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Fri, March 2, 2012
Is All Exercise Good For You? Variety Is The Key to Optimal Fitness
Exercise science is one of the youngest forms of science in existence. Sciences such as chemistry, anatomy, and physics have been studied for quite some time now. Exercise science is very new, and still has many unanswered questions that need to be resolved in order to give us a clear definition to what works, and what doesn’t work. Exercise science is very complex, as it involves many branches of science such as chemistry, anatomy, neurology, and physics. One thing that is clear is that we simply need to move WELL, and move often. That is something that doesn’t need to be studied in order to give us clear and concise definitions. As a society we are more sedentary, more stressed, overworked, and have more access to poor food quality. Many people feel that we simply need to move MORE, and eat less just to improve our health. But is that the correct answer? Do we simply need to move more and eat less to improve our health? I have to disagree.

There is no debate that we all need to eat fruits and vegetables, and eat less processed foods to ensure proper nutrition. But what about exercise? What do we need more of and less of? We must hold ourselves accountable when engaging in exercise. Taking the stairs instead of an elevator, parking far away when going to the grocery store, and getting up every 20 minutes when sitting at work are all great habits to form. This unfortunately is not enough. Our bodies require much more, especially when trying to lose weight. Since most of us have been primarily sedentary, and are riddled with aches, pains and injuries, we cannot just simply go out for a hike, or lift some weights and expect dramatic results without some type of setbacks down the road. Movement quality is king, and it will always produce results much faster and more efficiently.

The majority of us will come with some disclaimers when engaging in an exercise program. Even if there is no pain present, without being able to squat, push, pull, bend, twist, and get-up properly, we are destined to make some mistakes. We have to separate movement dysfunction from fitness and performance. Aggressive physical training cannot change fundamental mobility and stability problems at an effective rate without also introducing a degree of compensation and increased risk of injury. We can not simply start to run or play tennis with aspirations of improved fitness and weight loss, or we would not have people getting discouraged and quit when they get hurt, or see minimal results. In order to get the results you want regardless of what your goal is, you need a trained professional to help coach you and check out your movement deficiencies. Fitness is not as easy as it looks, but the rewards to your body, your health, and your life cannot be understated. You are worth that investment of your time and energy.

If this were the case we could just eat less of the low quality food that is available and go out for a walk or run, and bingo! We are now healthy and fit people. Folks, it is not that simple. The human body is very complex, and requires a diverse amount of quality nutrients, movement patterns, and has many different tissue and energy system adaptation requirements. I am someone that believes in just about all types of exercise modalities. What I do ask of people is to take into consideration a few things when choosing an exercise program. Below are the major components of what the body needs such as tissue quality, joint health, muscular adaptations, and energy system adaptations, and some things to do in order to achieve the goal.
  • Fascia Tissue Health: foam rolling, massage therapy, Active Release Technique (ART). You may not even be aware of fascia but fascia tissue plays a vital part in the overall health of your body. The fascia refers to the deep connective tissue that essentially provides a support network for your entire body. Fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels and nerves, binding those structures together in much the same way a plastic wrap holds contents of food together.
  • Active Flexibility: Yoga, Pilates, dynamic warm-up routines. This will help improve muscular flexibility, active range of motion, reduce muscular imbalances, and decrease the risk of pain and injury.
  • Joint Mobility: squatting patterns, lunging patterns, corrective exercises, Turkish Get-ups, Physical Therapy. Actively moving joints through a full range of motion, with the intent of restoring or maintain the body’s ability to move efficiently without pain or limitations.
  • Muscular Strength, Muscular Growth, Bone Density: Strength training with free weights, kettlebells, TRX Straps, resistance bands, cables, and bodyweight exercises. This will help maintain and build muscle tissue growth, increase bone density, increase the metabolism and improve strength and resilience for the entire body.
  • Aerobic and Anaerobic Energy System Development (cardiovascular exercise): sprinting, walking, running, swimming, cycling, interval training, metabolic conditioning with strength exercises, rope undulations, kettlebell swings. The function of the cardiovascular system is very complex, and needs a variety of stimulus to truly tap into all of the aerobic and anaerobic enzymes that are produced when the heart rate is raised, and when oxygen debt is caused.
  • Power Development (for athletes and non-athletes): medicine ball throws, plyometrics, Olympic lifts, explosive movements. We lose our ability to produced power almost 2 and half times faster then we lose strength. Power movements are not only for athletes to increase performance and reduce the risk of injury. They are very important for all walks of life. As they say, if you don’t use it you will lose it.
The list I have provided only displays the foundation of what the human body functionally needs in life and in sport. Some people will be required to focus on some categories more than others depending on their current physical condition. If you are coming off an injury, your focus will be on fascia tissue health, dynamic flexibility, and joint mobility to improve your asymmetries and movement patterns. That does not mean that you should not strength train or do cardiovascular exercise down the road. It just means that the majority of your fitness routine will be correcting deficiencies and muscular imbalances, so that you can participate in more intense forms of exercise such as running, boot camps, and tennis down the road.

You can also utilize one of these methods of improving human movement to get you started on a fitness program. Any one of the modalities listed above is a great way to lay the foundation when starting a fitness routine. You do not have to be currently active to add these to your daily routine. We all need them, fit or not fit, active or inactive. Just pick one and see what works best for you.

As you can see, the human body has a lot of requirements. There is not one type of fitness that can do it all. Yoga, strength training, Pilates, running, and tennis are all great forms of exercise, but not one of them can take care of it all. The body needs variety, and cannot survive on just moving alone. If you are a runner, make sure to include some foam rolling, a dynamic warm-up focusing on active flexibility and mobility, and a solid strength routine in order to reduce the risk of injury and improve performance. If you love Zumba make sure you do the same. If you enjoy lifting weights the majority of the time, add in some cardiovascular exercise, yoga, and get a massage to round out your strength routine.

There are many ways to balance out your fitness routine. I encourage you to always engage in your favorite form of fitness. It has to be fun. Just make sure that you take all of these needs into account, and maintain balance. Your body and mind will thank you. Move well, and move often.

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