
Almost any job can be arranged so that small periods of vigorous activity can be performed. This is the easiest way and the first way that some people work exercise back into their daily routines. So remember, while work may not be exercise, you can put the vigor back into work by slipping in some exercise periods of your own.
Daily Life As Exercise
Besides the working hours, our lives provide us with many other opportunities for including vigorous activity periods. Gardening, lawn work, planting and harvesting your own food, improving and beautifying your natural surroundings—all of these outdoor activities increase our natural vigor and provide effective exercise. Walking to our jobs or to the marketplace instead of driving provides valuable exercise while at the same time saving us money and conserving energy.
Performing our daily chores such as cleaning or sweeping at a fast rate of speed can turn a moderate work pace into a workout. How can you determine how vigorous and effective your normal daily activities are?
One way to determine the vigor required for an activity is to measure how many calories of energy are expended if that activity were done for an hour. For example, a moderate walk burns around 200 calories per hour, while a steady jogging run can use up to 500 calories or more in the same time. The following chart will give you an idea of how strenuous some of our daily activities, athletics, and exercises can be:
|Activity||Calories Expended |
|Sitting and reading||72|
|Sitting and eating||84|
|Sitting and knitting||90|
|Playing the piano||150|
|Farmwork in a field||438|
|Mowing the lawn||462|
Of course merely burning up calories is not the point of exercising, and this chart should not be used to equate various activities. (For example, ten hours of sleeping at 60 calories per hour is not equal to one hour of jogging at 600 calories!)
What you can learn from the above chart is that normal daily activities can vary a lot in the amount of vigor that they require to complete. By selecting more and more of the more strenuous activities as part of your normal daily routine, you’re getting more exercise into your life.
As you look for ways to turn your normal daily activities into mini-exercise periods, you’ll discover more and more chores that can be done vigorously and with beneficial results.
As Dr. Shelton reminds us, “The total activities of the day, and not merely the short time spent in formal exercise, are involved in the development of the body; hence it is important that all activity be performed correctly and with a view toward improving the total organism.”
No matter how good we become at including vigorous activities into our normal job and other daily routines, a formal exercise program is still an absolute necessity for radiant health.
This is where the difficulties begin. People resist making changes in their lifestyle, especially changes that may take up more time and require concentrated and dedicated physical effort. Mention to an overweight and sedentary adult that he or she will have to start running and lifting weights for an hour-and-a-half starting tomorrow and you’ll probably lose a client.
Sudden changes in a lifestyle can be difficult, and even moreso when formal exercise is viewed as hard work or distasteful. The first step is always the hardest, so it may be wise to adapt a sensible approach when either you or one of your clients begins making regular and formalized exercise a part of the daily routine. Fortunately, there is an easy way of introducing exercise and vigorous activity into everyone’s normal lifestyle. It’s something that most people start doing after the first few months of life: walking.
Walking: The All-Around Exercise
Perhaps no form of exercise can be so universally recommended as a good brisk walk. Walking may be done safely by people of all ages and in all states of health. It requires no special equipment or location, and is completely benign in its effects.
More importantly, walking is an exercise that can be worked into everyone’s lifestyle, no matter how busy the schedule. Walk to work, walk to the store, walk to a friend’s home, walk around the block, through the neighborhood, and across town. There is no other form of exercise that can be so safely and easily integrated into one’s daily activities as the occasional walk.
For walking to be an effective form of exercise, generally an hour or more each day is required. This hour may be worked up to by splitting the time into two thirty-minute periods, three twenty-minute sessions, or even four fifteen-minute outings if the person is old or out of shape. Unlike other forms of exercise, walking may even be engaged in right before or after a meal. Indeed, studies have shown that a walk after a meal aids in controlling the weight.
Although even slow and leisurely walking will have some beneficial effects, a brisk walk done at a fast clip will provide more benefits in a shorter time. “Speed walking” or race-walking (which is actually an Olympic event) can yield the same results as jogging for the same length of time and at a considerably less chance of foot or knee injury.
Walking not only benefits the legs and lower body, but it actually strengthens and firms the body, expands the chest and lung capacity, and corrects the posture from top to bottom. Chronic neck problems, including whiplash, have been gently corrected simply by regular and lengthy
Yet for all the benefits of walking, few people make it part of their regular lifestyle. The automobile saves us time, but at a cost to our well-being. Any daily trip which is less than one mile should certainly be walked instead of driven. If you live within five miles of your job, then you may profitably walk to work by simply leaving your home 45 minutes to an hour earlier.
