Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Eleven Life-Transforming Benefits of Exercise

rofessional athletes spend a great deal of money, time, and effort
on improving the quality of their performance. If they don’t per-
form well, they know they are out of the game, so they train to be
strong, fast, and competitive. In short, they are playing to win.
If professional athletes work so hard at ensuring that they are at
the top of their form in careers that may last only a few years or a
decade, how much more should you pay attention to how well you
perform? You must maintain and improve your levels of perform-
ance in a career lasting forty years. How much harder should you
work to make sure that you preserve your health, lower your risk fac-
tors, and keep yourself focused?
Eleven Reasons Why Exercise Should Be a Part
of Your Lifestyle
While most people would agree that exercise is important, few really
understand the immense benefits one derives from a good workout
program. Studies have shown that even as few as ten minutes a day of
aerobic activities such as walking can have positive effects on one’s
health. Let’s take a moment to examine ten benefits you will receive
from a program of consistent and appropriate exercise.
Benefit 1: Improve Your Cardiovascular Fitness
A recent study published in the journal Circulation showed that exer-
cise can improve the cardiovascular system even if a person hasn’t
exercised in years. This study involved men in their fifties who partic-
ipated in a training program that included walking, jogging, and/or
cycling. At the end of six months, they were exercising an average of
4.5 hours a week and had turned back their cardiovascular fitness
clock by decades. As stated in the study, “An endurance program
using a relatively modest intensity of training was able to return the
group to the levels of aerobic power they had 30 years ago.”
Although heart disease is the number one killer in the United
States, as I’ve said, it is also the easiest disease to either avoid or
improve. Proper and consistent exercise that includes a significant
cardiovascular component is one of the most effective tools for fight-
ing this disease.
Benefit 2: Lower Your Resting Heart Rate
Your heart beats an average of 100,000 times per day. Over an aver-
age life span of seventy-eight years, your blood will have traveled
throughout your entire body via your circulatory system a total of
two-and-a-half billion times. It stands to reason that the person who
is physically conditioned and has a slower resting heartbeat will be
able to maintain his or her optimum performance level for much
longer than someone whose resting heartbeat is high. For example,
while the average resting heartbeat is sixty to seventy beats per
minute for a man and seventy to eighty beats per minute for a
woman, my resting heartbeat is only thirty-nine beats per minute
because I am highly aerobically conditioned.
You can lower your resting heartbeat starting at any age. One
sixty-seven-year-old client named George in my PEP program has
developed a remarkable level of fitness over the last two years. While
George’s resting heart rate was already in the lower range for a man
his age, sixty-six to seventy-two beats per minute, it has now dropped
into the range of fifty to sixty-four beats. The remarkable thing about
him, however, is his recovery rate—the amount of time that it takes
for his heartbeat to slow after intense exercise. After exercising at his
target heart rate, George’s heartbeat drops back under 90 bpm in
thirty seconds flat. Many younger men’s and women’s hearts cannot
do this.
Benefit 3: Improve Your Mood
Tensions, worries, depression, and mood swings undermine one’s
work performance, personal life, and ability to feel motivated and in
control. Research has shown that people who make exercise a regular
part of their lifestyle experience improvement in moods and a
greater ability to handle the worries of daily life. One reason is the
kind of chemicals released into the bloodstream during exercise.
Studies that compare the body chemistry of joggers and those who do
other types of exercise to the body chemistry of sedentary individuals
have shown that a greater percentage of mood-elevating substances
such as endorphins is found in the bloodstream of those who are reg-
ularly involved in cardiovascular fitness activities. Exercise improves
one’s mental outlook and self-esteem, helps to release pent-up feel-
ings, and alleviates the symptoms of moderate depression.
Benefit 4: Relieve Your Stress
People who live with high levels of stress will be amazed at how effec-
tively exercise combats stress. Stress is a killer because it undermines
almost every system in the body, from the cardiovascular system to
the immune system. Since I work with so many professionals whose
jobs come with an unavoidable stress component, I am always grati-
fied to see how greatly my Pro Circuit Exercise Program improves
their ability to handle stress.
