The U.S. Public Health Services has concluded that fewer that 20% of adults get enough regular exercise and 40% are entirely sedentary. Even more surprising, ongoing research shows there is a youth fitness crisis. Our nation’s children have increased risk of heart disease due to too much body fat, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, and poor fitness, which is caused by lack of exercise.


Why Exercise?

Exercise should not be exhausting and unbearable. It should be exhilarating, uplifting and fun! The main reason people exercise is to lose weight. Although this is a nice result of exercise, there are many reasons our body NEEDS exercise. Exercise…..

lowers blood pressure improves heat regulation strengthens tendons and ligaments
thickens cartilage increases muscle strength decreases body fat
increases bone density improves lung efficiency increases O2 extraction from blood
lowers heart rate increases hemoglobin production strengthens immunity
enhances vitality improves digestion improves mental function


Increased metabolism! What exactly is metabolism? It is ALL the chemical reactions that occur in your body, all the reactions that take place in your brain, liver, digestive tract, muscles, heart, lungs, and every other tissue and organ. Therefore, there are numerous calorie-using metabolic processes occurring every minute of every day. Can you pin point which one is slowing down and making you gain weight? NO! The ONLY way to improve metabolism is exercise.


Basics of Exercise?

2 Types of Exercise:

  1. Anaerobic means that the muscles are not getting enough oxygen. This occurs when you are working out harder than your body can handle for extended periods of time. Anaerobic activities include sprinting and weight lifting.
  2. Aerobic means that the muscles are getting adequate oxygen. This is the most efficient way to change your metabolism for the better. The main criterion of aerobic exercise is that it is continuous, steady and uses the largest muscles of the body such as buttocks and thighs.

Exercise improves cardiovascular endurance thus increasing the amount of oxygen your body can utilize during physical activity. This is important because increased oxygen uptake allows all your body systems to work more efficiently.


Where Does the Energy Come From?

Muscles need tremendous amounts of energy to sustain exercise. Muscle burns both fat and sugar. Sugar is used up very fast in the body, yielding only a small amount of energy. On the other hand, fat continues to burn for a long, long time. In fact, 70% of the energy – or calories – that muscles need comes from fat. Sugar (or carbohydrates) can be thought of as the starter fluid for fat metabolism.

When you begin to work out, carbohydrates (the starter fluid) are mainly used for energy, however, as the duration of your exercise session increases your body will progressively use more of its primary fuel – fat. A “fat rush” occurs around 20 minutes into your exercise session. This happens because your body is realizing that you are going to sustain an energy requirement for an extended period of time and it wants to conserve carbohydrates and use more of the primary fuel – fat. The fitter you are the faster the “fat rush” occurs. This is because the body remembers what is going to happen based on its previous exercise experience. Your body is thinking, “Ok, here we go for another 45 minute workout. I know what to do!”


Fuel from Fat Decreases as Intensity Increases

The level of fat burning decreases as the intensity of exercise increases. More calories may be burned, but they are mostly carbohydrate calories. Higher intensity exercise does have its benefits on heart function and strengthening. Nevertheless, the best way to make your body an oxygen using, fat burning machine, is to keep your intensity lower and more controlled. The best way to monitor your intensity is to observe your breathing. During exercise, make sure that you are still able to breathe deeply and that you can talk. This means you are still burning a majority of your calories from fat.



The drawback to intense exercise is that it burns sugar, not fat. However, if you ONLY participate in low-intensity aerobic exercise your body will not learn to burn fat at higher levels of exercise. To increase your oxygen-using, fat burning potential, occasionally add a short, but intense bout of exercise – one that puts you a bit out of your comfort zone. This will train your aerobic system to work better.

Overdoing intense exercise may suppress your immune system producing excess free radicals (unstable molecules inside the body that cause damage to cells, tissues and organs). Free radicals are associated with almost all diseases and conditions, such as aging, cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. The higher the intensity of your workout, the greater number or free radicals produced.

The principles that determine your exercise experience include:

  1. Duration: To really get the most out of exercise it must last at least 20 to 25 minutes and continue up to 60 minutes.
  2. Intensity: High enough that it gets you breathing in full deep breathes but not out of breath.
  3. Times per week: 3 to 5 times per week of varying intensities is optimal. The more intense the activity, the longer it takes the body to recover and the less often it should be performed.


Ditch the Scale

Keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat. The more fit you get the more muscle you are going to gain. Because muscle is calorie guzzling, the more muscle you have the more calories you are going to use just standing, sleeping, eating, etc.

Exercise Fundamentals

  1. Warm up: This involves doing your chosen activity at a slower pace to get the muscles warm and the body ready for greater intensity.
  2. Exercise session: This can include any type of exercise that your enjoy (yoga, walking, hiking, swimming, tennis, jogging, biking, dancing, etc.). Make sure that the activity uses the big muscles of the body especially the thighs and buttocks, and is maintained for 20 minutes or more.
  3. Cool down: This is doing some type of less intense movement than the exercise session and is best if it involves stretching.


Things to Consider

  • Nose breathing is an excellent method of maintaining cardiovascular control, and the mind/body connection during exercise. For further information on this read Body, Mind and Sport by John Douillard.
  • Cross-training, varying your choices of activities, is important for several reasons. First, different exercises work different muscles, thereby, making more muscles oxygen-using and fat-burning factories. Secondly, your body can get accustomed to one type of exercise and make it difficult to improve your cardiovascular fitness level.
  • Eating a health-filled whole foods diet along with drinking plenty of water will nourish all your cells to maximize the positive effects of every exercise outing.


References available upon request.


Resources for more information:

Bailey, Covert. 1994. Smart Exercise. Houghton Mifflin Company

Douillard, John. 1994. Body, Mind and Sport. Crown Publishing Group.

Maffetone, Philip. Dr. 1997. In Fitness and In Health. David Barmore Productions.