What Result Producing Exercise Really Is

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

      There is so little understanding today in the area of how to get good results from exercise training.  Maybe the reason is because nobody has tried to define what genuine exercise really is, or should do.  People involved with activities as varied as walking or jogging three times a week, playing league softball, cycling, doing calisthenics or yoga, can all say they are getting their “exercise”.  But are they?  One of the best definitions for exercise I’ve ever read came from author and equipment designer Ken Hutchins.

Exercise: Is an activity that is physically demanding, uses the body in accordance with its muscular and joint function, and within the constraints of safety, seeks to purposefully overload the muscle structures to stimulate a positive adaptive response.

I know that seems long, but the keys here are: 1) a stimulus (that's the physically demanding part), and 2) a beneficial response

The Benefits of Exercise

The reason that people exercise is for a beneficial response in their bodies and health.  Specifically, when exercising we hope to see improvement in six main areas: 

1. Added muscular strength, size, and/or endurance 2. Added bone strength 3. Increased cardiovascular efficiency 4. Enhanced body flexibility 5. A contribution to enhanced body leanness  6. Increased resistance to injury

What physical activity can simultaneously be used to bring about all of these benefits?  Can walking do it? How about jogging or swimming? They are all good at providing some of the benefits but not all.  Activities like jogging or dance, or martial arts, etc actually increase your risk of injury which is the antithesis of exercise, since the reason we engage in exercise is to improve our health, and getting injured damages it!  I am not suggesting you should stop these activities if you enjoy them, but that you should ADD a true “exercise” program to your activities to get all the benefits listed above and perhaps reduce your chances of getting injured.  Much of what people are calling their “exercise” is really just “physical activity”, “sport” or “recreation”.  The difference is in the intent, the level of safety, and the specific benefits.   

The Most Effective Exercise

     Because the definition for exercise has been so unclear, people have divided exercise into different forms in their minds like cardio, weights, and stretching.  But the truth is that ALL exercise is resistance exercise since the exercise effect can only be achieved by making the muscles work against a resistance.  Therefore, progressive weight training is the best form of exercise for most people, because it is the only physical activity that can simultaneously provide ALL the benefits listed above—AND still be made safe and efficient for any participant at any age.  Consider:

  1. It can build strength into a muscle group with greater effectiveness and efficiency than any other form of physical activity when done properly.
         It is far safer (exercising muscles in their intended ranges of motion at controlled speeds), more efficient (a muscles strength can be fatigued in a single set of less than one minute) and more result producing (weights can be progressively enlarged to meet growing strength needs, and strength gains can exceed 100%!) than any other form of exercise.  

  2. Your heart and cardiovascular system are greatly enhanced.
    Vigorous muscle contractions are the means by which we can stress and stimulate all of the body's support systems (whether they are cardio-vascular, respiratory, skeletal, metabolic, hormonal, etc.) The higher the quality of muscular work, the greater the response from all of the body's support systems, and the fitter you become.

  3. Weight training can be done through a muscle's complete range of motion.
    Almost no other physical activity enhances body flexibility as much. It will not produce the excessive range of motion possible through gymnastic, dance, or martial arts training.  But no one is saying that such flexibility is necessary, or even healthful.  Too much flexibility actually destabilizes joints, making them more prone to injury.

  4. Because weight training promotes the development of muscle, it becomes much easier to get lean.  Every intense weight training session raises your metabolism for a day or two afterwards, and builds muscle which elevates your metabolism 24/7.  

  5. And perhaps most exciting of all, these benefits can be obtained in less than one hour of exercise per week!  Such is the efficiency of progressive resistance training.

     Decide this day that you will not just try to be more physically active by walking more, or taking up some low-impact aerobics.  Those things are good, but they will never replace the benefits waiting for you from a properly designed progressive weight training program.  I cannot promise it will be easy, but done properly it is very safe and the most effective exercise you will ever perform. Give us a call at 706-278-WELL and we’ll show you how!

Submitted by: Thomas Morrison, Fitness Coordinator, Bradley Wellness Center