One remarkable story of someone who increased his ability to
deal with stress through the program is Deputy Chief Marlon Defillo
of the New Orleans Police Department. Few professionals experi-
ence the level or type of stress that police officers do because these
men and women deal, literally, with life and death situations. A
recent study done at the University College of the Fraser Valley in
Abbotsford, British Columbia, demonstrated that police officers
experience high levels of stress during the full twenty-four hours of
their day. They experience anticipatory stress at the beginning of
their work shifts, psychosocial stress on the job, and the highest lev-
els of stress prior to answering calls for on-site assistance. Nor does
this stress dissipate by the end of their shift.
When Deputy Chief Defillo began my Pro Circuit Program he
was only thirty-seven, a very young man. But he was already experi-
encing serious health problems from his job-related stress. He suf-
fered from such severe headaches that he was taking up to twelve
painkillers a day, anything from Advil to Aleve. Sometimes he devel-
oped migraines that lasted from two to three days, causing him
severe nausea. He was convinced that his headaches were stress
induced, caused by the violence of the crime scenes he had to
respond to as part of his job. For the last ten years he had investi-
gated homicides and, prior to that, child abuse cases and crime
scenes where children had been murdered by their parents. Deputy
Chief Defillo stated:
My whole professional life centered around other folks’ grief
and despair. I needed something to reduce stress. There
were days when I just was not functional. I would get to work
and just have to sit here. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t leave. I
had to find some outlet. When I got into Mackie’s program it
all went away. I didn’t have to take the headache pills any-
more. Everything changed because my whole management
of stress changed through the workout program. I didn’t suf-
fer with those headaches any longer. I was able to manage
stress and be functional at work and at home. The program
has become such a regime for me. If I don’t work out I feel
like I’m missing something.
Not only did the Pro Circuit reduce Deputy Chief Defillo’s stress
and rid him of his chronic headaches, but his weight also dropped
from 248 pounds to 217 pounds, he went from 25 percent body fat to
12 percent, and his waistline decreased from forty inches to thirty-
four inches. This last figure is especially significant, considering that
a waistline of forty inches or more in a man is a sure indicator of
severe risk for illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular
Benefit 5: Lose Fat, Not Lean Muscle, When Dieting
When people try to lose weight without exercising, they run the risk
of losing lean tissue. Ironically, you may end up worse off at the end of
your diet than when you started, with a lower scale weight but with a
higher percentage of body fat (metabolically inactive tissue). Just
going on a diet is not enough. Only proper nutrition coupled with
appropriate exercise will insure that you lose fat while building lean
muscle. What’s more, people who continue to exercise after weight
loss will be much more likely to maintain their new weight than
people who stop exercising when their diet is over.
Benefit 6: Increase Your Metabolic Rate
According to Dr. Michael T. Murray and Joseph E. Pizzorno in their
book The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, physical inactivity is the rea-
son why so many people are overweight. Low activity levels con-
tribute to the slowing of one’s metabolic rate. Exercise, on the other
hand, increases your metabolic rate, your ability to utilize calories
more efficiently and burn fat. Since metabolically active muscle tis-
sue is the primary user of fat calories in the body, the more lean mus-
cle you can develop through exercise and proper nutrition, the
more efficient your body can become as a fat-burning machine.
A client of mine, Amy, changed from a job that required a lot of
standing and walking to one where she sat at a desk all day long.
Within four years, she had gained twenty pounds. She originally
came to me with the goal of simply losing weight by getting into a
good nutritional program. But when she discovered that her body
fat was 37 percent, making her, by definition, obese, she decided that
she needed to start exercising as well. Over the last year, she’s not
only lost twenty-five pounds, more than she originally planned, but
she dropped her body fat percentage by 13 points to a much health-
ier 24 percent. She’s carrying around less metabolically inactive tis-
sue and more lean muscle.
