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“Fitness” needs a makeover. It’s not about the size of your muscles, how fast you can run, or how much you weigh. There are plenty of physically fit people who are unhappy, eternally pessimistic, and drained of spirit. True fitness starts with emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finding Your Level of Fitness

by Mark Allen

One of the first questions about exercise that people have is how much they should actually do. Is 20-minutes a day, three times a week enough? How about overdoing it? Is a daylong bike ride too much? I want to lose weight. How much exercise do I need to do to accomplish that? Here are a few suggestions that will address all of these questions.

The first level of exercise goes something like this: any amount is better than none! If you are completely sedentary, even going for a short walk occasionally will be better than never doing a thing. There is basically no negative to small amounts of exercise and usually a positive response in overall health and wellbeing.

Next up is the amount that will give you the greatest benefits in terms of longevity. This comes about when a person burns about 300 calories per day through exercise, through moving their body. This is about the equivalent of walking or jogging 2.5-3 miles or doing any kind of aerobic activity for around 30-45 minutes, at a comfortable moderate pace.

You can take this to the next big gain by doing some form of exercise up to about one hour most days of the week. Research has shown that those who both live the longest and have optimal health have adopted this level of consistency with their movement and exercise. Again, that is one hour of exercise most days of the week. This can be done all in one shot, or if you are like many people, they find that breaking it up into two shorter sessions throughout the day is of equal physiological benefit and can actually help keep the feeling of Fit Soul intact from morning to night by offering a few chances throughout the day to take a true break from the responsibilities of life and get outside to absorb the beauty of life going on day and night.

Can a person put in too much exercise time? Definitely! What level this is will certainly be based on your current fitness. But if you are one of the select few who have tons of time to devote to exercise, the cutoff of true positive benefit seems to happen at about three hours. Over three hours of exercise in a day has shown to reduce immune function. So proceed with one eye on your overall health if this is the category you are in.

Is exercise the solution to weight loss? It can certainly be part of the answer, but research is now showing that it is usually not the entire solution, that is unless you are one of those who is fit enough to fall in that last category of training several hours each day. You can think of it in these terms. A pound of fat stores 3,500 calories. A 160 lb person would have to run just over a marathon in order to burn that amount of calories, and this is just to lose one pound of body fat. If you have say 50 extra, well, you can do the math. It's a lot of exercise and for most people, between lifestyle commitments and bodies that may just not cooperate with three hour training sessions, looking to exercise to be THE answer to weight loss is unrealistic. In such cases, nutrition becomes the missing piece of the puzzle. (more of this in our book and in future issues)

However, exercise can definitely be part of the solution. Adding lean muscle through exercise helps burn more calories even when you are sitting still. Burning even a few more calories daily through exercise can assist in body composition changes by supporting any reduction in portion size a person makes. And most of all, exercise is definitely a big factor in gaining a Fit Body, which creates a more positive mood, which then gives one more energy and the ability to seek out healthy choices in all areas of life, which is a very positive feedback loop!

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