In Europe, walking vacations are quite popular. Each day you walk fifteen to twenty-five miles, seeing the sights as only you can on foot, and then resting in the evening at a hotel. Primitive man was basically a walking, food-gathering creature. He migrated north to south, south to north, during the fruit-growing seasons, walking from berry bush to fruit tree, eating, moving, and receiving nourishment and exercise from his natural surroundings.
Not only may walking be used in a regular exercise program, it can also be part of an overall, health-restoring lifestyle. Consider the story of Milton Feher of New York City:
“I was a dancer whose career was smashed by arthritis in the knees. An eminent orthopedist explained that I would never be able to dance again because cartilage in my knee had been destroyed through excessive ballet jumping. More than 20 chiropractic treatments made no difference. Nineteen injections failed to relieve me of my constant pain.
“I was a sorrowful ex-dancer as I hobbled miserably in Times Square one day, thinking of my dancing career that had been stolen from me. As I shuffled about, each step drawing pain, I started to pull my body up into a straight posture. I consciously aligned my body from neck to foot, relaxed, and then walked very purposefully in an erect manner, without tipping my head or trunk side to side. “I felt no pain in my knees! As soon as I slumped or let my posture go, the pain returned with each step. For the next three years, I walked, walked, walked, all the time maintaining the best erect posture possible, yet without tension or strain.
“Now 15 years later, I can run 9 miles in the morning and lead vigorous dancing classes in the evening. The main source of my constantly-increasing strength is a continuous improvement in the effortless straightening of my posture by devoted, regular walking for hours at a stretch.”
There is no doubt that walking is an excellent corrective, as well as preventive, exercise. “I’d be out of business within a week,” a chiropractor once told me, “if everybody would throw away their car keys and just walk. Almost all the complaints I see are from people who are too sedentary. Walking is the most natural way I know of adjusting and realigning the spine which obviates the need for manipulation.” Let’s look a little closer at how daily walking as part of your lifestyle can not only strengthen you, but also improve the posture and tighten the abdomen.
Modern man developed his erect posture because he is a walker. Primitive man was round-shouldered, short-necked, and his head jutted forward, ahead of his feet. Through thousands of years of walking, man’s spine and posture was gradually straightened.
When walking is neglected and is no longer part of your daily lifestyle, the posture is the first to go. As a person sits more and walks less, the head droops forward and pulls the spine with it. This slumping is then accelerated by gravity, and you become round-shouldered, hunched over—much like the primitive caveman who once scampered on all fours.
Another side effect of neglecting walking and hence developing poor posture is that the abdominal muscles become weakened. Walking is an excellent “tummy tightener.” The abdominal muscles are attached to the entire lower border of the front of the chest. They cover the entire abdomen and are attached to the upper border of the front of the pelvis. When they are strengthened and in good position by years of proper posture and regular walking, they prevent the organs in the abdominal cavity from slipping and sliding forward. The more they protrude, the weaker they grow as the muscles become stretched permanently. Strong abdominal muscles, insured by regular walking, hold you together to be more graceful, skillful and stronger in all activities.
Regardless of the exercise program you now follow, walking should be a part of it. And if you have yet to develop a regular program of daily exercise, walking is the easiest and most effective way to begin. The road to health is a simple one to follow—it’s only two feet in front of you.
The Three Rules of Exercise
So far you’ve learned how vigorous activity may be incorporated into your life through your job, your normal daily activities, and by simply making walking an important part of your daily routine. We’ve really said very little about a formalized exercise program, however. To make sure that you get the type of intense activity that your body requires, it will be necessary to develop a daily exercise program. This program should become part of your daily lifestyle—something that you do without fail, just as you eat, sleep, and relax every day.
As you develop your regular exercise regimen, keep these three rules of exercise in mind:
To insure health and well-being, exercise must be
Progressive Exercise: Setting Your Goals
Progressive exercise means that you progress from easy to more vigorous activity as your strength and capabilities increase. For example, if you start by lifting twenty-pound weights for exercise, then you should gradually increase the amount of weight lifted so that you might be using thirty- or forty-pound weights as your strength increases. If you walk a half-mile each day, then perhaps increase the distance to a mile or two miles as your stamina develops.
For exercise to be effective, moderate demands must be made on the body. Since a healthy body responds so well to exercise, you must gradually increase the time and effort spent for each activity. On the other hand, do not make the mistake of thinking “a little is good, so a lot is better.” Dr. Herbert M. Shelton has observed that: “Progression in exertion should keep pace with the increasing strength and vigor of the body; it should be made step by step and not by leaps and bounds. Excessively prolonged exercise can be almost as injurious as violent exertion.”