Benefit 7: Increase Your Overall Health Profile
According to a recent article released by the American College of
Sports Medicine, which cross-referenced results from worldwide
studies conducted by the University of Oulu, Finland; the University
of Vermont; the Mayo Clinic; and other studies done in England,
Belgium, and Canada, people who exercise regularly experience a
wide range of health benefits, regardless of age or gender. These
• Lowering of total cholesterol
• Raising of one’s level of HDL (good cholesterol)
• Decrease in blood pressure and hypertension
• Decrease in insulin sensitivity
• Prevention of type 2 diabetes and lower mortality rates in
those with this disease
• Lowering of both incidence and mortality from all forms of
coronary heart disease
• Improved coagulation of the blood
• Decrease in one’s risk for colon cancer
Benefit 8: Decrease Your Back and Joint Pain
An alarming 50 percent of people over the age of thirty suffer from
pain in at least one joint and from low back pain. These conditions
have been brought on by a variety of causes, including sports
injuries, overuse of joints in activities such as excessive jogging, strain
on the joints and back from obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor
posture caused by the weakening of the muscles in the core area of
the body.
If done incorrectly and at too great a level of intensity, exercise
can have detrimental effects on back and joint pain. But if done cor-
rectly and under a doctor’s supervision, exercise can decrease lower
back pain significantly by strengthening the core area of the body. It
can also lessen the effects of osteoarthritis by increasing joint flexi-
bility and range of motion.
A colleague of mine, Dr. Mike Wilson, tells all of his clients with
chronic lower back pain to get into a good program of exercises for
the core area of the body. The Pro Circuit Exercise Program in this
book will do wonders toward relieving your lower back pain. If you
feel the need for further back-strengthening exercises, I suggest my
book Lose Your Love Handles, in which I offer a program designed
solely for strengthening this core area of the body—the abdominals
and the lower back.
Benefit 9: Avoid or Decrease Loss of Bone Density and
Muscle Mass
Most people believe that a significant loss of muscle mass (sarcope-
nia) and bone density is inevitable as one ages, leading to decreased
strength, mobility, and flexibility. This is not so. According to a
recent article published in the Journal of the American Academy of
Orthopaedic Surgeons, most age-related changes in muscle and bone
can be reversed through an appropriate exercise program incorpo-
rating both aerobic and resistance/strength training (working with
weights or objects one has to push against).
Individuals suffering from sarcopenia and bone loss experience
a significant decrease in energy levels and strength. A special issue of
Newsweek focusing on longevity reported how a seventy-six-year-old
woman, Barbara, was finding it more and more difficult to do simple
things such as getting up out of her favorite easy chair. Bending over
to make her bed was so painful that she had to get down on her
knees to do so. At 140 pounds, Barbara was not overweight, but her
fat to lean muscle ratio was extremely high. She described herself as
“mostly flab and mush.” This is not surprising, since people who lose
muscle as they age also gain body fat—and most of us do. Remem-
ber, a greater body fat to lean muscle ratio also means a less efficient
metabolism, since fat is not metabolically active. It just sits there on
your body, pulling you down.
When her doctor told her that she was suffering from low bone
density as well, Barbara knew she had to do something to help her-
self. She enrolled in a study at Oregon State University that was
researching the effects of exercise on bone density in women over
fifty. The study was exploring the hypothesis that gradually reintro-
ducing women to exercise would increase bone density and muscle
mass. The women began by wearing weighted vests and practicing
everyday movements such as standing up, walking, and stepping
from side to side. They gradually moved on to more strenuous activi-
ties, such as four-inch high jumps. Once Barbara began to gain back
some of her lost bone and muscle mass, she started exercising regu-
larly with her husband and now says she is more fit at eighty-one than
she was at forty. “I can’t describe the feeling—it’s a sense of being
stronger and more accomplished and less afraid. You can’t just give
up and go downhill. Life is just too precious.”
