I don’t think that we’re lazy. We all know someone who we could call lazy but the majority of us aren’t. Lazy – adj. not inclined to work or exertion. Ok, so maybe I’m lazy on occasion but not regularly. I think the word lazy is way over-used. Our society has made it sooooo easy to be “lazy”. Is it being lazy when we turn up the furnace instead of throwing another log on the fire? Is it being lazy when we open the fridge to find something to eat instead of chasing the poor hen around the yard with a hatchet so she can join us for dinner? Back in the day we, as a people, had to work so much harder just to survive. If we didn’t bust butt on a daily basis we might die. Our ancestors were hard-working people (other than that darn, lazy Uncle Wilbur) so they didn’t need to include an exercise routine in their lives in order to be healthy. Many of us, on the other hand, make our living sitting at a desk. We leave our desk, get in our car to drive home, sit down to dinner and then plop ourselves in front of the tv for the evening. If we don’t throw exercising into our routine we’re doomed.
My dear friend Sally sent me a copy of a newsletter that she received with a cover story titled Decoding Diabetes. The newsletter is called Nutrition Action Health Letter and is put out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. This edition of the newsletter focuses on diabetes; what causes it, what happens in your body in regards to fat, insulin and what you eat, how to avoid it as well as a great article on aging and exercise. I wish I could photo-copy it and send it out to everyone I know.
Sally told me that the last article, on aging and exercise, really opened her eyes and caused her to take notice. Sally is a nurse so she obviously knows quite a bit about the human body and how it works yet even she wasn’t tuned in to why it’s important to move as we get older. I’m sure she knew all of this but she wasn’t paying close attention. (Sally is a very intelligent woman.) It’s really a great article that explains, in a simple way, how aging can increase your risk of developing diabetes. “Overeating isn’t the only cause of diabetes. Aging also increases the risk, even if you’re lean. But you can counter some of the consequences of aging with strength training and aerobic exercise.”
As we age our muscle mass declines. “Less muscle may raise the risk of diabetes because muscle is where the body sends most of its blood sugar (glucose) to be burned or stored.” Less muscle = fewer places where our bodies can burn up the sugar in our system. Makes sense.
We get fatter as we age (dammit). “As you age, you not only lose muscle, you also gain fat, especially the deep visceral fat that is linked to diabetes.” Visceral fat is the fat found in the abdomen and surrounds the internal organs.
What can we do? The article recommends incorporating both aerobic and resistance training exercise into our routine. Aerobic exercise may be more helpful for weight loss but it doesn’t build muscle. Strength/resistance training is all about muscle so it’s easy to see why both are important. Here is what the article recommends:
- Strength training – “Shoot for 8 to 12 repetitions of 8 to 10 exercises at moderate intensity two to three times a week.” Take a day off between days of strength training because you’re actually damaging the muscle and it needs time to repair itself. Self-maiming at its finest.
- Aerobic exercise – at least 30 minutes of brisk walking or other aerobic exercise at least five days a week.
Phew! I’m tired just thinking about all this exercise! How will I ever fit it into my schedule? It’s daunting, isn’t it? The article ends by saying that “What helps the most is being active all day long. Get up and walk around. Get a treadmill in your office. Don’t sit at the computer all day.” That’s encouraging.
I’m a huge advocate of starting out slowly. It isn’t necessary to run right out and join a gym or spend $$$ on fancy exercise equipment. We also don’t have to immediately begin exercising at these levels. The important thing is to start. If you aren’t regularly exercising then begin by walking around the block 3 times a week. Work up to going farther and farther each week until you’re walking at least 30 minutes. Not into strength training? Find one exercise you can do without putting yourself into traction and do 10 reps 3 times a week. (Search the internet for exercises. There are plenty of articles that will give you routines to try.) We’re talking maybe 10 minutes here. You can spend 10 minutes to improve your health, can’t you? Each week add another exercise or 2 until you’re doing the recommended 8-10 exercises. Another cool tip I read somewhere is to do your reps “backwards”. In other words, count DOWN instead of up. Do 10 reps, rest for 10 seconds, do 9 reps, rest, do 8 reps etc. until all you have to do is 1!
It’s so important that we do this. I’m doing so much better at exercising regularly but I’m not so good at the strength training part. I hope that writing this post will encourage me to start. I can spend 10 minutes to improve my health, can you?