By Anne Keckler | February 1, 2008
You’ve probably read all the benefits of exercise. You know they all say, “You’ll feel better and have more energy!” If you’re out of shape and you’ve ever tried to exercise, you know the truth. You know how you huff and puff and sweat through a session. You don’t enjoy it, and you never want to do it again.
Later, or the next day, you are sore. You’re tired. You don’t feel better, and you certainly don’t have more energy! You suffer through it, exercising every day, or every few days. But you soon give up because you’re wiped out all the time. Maybe you conclude that there must be something wrong with you, because you still don’t feel better, and you have less energy than ever. The scale isn’t moving, or it’s barely moving. You give up and decide that exercise works for other people, but it’s just not worth it to you.
Wait a minute!
You can get the benefits of exercise! These benefits include:
- Longer life
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced risk of diabetes
- Reduced risk of developing high blood pressure
- Reduced risk of colon cancer
- Reduction of blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure
- Fewer mood swings and feelings of depression and anxiety
- Control of body weight
- Healthier bones, muscles, and joints
- Strength and agility for everyday tasks
- A sense of psychological well-being
- Better sleep, which in itself confers health benefits
- And yes, exercise can give you energy and make you feel better… eventually, and if you do it right
How can you get all of these benefits, including having more energy and feeling better?
First, be sure you are getting an efficient workout. You want to get the most results for the amount of time you spend, rather than wasting hours upon hours for little payback. I recommend you find activities you enjoy, and find a way to raise your heartrate at intervals while doing them. By intervals, I mean you don’t want to get your heartrate up and keep it there. Get it up, and then take a bit of a breather, then get it back up there again. I’m not going to go into detail in this article, but another time I’ll discuss interval training in depth. For now, just think about getting your heartrate up for a minute or two, then go at a slower pace for a minute or two, and repeat. You can do this with dancing, walking/running, bicycling, water aerobics or swimming, jumping rope, climbing stairs, etc.
Also, you should do some kind of resistance exercise. So many people join a gym and use the machines, or do hundreds of bicep curls, not really knowing what they’re doing. They put in their time, week after week, month after month, for years, and never get results.
For best results, do compound exercises. These are the ones that work multiple joints, such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, pullups, etc. I can hear you all asking, “But won’t I get all bulky if I do that? I’ll end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger!” No, you won’t. You won’t because you cannot get that bulky by accident. It’s not just the kind of exercises you do that get you bulky, but you have to have the diet and everything else (including, for most people, the steroid injections) to get that big. So don’t fear the weights!
These exercises will give you the strength and agility you need for everyday tasks. They will build bone mass, and help prevent injuries. They will help you to remain independent into your later years. And, combined with the interval cardio I mentioned in the previous paragraph, they will help you to lose weight and look and feel great in the shortest amount of time. If you are unsure of how to do these exercises properly, I recommend you find a professional to teach you.
To avoid fatigue and burnout, you’ll need to pay attention to your diet.
First, consider your protein intake. Aim for about one gram of protein per day per pound of lean body mass. Did I lose you there? Okay, just aim for about one gram of protein per day per pound of weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, try to get about 150 grams of protein each day. A little less is fine, but not under 100 grams, at any rate.
Get the rest of your calories from quality, complex carbohydrates and good fats. You probably know that complex carbohydrates come from vegetables and whole grains. Try to get a little of each with every meal, if you possibly can. A whole grain muffin or toast with breakfast is a great idea. Make it a habit to eat a salad every day. If you find that you need more fiber after that, take a psyllium fiber supplement of some kind every day to help you feel full and keep your intestinal tract healthy. These small habits will give you big payoffs.
You probably can’t avoid saturated fat altogether, but be sure to get unsaturated fats. Do omit transfats from your diet entirely, though. Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. There is nothing good about transfats. Read ingredient labels and avoid anything with hydrogenated fat or oil; that’s the trans fat. If you don’t get enough Omega 3 fatty acids from your diet, from fish, English walnuts, olive oil, or flax seed, you might consider taking fish oil capsules. Getting adequate amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids will decrease your risk of various diseases, and there is evidence that it helps with weight loss.
Finally, drink plenty of water. I cannot stress this enough. Drink before you feel thirsty. Mild dehydration will cause headaches and fatigue. You need even more water than usual when you exercise, and the best way to get enough fluids is to drink water.
What exactly is adequate rest? The number of hours of sleep needed varies by individual. The average still seems to be eight hours per twenty-four hour period, but if you don’t feel rested with that amount you may need more. Experiment to find the right amount of sleep for you. You may need more when you are stressed, or when you begin a new exercise program.
Be sure you are getting quality sleep. If you drink alcohol or take a pill to help you rest, it may be damaging the quality of your sleep. These things seem to help you fall asleep, but they may prevent you from getting adequate rest. I also find that an afternoon nap helps my energy level. For more about how napping can increase your energy, check out this article on “Power Napping, and How to Do It.”
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