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Primary Principles of Exercise: Aerobic, Interval, Strength, Core

April 28, 2009 | 148,323 views
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I went to medical school in large part because I wanted to use exercise as a therapeutic tool to help people get healthier. I strongly believe that without fitness, it is virtually impossible to achieve optimal health.
 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Exercising is one of the most important activities you can do for your health. However,  just as your diet, variety is the key. It’s important to vary your exercise routine in order to get the absolute best results. 

Your muscles simply get used to the same activity and they require a level of muscle confusion if they are to continue to improve and grow stronger.

I’ve been exercising for over 40 years, but for much of it I focused on running, or cardio exercise. While this is an important type, there are others that are equally if not more important, namely strength training, developing your core muscles, and interval training.

Last year, in fact, I hired a personal trainer twice a week and have been learning a large variety of exercises which provide total body fitness and do not involve running or, for that matter, the use of any significant equipment. Simply by changing up your routine often, you challenge your body in different ways, work different muscle groups and get the best overall conditioning effect.

I actually had my trainer use my digital camera to take short clips of me doing the exercises so I now have close to 150 video clips of different exercises that I can use to vary my regimen. I will typically do about 15 of them during a session.

Although I highly recommend finding a personal trainer to help you reach your fitness goals, if you cannot afford it or live in an area without access to one, you can still reap the benefits of exercise if you focus on varying your routine.

I am in the process of hiring a professional trainer to develop a section of the site where we can have these types of videos available for you.

Four Principles of Exercise

Your body is an efficient machine, and if you do the same type of exercise day after day, you’ll become quite good at it. However, when exercise becomes easy to complete, it’s a sign you need to work a little harder and give your body a new challenge.

So when you’re planning your exercise routine, make sure it incorporates the following types of exercise:

1. Aerobic: Jogging, using an elliptical machine, and walking fast are all examples of aerobic exercise. As you get your heart pumping, the amount of oxygen in your blood improves, and endorphins, which act as natural painkillers, increase. Meanwhile, aerobic exercise activates your immune system, helps your heart pump blood more efficiently, and increases your stamina over time.

2. Interval (Anaerobic) Training: Research is showing that the BEST way to condition your heart and burn fat is NOT to jog or walk steadily for an hour. Instead, it’s to alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods. That is one of the primary reasons I am so fond of the exercises my personal trainer has been showing me.

This type of exercise, known as interval training or burst type training, can dramatically improve your cardiovascular fitness and fat-burning capabilities.

Another major benefit of this approach is that it radically decreases the amount of time you spend exercising, while giving you even more benefits. For example, intermittent sprinting produces high levels of chemical compounds called catecholamines, which allow more fat to be burned from under your skin within the exercising muscles. The resulting increase in fat oxidation increases weight loss. So, short bursts of activity done at a very high intensity can help you reach your optimal weight and level of fitness, in a shorter amount of time.

3. Strength Training: Rounding out your exercise program with a 1-set strength training routine will ensure that you're really optimizing the possible health benefits of a regular exercise program.

You need enough repetitions to exhaust your muscles. The weight should be heavy enough that this can be done in fewer than 12 repetitions, yet light enough to do a minimum of four repetitions. It is also important NOT to exercise the same muscle groups every day. They need at least two days of rest to recover, repair and rebuild.

4. Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability.

Exercise programs like pilates and yoga are great for strengthening your core muscles, as are specific exercises you can learn from a personal trainer.

You might be aware that I have recently become interested in Ayurvedic medicine, and yoga is an important element of that. In March I visited the Miraval Health Resort in Tucson and had a great introduction to yoga and am now committed to applying that as a regular discipline in my life and will start seeking yoga instruction very soon.

Focusing on your breath and mindfulness along with increasing your flexibility is an important element of total fitness.

For more information on how to use exercise as a drug, including proper intensity and duration, read through this comprehensive article Exercise to Improve Your Body and Brain.

Is Staying Motivated an Issue for You?

More than half of U.S. adults don’t get the recommended amount of exercise, and one out of four don’t exercise at all.

The most common reason why people say they don’t exercise?

A lack of time.

Unfortunately, not enough people are willing to arrange their schedules around exercise, and this is due to something much deeper than time management -- it’s due to psychological resistance.

No matter what reason you have for not exercising – feeling it’s too hard, getting bored with your routine, not knowing where to start – you can help yourself get into a more positive frame of mind by giving the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) a try. It can help you remove the negative emotional blocks that are preventing you from successfully implementing your program.

Further, instead of focusing on the negatives, like the work and the time it takes to stay active, focus on how great you’ll feel once exercise becomes a regular part of your life.

In case you weren’t aware, exercise does far more than just assist in weight loss. I’m going to list some of the many, many things exercise can do for your mind and body.

Go ahead and print this list out, send it to your exercise buddy or take it with you to the gym. Then, whenever you’re thinking of quitting, take a look. These benefits are just too good to pass up.

15 Ways Exercise Can Improve Your Health