Sunday, June 23, 2013

Exercise Essentials - Part 3: Getting Your Move On

In part 3 of Exercise Essentials, I'll finally start talking about exercise (and why it took three installments to get here), what "exercise" means, and it's role in YOUR fitness program. I'll also be going into detail on the health benefits of exercise and the physiological changes it offers.

Getting Started

The first two installments of the series discussed briefly the importance of calories and nutrition in your overall fitness program. There's a reason I chose to write about nutrition first: It's simply more important.  Especially for those of us who are primarily concerned with fat loss. Weight management is all about nutrition and calorie counting and while exercise certainly plays a role, it's a secondary role. Just like those character actors we all recognize from the movies. The ones who's names are never on the movie poster.

I'll give you a dollar if you can tell me who this guy is...

So while exercise isn't quite as important as nutrition for fat loss, it's still really, incredibly, unbelievably important for overall health. Also, if your goal is to build muscle mass or improve athletic performance, then exercise will be your PRIMARY focus. But first we have to define exercise and training.

Physical Activity vs. Exercise vs. Training

To start this whole discussion, we need to understand that physical activity is different than exercise. This is important because when it comes time to plan our schedule and exercise, we need to make it in addition to our current activity levels. 

I define physical activity as the act of doing day-to-day stuff, like going to the pool or making the extra 100 foot walk to Walmart because you didn't get that open parking spot. On the other hand, exercise is planned physical activity with the sole focus on improving health and physical fitness. It's important we separate these two terms. Sometimes they can overlap, but we never want to substitute planned exercise for regular physical activity. By that I mean: Don't kid yourself. 

If you skipped the gym but decided it was okay because you walked around the mall, you're only making it harder for yourself to stick to a plan. In the long run, this mental attitude will throw you off track.

Training, on the other hand, is a gradual increase in exercise intensity and duration so as to achieve a specific goal. If you haven't set a specific goal, then you cannot TRAIN to reach that goal. In my opinion, exercising without specific short-term and long-term goals is a guaranteed way to drop out of a fitness program. 

Research indicates that about 50% of people who start an exercise program will drop out within the first 6 months (Lippke, Knauper, & Fuchs, 2003). If you don't have a goal, a direction, or a training plan to get there, you're not going to be motivated long enough to gain the health benefits of exercise.

Actually, this might be considered physical activity...

Set a goal.

Train for that goal.

Earn that goal.

Why Exercise is Important

So earlier I said that for fat loss, nutrition is the primary concern. So why is exercise so important? Though I don't have a source, I once overheard a quote which sums it up nicely:

"Nutrition controls the direction of change, exercise controls the magnitude."

Essentially, diet will control whether you change weight, and exercise will help direct how quickly and by what amount that change will occur. In addition to the weight changes, exercise is immensely important to overall health. I could write an entire book on the health benefits of exercise, but that's already been done. Instead, I'll sum just a few key points in a list.

In short, exercise training (both strength and cardiovascular) helps:

  1. Control body weight in both short- and long-term. (Jakicic et. al., 2003).
  2. Improve blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels. (Leon, et. al., 2000).
  3. Improve bone mineral density in pre- and post-menopausal women (Kemmler, 2004).
  4. Improve oxygen use and heart-lung functions in all age groups (Kohrt, 1991).
  5. Improve heart function in patients with prior heart attacks (Adachi, 1996).
  6. Improve insulin sensitivity and A1C levels in patients with diabetes (Zanuso, 2010).
  7. Prevent ischemia (heart attack) and associated deaths (Joshi, 2007).

There are many more, and I'm sure I've forgotten quite a few such as a stress and mental well-being, but you get the point. Now I don't know if you read all of that list, but numbers 5, 6, and 7 are pretty huge. Like, life-saving huge. A ton of current research in the exercise field is devoted to finding out exactly how life-saving exercise is. The American College of Sports Medicine has a new motto: Exercise is Medicine.

It's also easy on your deductible.

In fact, many current studies are linking the LACK of exercise and physical activity as the number 1 cause of heart disease, diabetes, and other major diseases. It's becoming increasingly important that people begin to exercise and be physically active.

Even if your goal is not to lose fat or gain muscle, staying active and exercise can literally SAVE your life.

How to Exercise

For most of you reading this, you're already training with me. We picked a goal, and we're working toward that goal. For others, you may be wondering what you can do to start a program.

When I talk about "exercise", I'm talking about a general program consisting of cardiovascular and muscular training. A simple example would be:

  • At least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day.
  • Strength training of major muscle groups 3-4 times per week.
  • 2-3 high intensity sessions per week.
There's already a ton of programs you can follow. Most of us have heard of the "at-home" programs such as P90X or Insanity, or a strength training program such as Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength. Whatever your choice of training, it's important that you stick to it.

Don't fall into the 50% category. Pick a goal, train for that goal.

In future installments I'll discuss the components of a successful fitness program as well as how you can design one yourself.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at or "like" my facebook page at

All the best,
Jeremy Bushong


Adachi, H., Koike, A., Obayashi, T., Umezawa, S., Niwa, A., Marumo, F., & Hiroe, M. (1996). Does appropriate endurance exercise training improve cardiac function in patients with prior myocardial infarction?. European heart journal,17(10), 1511-1521.

Jakicic, JM., Marcus, BH., Gallagher, KI., Napolitano, M., Lana, W. (2003). Effect of exercise duration and intensity of weight loss in overweight, sedentary women. Journal of the American Medical Association, 290(10), 1323-1330.

Joshi, Subodh (2007). Exercise training in the management of cardiac failure and   ischemic heart disease. Heart, Lung, and Circulation, 16, 83-87.

Kemmler, W., Lauber, D., Weineck, J., Hensen, J., Kalender, W., & Engelke, K. (2004). Benefits of 2 years of intense exercise on bone density, physical fitness, and blood lipids in early postmenopausal osteopenic women: Results of the Erlangen Fitness Osteoporosis Prevention Study (EFOPS). Archives of internal medicine, 164(10), 1084.

Kohrt, WM., Malley, MT., Coggan, AR., Spina, RJ., et al. (1991). Effects of gender, age, and fitness level on response of VO2max to training in 60-71 yr olds. Journal of Applied Physiology, 71(5), 2004-2011.

Leon, AS., Rice, T., Manel, S., Despress, J.P., Bergeron, J., Gagnon, J., & Bouchard, C. (2000). Blood lipid response to 20 weeks of supervised exercise in a large biracial population: the HERITAGE Family Study. Metabolism, 49(4), 513-520.

Lippke, S., Knauper, B., & Fuchs, R. (2003). Subjective theories of physical exercise instructors: Casual attributions of dropout in health and leisure sport programmes. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 4, 155-173.

Zanuso, S., Jimenez, A., Pugliese, G., Corigliano, G., Balducci, S. (2010). Exercise for the management of                type 2 diabetes: A review of the evidence. Acta Diabetol. 47, 15-22.

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