When we develop our lifelong exercise program, we must allow for progression. We must set and reach new goals. We must make sure that our daily exercise program allows for change and progress and that we do not become locked into the same routine series of activities that present no new challenges. At the same time, we must make sure that our beginning exercise program is not, overly ambitious, otherwise we may become discouraged or extend ourselves past the current limits of our capabilities.
To help you begin and plan a vigorous activity program, you should first determine your own maximum heart rate. You don’t want to push yourself past this maximum rate; at the same time, you want to make sure that you are exercising intensely enough to raise your heartbeat rate to within a high, safe range of that upper limit.
The accepted formula for figuring out your own maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. If you are 60 years old, then your maximum heart rate would be 160 (220 minus 60). If you’re eighteen years old, then your maximum rate would be as high as 202. You can measure your elevated heart rate by first performing a few minutes of vigorous activity and then counting your pulse rate at the wrist or simply feel your heart beat and count the beats for one minute (or more simply, count the number of beats for fifteen seconds and then multiply by four).
For safety’s sake, some physicians recommend that you stay within 60 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate when doing vigorous exercise. For a sixty-year-old, this would mean a pulse rate of about 96 beats per minute. On the other hand, Dr. James A. Blumenthal of the Duke University Preventive Approach to Cardiology says that his older heart patients often safely reach 70 to 85 percent of their maximum rate.
Regardless of the upper limit you choose (60 to 85% of your maximum heart rate), you should work up to it gradually in a series of progressive exercises. Each week, extend the program either in time or intensity so that a slightly higher pulse rate is reached at the end of a vigorous exercise set. Remember that we are not in a race to health, but we should always feel that we are making a steady, strong progress in our daily exercise.
With the rule of progression in mind, we should devise a daily exercise program that will allow for either increasing periods of time or intensity of effort while at the same time taking care not to be overly ambitious or unrealistic in establishing our goals.
Systematic Exercise: The Body as a Whole
The second consideration in planning a lifestyle that includes vigorous activity is that the exercise chosen must be systematic. Systematic exercise is simply an activity that conditions all areas of the body. For example, a combined program of running or walking along with weightlifting and bending and flexing exercises is a collection of systematic activities that call upon every muscle in the body.
Too often people choose only a single favorite form of exercise or sports, such as swimming or tennis, and use it to the exclusion of all other exercise activities. There is a danger in this because it is rare that any single form of exercise activity will provide the full range of movements that is needed to condition the entire body.
“But I like bowling! It’s good exercise because I can do it in the winter as well as the summer, and lifting that heavy bowling ball and tossing it down the alley sixty or seventy times a day gives me a good workout.” The elderly woman was defending her favorite form of recreational activity—bowling—as sufficient exercise.
“But look at the muscles you use in your game,” I responded. “You use only your right hand and arm to wing and release the ball, you go through the exact same range of limited motion, and the only parts of your body that get a workout are a few muscles in one arm and on one side of your body. Bowling is fine for recreation and relaxation, but it cannot qualify as an all-around life-long exercise activity. Now if you jogged down to the bowling alley each day with your bowling ball…” I began to joke.
She got my point. We must carefully select the exercise program to complement our other daily activities and work. As Dr. Shelton urges: “The exercise program should include movements that counteract the deforming tendencies of our daily work activities while at the same time exercising the unused portions of the body. Most of our sports, our different forms of work, and almost all of our daily activities are so one-sided and specialized that we become misshapen and underdeveloped.”
To make sure that our daily exercise program is systematic, a few rules should be observed. First, there must always be at least a fifteen- to thirty-minute period of vigorous conditioning, aerobic activity. This would include such exercises as jogging, brisk walking, intense swimming, fast bicycling, even repeated stair climbing or hill hiking. Whatever the exercise may be, it must make the heart beat faster, the pulse increase, the breathing deepen, and the entire metabolism quicken. This pace should be maintained as long as comfortable, with an eventual goal of twenty to thirty minutes or longer. In the beginning, work up to such intense activity gradually. Increase your speed and time as your body responds favorably.
Second, there should be a period of exercise that stretches the many unused muscles of the body. Back bends, leg stretches, pull-ups, sit-ups, neck rolls, and twisting are essential for a well-rounded exercise program. An excellent series of such all-around exercises may be found in Dr. Herbert Shelton’s book Exercise!Such exercises should be selected to balance out other daily activities and other exercise programs. For example, students and writers who bend over a desk all day should make sure that back bending exercises are used to compensate for the forward, stooped-over position assumed while reading or writing.
