More than 40 year has passed since Dr Kenneth Cooper released the best seller book, ‘Aerobics’ and we have long since ditched the lycra, leg warmers and headbands. Dr Cooper believed that long duration activity was especially beneficial to the most important parts of the human body, the lungs, the heart and the blood vessels and would safeguard against many forms of illness and disease.
He wrote that aerobic exercise such as jogging or swimming, done frequently and with enough duration, improves the overall condition of the body better than any other form of exercise. Before Dr Cooper’s book, aerobic exercise was the domain of professional athletes; average people were not encouraged to get their heart rates up. For women, sweating was considered unladylike; for men over 40, it was considered dangerous to exert themselves.
After these 40 odd years of the huge popularity of aerobic type activity we know have scientific evidence that this type of exercise is not as good for us as it was once believed. And here is why: When you exercise for long periods at a low to medium intensity, it makes for smaller muscles, smaller hearts and smaller lungs which are not a recipe for good health.
Too much long duration low to medium intensity activity – the kind that doctors recommend as the path to good health – can actually harm your body. It won’t make you lean, it won’t protect you from heart disease and it won’t even boost your energy. Even worse, do enough aerobics and it will make you tired, sick and old before your time.
The modern focus is on addressing a major health problem for most adults, the loss of 7-10 pounds of muscle tissue every decade. The only type of exercise that can reverse this trend is strength training exercise. Recovering and rebuilding lost muscle has become imperative in our sedentary and inactive world as this factor alone is directly linked to at least 50 illnesses and conditions.
Exercise programs in the 21st Century must not be concerned about what happens during an exercise session but what happens after the session is over. Loss of muscle tissue leads to a lowered metabolism along with health risks rising from excess body fat being accumulated. Long duration, low intensity activity accelerates this loss and hastens the downward spiral of declining health. Strength training boosts the metabolism every minute of the day 24/7 even while resting.
Misleading information about proper exercise is everywhere with activities like walking and even gardening as being touted as being enough to satisfy our activity needs to remain healthy. The sad part is that people believe this and are then denied the health benefits of proper exercise.
Strength training will do the opposite of aerobic activity, it will build a strong body with a strong heart and lung system, a healthy strong metabolism firing on all cylinders to burn up excess fuel (calories) and a strong immune system to reduce the risk of life threatening diseases.
If you wish to live an active lifestyle, always do your proper exercise program first then you can add extras in like walking, swimming or other recreational activities but never believe that these things can ever replace your structured program.
If you are new to exercise seek the help of a fitness professional to set it up for you. Don’t risk your health by winging it yourself as it is unlikely you will get it right. If your car breaks down you take it to a mechanic, right?
We are lucky to be living in an era where we have the knowledge and means to help ourselves have a health span that equals our life span as one without the other will not allow us to live our best possible life. Let’s move on from the ‘aerobic’ era and embrace new better ways to keep in shape and stay healthy.
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Carolyn Hansen is a certified fitness expert and fitness center owner who coaches clients to look and feel younger. In her nearly 30 years of fitness and bodybuilding competition experience she has helped thousands of people start their journey towards being strong, fit and youthful at any age.