It used to be that men and women past the age of fifty were
expected to be flabby. For many, that attitude is changing as they dis-
cover that even a moderate amount of exercise makes muscles
stronger and joints more flexible and arrests the loss of bone density
(a problem in aging men as well as women). In fact, the Canadian
Journal of Applied Physiology reports that studies on sarcopenia
unequivocally show that older muscle tissue has the same, if not an
even greater capacity, to respond to a vigorous bout of resistance
exercise than younger muscle does.
Women: Defeat Osteoporosis through Exercise
Of special interest to women is the fact that osteoporosis can be
either prevented or slowed by the consistent practice of a good resist-
ance exercise program. In fact, the older a woman gets, the more im-
portant exercise becomes to her musculoskeletal health and strength.
Think how many women you know who can barely get around in
their seventies, eighties, and nineties. Since women live longer than
men, it is especially important for them to keep relatively fit so that
their quality of life does not degrade in their later years.
Benefit 10: Decrease the Severity of Physical Injury
Exercise helps to prevent injury in people of all ages by increasing
flexibility, strength, balance, and the overall health of the muscu-
loskeletal system. We all know that breaking a bone can be serious
after the age of sixty because of slower healing processes. People who
exercise are much more likely to have breaks that heal efficiently.
Because it strengthens the entire musculoskeletal system, exer-
cise also helps younger people to resist injuries from falls and high-
impact accidents. A client of mine took dance classes two to three
times per week and jogged regularly all through her twenties and
thirties. During that time she experienced a couple of major falls
and one automobile accident—situations that would have likely
resulted in bone breaks or severe muscle pulls had her body not
been so tough, flexible, and strong from all the physical activities she
was doing.
Benefit 11: Organize the Chaos in Your Life
People who live with high levels of responsibility are often the tough-
est to convince that taking time out of their already busy schedules
for exercise will benefit them. But, in practice, time spent exercising
actually will give them more time because they will be handling their
stress better and feeling more calm and focused.
Fifty-five-year-old Donna has a very busy practice as a health care
attorney. But five years ago, she herself was not very healthy. “I was
working fifty or sixty hours a week, just rushing from one thing to
another. I finally went to the doctor because I was having chest pains.
They decided it was esophageal spasms probably caused by the chaos
in my life, running around and not eating well. It scared me because
they did a workup to rule out heart problems. That was negative, but
it brought me back to reality. All of a sudden I knew I needed to get
some of this stress under control.”
After a year of exercising off and on with variable success, Donna
decided to try my Pro Circuit Exercise Program. She received an ini-
tial health evaluation, met with my nutritionist, and began to work
out religiously with my trainer, at least three times a week for an hour
and fifteen minutes. Donna balanced out her schedule by leav-
ing work early on the days she trained and going to work earlier on
other days.
I was very de-conditioned when I started, but after a year and
a half I had lost thirty pounds and a lot of inches. But it
wasn’t so much the weight. It’s mostly the healthy feeling.
The control over not just your body, but also your schedule.
It helps organize your life so that a certain portion of your
time is going to be focused on you. I observed in my own fam-
ily, both men and women, but particularly women, become
frail—they’re just not strong enough to lift things or do
things or they have bone breaks. I didn’t want to get into that
position, I really wanted to feel stronger. I didn’t have a lot of
upper body strength, but now I do. I don’t feel like I live that
chaotic lifestyle anymore, even though I am busy at times.
You can be busy, if you are balanced and have the energy to
do so. When I started, I was worn out. But doing this pro-
gram is like investing so that you are building up your savings
account. If you have a hard day or a hard week, you have the
energy to take care of it.
For people of all ages, proper exercise, especially when coupled
with wise nutrition, is like an insurance policy helping to keep you
healthy and buffering the effects of life’s daily stresses.

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