The Best Way to Get in Shape and Stay in Shape
Even if it’s not time for New Year’s resolutions, every so often I get questions from patients asking what’s the best way to get in shape. It’s actually easier than you think. If you’re looking for a workout routine that’ll help you lose weight, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of cancer, boost your mood, strengthen your bones, and reduce insulin resistance decreasing risk for diabetes, than look no further than your sneakers. You don’t have to sign up for some mega-intense sweat session; all you need to do is go for a brisk walk.
Walking is one of the safest and most effective modes of exercise, and it’s never too late to reap the benefits it provides. When you do moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, your muscles use glucose to fuel your workout. This lowers your blood sugar levels and mobilizes stored fat for hours after your activity, and it’s so easy to do.
Walking blasts fat, especially the dangerous visceral fat that accumulates deep inside your abdomen. It can also alleviate symptoms of depression. In fact, in a clinical study of middle-aged women with depression who walked about 200 minutes a week, significantly more energy and better moods were reported in the walking group than those more sedentary.
It may also reduce your risk of developing diabetes-related complications such as nerve damage (neuropathy). Walking also improves your circulation (if you don’t use it, you lose it). The greater demands on your muscles causes an increase in peripheral circulation not only in the feet and legs, but all over your body.
Research shows that moderate-intensity exercise may be better than vigorous activity when it comes to managing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. It may be that very intense exercise causes the body to make more stress hormones such as cortisol, increasing blood sugar, or simply that it makes you hungrier, so you end up eating more and thus raise your blood sugar.
I recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity brisk walking each week. You should spread it over at least three days a week, with no more than 48 hours without activity, since the effects of exercise last only a day or two.
If you’re sedentary, start slowly, and begin with five minutes of walking a day. Each week or two, add another five minutes until you’re walking somewhere in the range of 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. If you have a condition that puts you at risk for falls, consider walking on a treadmill so you can hold on to the handlebars, or use a walking stick when you’re outdoors.
If you are a seasoned walker already, you can bring it up a notch by throwing in some interval training. This can be as simple as adding a few hills to your walk or speeding up the pace a various points. Be mindful to stand straight with your shoulders rolled back, swinging your arms freely with a slight bend in your elbows.
Also, to raise your resting metabolic rate and increase the effectiveness of your aerobic activity, add in some interval resistance training. If you are a beginner in resistance training, get some coaching and supervision when you start and use machines, rather than free weights, to lessen the risk of injury. And ladies, you do not need to be concerned about obtaining muscle bulk, but you will increase strength and muscle tone
Start with a walking routine and stick with it. Track your progress and find a walking pal. Walk whenever you can fit it in, but a short stroll after eating is great for diabetics. And as a bonus, know that shedding extra pounds, especially while your young, may protect you against cancer.
Stay fit and stay healthy!
Dr. Tippett is the founder of Comprehensive Quality Healthcare Providers, a concierge internal medicine practice located at 1210 Commerce Dr. Suite 106, Greensboro, Ga. 30642. He can be reached at 706-510-3659. Visit his webpage at www.drtippett.com