Take it to the Next Level


Want to live longer, feel better and be happier? Get a better night’s sleep? Feel less stress? And (wink) improve your love life? We have what you need, and it’s scientifically proven—guaranteed!

Does it sound as if we’re hawking snake oil here? Nah, we’re talking about exercise, plain and simple. And it’s hard to overstate just how good it is for you. So whether you’re a longtime couch potato trying to extract yourself from the sectional or a power walker looking to ramp things up, now is the time to take yourself to the next level and see how good you can feel.

Level: Sedentary
WHICH MEANS: Like more than 60 percent of Americans, according to the U.S. surgeon general, you get little or no regular physical activity.

TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL: Chances are, you don’t think you have the time or the stamina to exercise. The good news is, you don’t need much of either to start.
“Baby steps are better than no steps,” says Tedd Mitchell, M.D., co-author of Move Yourself. “Minimal amounts of activity done consistently start to provide you tremendous health benefits.” 

Mitchell often starts his patients off on a laughably modest three-minute walk a day. “That’s not going to do much in terms of health,” he says, “but over six weeks, it establishes exercise as a habit.”

Once you’re in the groove, gradually increase the pace and duration of your routine. Just as important, according to Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise, is for sedentary folks to ignore those infomercials promising “buns of steel,” and instead focus on what he calls “living a better day”—having more energy, sleeping better, being in an overall better mood. “With exercise, that’s where you see the most immediate results,” he says.

Level: Moderate
WHICH MEANS: You get some physical activity—maybe at work, maybe walking the dog—but you don’t “exercise.”

TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL: Here’s what the science says: If you want to significantly reduce your risk for all sorts of health-related problems (heart disease, certain cancers, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression), you need 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five times a week. But what does that mean?

Moderate-intensity, according to Mitchell, is any activity that causes you to breathe heavier and perspire a bit, but isn’t so intense that you can’t carry on a conversation. And it doesn’t have to be 30 consecutive minutes—you can break it up into, say, three 10-minute sessions.

Pick something you enjoy doing, Bryant says, or you’ll never stick with it. If jogging or cycling bore you, try something else. Take up salsa dancing (Ole!). Or think about multitasking: Download an audiobook and listen to it on a power walk. Finding a partner or signing up for a class can help keep you motivated.

Level: Advanced
WHICH MEANS: You have your routine down pat—every day at 6 a.m., you have your Nikes on.

TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL: If you think your workout is getting a little stale, chances are your body does, too. At this level, Mitchell says, “you don’t need to exercise harder; you need to exercise smarter.”

Doing the same thing over and over works certain areas of your body and leaves others neglected. Your body becomes so efficient doing one activity that you actually burn fewer calories.

If you’re a runner, vary your runs: Do sprints one day interspersed with short breaks, followed the next day by a longer, hillier run. And definitely consider cross training. Mix up your cardio regimen with a little cycling or swimming. Introduce some sort of resistance training. Consider working with a certified personal trainer, even if for a few sessions, to add variety to your workout and improve on areas you may have overlooked. And, although it may sound counterintuitive, allow yourself short breaks from working out, Bryant says, like vacations and holidays. “You’ll feel that much more refreshed when you return to your regular routine.” 


Expert Help
Visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/fitnessprogram or call 678-312-2810 to set up an appointment with a GMC exercise specialist.

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