People who choose to run or walk as their primary exercise should also include a sequence of exercises to work the upper portion of the body, such as weight-lifting or a racquet sport.
Third, there should be a final sequence of exercises or daily activity that requires coordination and balance. Many sports and recreational activities require hand-to-eye coordination, such as hitting a baseball, tossing a horseshoe, or even bowling a strike. While this type of activity does not provide the conditioning that vigorous exercising such as jogging delivers, it does help to relax and balance the mind. This group of exercises include most sports and athletics which, while fine ways to relax and play, should always be used in tandem with concentrated vigorous activities. Gardening, too, like sports and athletics, may also be classified as a relaxing and balancing form of exercise and activity that may be used to complement an intensive daily workout.
Using these three criteria, what might a daily program of exercise look like? Here are two Life Scientist’s approach, one is a young man of twenty-four; the other is a sixty-seven year old woman:
Sample Exercise Regimens
Male, 24 years
Monday – Wednesday – Friday
Jogging/Sprinting (mornings) – 45 minutes
Weightlifting, upper body – 30 minutes
Tuesday – Thursday – Saturday
Swimming (summer)/Bicycling (winter) – 30 minutes
Weightlifting, lower body (Thursday/Saturday) – 30 minutes
Racquetball (Tuesday & Saturday) – 30 minutes
Soccer League Game – 90 minutes
Warm-up and Morning Flex-stretching – 15 minutes
The above exercise program yields approximately one-hour-and-fifteen minutes to one-hour-and-a-half of activity per day. Notice that each day Usually contains activities that build both strength and endurance. In addition, he follows a daily stretching routine in the morning which incorporates selected exercises from Dr. Shelton’s series of recommended exercises from the book Exercise!. The racquetball games build upper body strength and coordination, while the weekly soccer game provides lower body conditioning. He usually breaks his exercises up into a morning and evening set of activities, about thirty minutes or so in length.
Female, 67 years
Monday – Wednesday – Friday
Brisk walking (mornings) – 30 minutes
Walking/Hiking, slowly (evenings) – 45 minutes
Tuesday – Thursday – Saturday
Gardening; digging, hoeing, weed pulling – 2 hours
Swimming (summer) – 30 minutes
Moderate walking (winter) – 30 minutes
Bowling – 90 minutes
Stretching, yoga, sit-ups – 20 minutes
An exercise program for an older person must be somewhat different than for a young person. Walking is used more as a form of exercise, athletics are not emphasized, and such recreational/outdoor activities as gardening are highlighted. Notice, however, that a full hour to hour-and-a-half of time is still allotted for moderately-vigorous activity that will use all the muscles in the body.
Whatever exercises you choose for yourself, always keep in mind that for a program to be truly effective, it must include vigorous activity that calls all of our muscles into play. It must affect the body as a whole; it must be systematic, thorough, and responsive to all the needs of the body, neither over- nor underdeveloping any part of the body to the detriment of the entire organism.
Get The Habit!
Remember that an exercise program should be progressive, systematic, and habitual. Perhaps that most important of these three for an insured successful exercise regimen is that it be habitual. If you make vigorous activity a daily habit, then you’re sure to make progress and eventually exercise the entire body. On the other hand, if you don’t perform your exercise set on a day-to-day basis, then it doesn’t matter how difficult or thorough it may be.
The only way to devise a lifestyle that includes vigorous activity is to exercise at a fixed time each day. It may be in the morning before breakfast or at night before bed or even during your lunch hour. The important thing is that you schedule your vigorous activity at a standard, regular time and then do not deviate or make excuses.
Most people find the early morning hours to be the best time for regular exercise. By doing your exercises the first thing in the day, you can’t ignore or postpone it, or conveniently “run out of time” later in the day. The most common reason an exercise program fails is that a person will skip it “for just one day” and then for two days, and three days, and finally he’s no longer exercising but simply making up excuses.
If you make a firm promise to do some sort of exercise every day and at a regulartime, then it will be more difficult to put off. “Lack of time,” writes Dr. Shelton, “is perhaps the most frequently-used explanation for avoiding exercise. Yet women may spend more time each day applying makeup than it would take to get some significant exercise, while men feel that it’s more important to read the sports section of the newspaper than it is to actually be active and vigorous.”
Lack of time is always cited as the excuse for not making exercise a regularly-scheduled part of the day’s activities. No one, no matter how “busy” or important, cannot afford to make a small amount of time for so vitally an important an activity. Even the presidents of the United States, who certainly must be counted as among the “busiest” people in the world, find time in their packed schedules for regular exercise.
