Varied Approach to Fitness

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When you look at the incredible design of the human body, you can’t help notice how perfectly we are crafted to move.  We have feet that are engineered to evenly support our body weight and absorb shock when we walk, dance, run and jump.  Our muscle fibers are built to respond to stress when we lift heavy objects, then rebuild themselves to become stronger for next time.  Our lung capacity has the potential to increase, and so does the size of our heart by performing cardiovascular-type exercises.  Your spine has many tiny receptors in each individual joint, and when they are stimulated by movement, it literally charges your brain and gives you energy.  Your body is a truly amazing organism that is constantly being redesigned and molded through use.

However, most of us spend a great deal of our time in office cubicles, cars, school desks, and on living room couches.  It is for this reason that we must supplement exercise in our daily routine to stay healthy and avoid movement deficiency.  Most people are aware that exercise is a necessity, but are confused about what kind of movement they are supposed to be doing.  Let’s clear up the confusion.

If you are regularly committing time to exercise, give yourself a pat on the back.  That is the first and most important step.  Our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who shaped our genetic requirements for movement, moved their bodies every day for survival.  The concept of supplementing exercise to them would have been ridiculous.  Our ancestors played, ran, hunted, gathered, lifted heavy objects, walked long distances, and exerted all-out efforts on occasion (when there was danger or combat).  This means that they were always ready for dynamic challenges of the unknown and the unknowable.  And so, you should be too.

Your regular activities should include:

• Daily movements where you can hold your pace for a sustained period of time, such as walking, stair climbing, hiking, gardening, shoveling, etc.

• Lifting something heavy once in a while

• Occasional high interval, short intensity efforts

• Learning new skills and sports or activities

This varied approach to your fitness is what you need for optimal health and to stay functional throughout your entire life.  Make varied fitness a priority.

Short Interval, High Intensity Exercise

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Move Slowly, Don’t Stop, and Carry A Big Stick
Humans evolved over the millennia being physical – survival meant performing consistently varied, relatively low intensity endurance activities such as gathering food, building shelter, tracking animals, and simply moving with the seasons (this was 40,000 years before agriculture appeared).  This means that humans developed the physiological need for moving at a low level of exertion for several hours a day.

Occasionally, short-duration outputs of peak power during fights and sprints were required (to chase or flee from an opponent or animal).  Rarely, if ever, did man spend any long periods of time with his heart rate significantly elevated as a distance runner might today – just as we can look to those genetic ancestors of ours for answers to our dietary needs (eat plants and animals; do not eat grains or dairy), today we can and should take note of our ancestors’ movement patterns for the exercise component of optimal health. More

Week 5 Air Insight: Exercise Intensity

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Exercise Intensity

Critical Concept:  Kick it up a notch
Intensity is where the “Good Stuff” is found.

We wish that we could tell you that the greatest fitness benefits come from an apparatus that plugs into the wall and does the exercise for you while you lay on the couch.  We can’t.  As it turns out, and as you might have suspected - the harder you work, the greater the benefit.

“Virtually any physiological measurement that we can make improves with exercise and gets worse the more sedentary we become,” says Dr. Loren Cordain, a physiologist at Colorado State University at Fort Collins.  “There is no simple formula,” he says, “but if health is your goal, the optimal amount of exercise is much more that you’d probably think.”

In fact, the benefits of exercise read like a Well People wish-list:  normalized blood pressure, cholesterol levels and lipid profiles, blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, arterial and heart function – all of which play a critical role in exercise’s well-documented disease prevention qualities.

In fact, in his landmark book Spark, author Dr. John Ratey, brain development and conditioning are the reasons to exercise.  Cognition, learning and memory improve.  Henriette van Praag, a neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health says that “exercise helps prevent depression – even as well as depression medications” (without the adverse side effects of drugs, of course, and with all of the collateral benefits of fitness).

In fact, the harder you work, the greater the benefit.

As with all things in the Bonfire Lifestyle, we adopt new behaviors with a healthy respect for Transition and Progression.  Increase the intensity of your exercise gradually.  Use target heart rates as a guide for developing a training threshold.  Intensity is a relative term.  Regardless of your current fitness level, progression should be a priority.  Make it a goal to simply do more than yesterday.  Practice ideal technique as a correlate to intensity – never compromise one for the other.  Use the Bonfire Air Videos to guide you.  Always place equal emphasis on safety, mechanics and intensity.  The greatest health benefits will result from consistent training over time – compounding fitness.

If you want to save time and get the best results, make intensity a priority.  Research shows that the most effective fitness regimens are short interval, high intensity programs.  Although fitness programs should be constantly varied, the bulk of your training should include workouts that focus on short period, intense bursts of work.  Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese Olympic strength and conditioning coach, determined the ideal intervals of work and rest for the athlete looking for serious results.  Can you believe that the greatest returns for your effort for both aerobic and anaerobic benefit (including fat burning) can be found in a four minute workout?

Best practices for keeping your workouts intense include the following:  incorporate the use of a timer or stopwatch for you workouts.  The simplest way to increase intensity is to lessen the time that it takes to complete an activity.  Check yourself:  if it is easy to carry on a conversation – ramp it up.  You should progress toward a target heart rate of 80-90% for your intensity intervals.  Training with a partner or a group, competition and encouragement always turns up the heat.  Use a greater load, go a longer distance, or do it all faster and harder and you’ll be on your way to ideal intensity and the greatest results.

Remember, if you are going to take the time to work out – get the most out of it.  Moving, sweating and panting are sure signs that you are heading toward optimal health.  Increasing your intensity will not only get you there faster, but it ensures that it will be over sooner, as well.