If you truly feel that your day is already so filled that you can’t exercise on a regular basis, then try these tricks to get more quality time into your life:
- Get up thirty minutes earlier, or go to bed thirty minutes later. Use that extra half hour or hour at the beginning and end of the day for your own exercise period. The vigor and energy that such exercising provides will more than adequately compensate for that lost thirty minutes of sleep.
- Skip breakfast or lunch, and eat a piece of fruit later in the day in place of one of these meals. Use this meal time period as an exercise period instead. (Isn’t it funny that the same people who say they have no time for exercise always manage to make time for a full three meals a day?) Vigorous activity actually delays hunger since it brings fuel from the liver into the bloodstream, and you’ll soon discover that a lunch hour spent exercising leaves you more invigorated than if you ate a heavy meal.
- Keep an hourly schedule of what you do each day. Write down everything. Do you spend an hour watching news on television? Thirty minutes shopping? Ten minutes driving to the store? Write it all down. Now look and see how much time/you’re actually “wasting.” You will have no difficulty finding an extra thirty minutes to an hour each day that could better be used by exercising.
People who say that they have no time for exercise are not thinking logically. If you exercise regularly, you’ll live much longer and have years of added time to your life.
Exercising doesn’t take time away; it gives you more time, better health, and a higher quality of life.
Besides lack of time, another obstacle to overcome in making exercising a daily habit is inertia, or just getting started. Kelly Kessing, a fitness and nutrition specialist in Philadelphia, has her own strategy for overcoming inertia.
“You’ve got to seduce yourself into going out there,” she says. “For instance, if the idea of walking or running intimidates you, just don’t tell yourself that you’re going for a walk or jog. Don’t pressure yourself. Put on your sweatsuit or walking shorts and a pair of comfortable shoes. Just say, ‘Maybe I’ll go for a walk or take a short jog, or maybe I won’t.’ Then just go outside to a park and start to saunter about. Maybe pick up the pace, and before you know it, you’ll have slipped all the way into full-fledged exercise without feeling that you had to force yourself.”
Another approach is to make a firm commitment to yourself. Write a note on your calendar or write on a piece of paper that “I will start my exercise program on Monday at 8 a.m.” Then keep that promise as if it were the most important appointment in your life, because it is.
Another trick that some people use to make exercising a regular daily habit is to penalize themselves if they miss a day on purpose. For example, one Life Scientist has this unusual method to make sure he keeps his exercising promise:
“I have a jar at home that I stuff a $5 bill into for every day that I skip exercising. At the end of that month, I take whatever money is in the jar and send it to the American Cattlemen’s Association. As a vegetarian, this is the one group that I would hate most to support. So you see, I’m blackmailing myself. If I don’t exercise, the only people who profit are the meat-producers. They’ve only gotten $10 from me this year. Any day that I think about blowing off my exercise, I think about giving my hard-earned cash to those days, and it always gets me out of bed.”
So whatever it takes—promises, schedules, or blackmail—make sure that your lifestyle includes the regular vigorous activity that you need for superior health and well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if I'm getting enough vigorous activity in my life?
You should perform some activity that requires a concentrated effort of both mind and muscles. You should be breathing deeply, your heartbeat should be accelerated, and you should probably have a light film of perspiration, even in cool weather. You should experience this "conditioning" effect for at least ten to fifteen minutes, and preferably twenty to thirty minutes. After a vigorous activity is completed, you should still be in a state of accelerated metabolism (moderate heart and pulse beat, slightly deepened breathing) for another five to ten minutes.
As a practical rule, if you have difficulty sleeping at night, experience constipation, or feel continually fatigued and lacking in vigor, then you may also be sure that you probably are not receiving enough vigorous activity.
I'm fine on any exercise program—for the first two weeks. Then I find myself making excuses and finally I'm hack to where I started, a weekend athlete. Any suggestions?
This is why it is so vital to make exercise and a vigorous activity period a normal part of your life—not simply something that you add to your day or do when you have "extra" time.
The most effective way to get exercise into your life—and make it stay there—is to do it as soon as you get out of bed. Before you eat breakfast, before you go to work, before you wake up the kids or read the paper, go and exercise.
If you make exercise an essential part of your daily activities, at the beginning of the day, then you won't start to skip it. Most exercise programs fail because people try to work it into their schedules. Instead, revise and start a brand-new schedule. Treat that morning (or evening) exercise period as something you have to do; it's not an option, but a necessity.
You may have to be a little compulsive at first, and really( exercise your willpower and self-discipline. Reward yourself, punish yourself, but promise yourself that the time you have decided as your exercise period is sacred and will not be sacrificed according to whim or any other superceeding responsibility.