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The gift of exercise

You undoubtedly have read numerous articles on exercise—its benefits, its necessity for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and what can happen when you do not incorporate exercise into your daily routine. For this weight watcher, exercise is the same as brushing your teeth or eating: You need to do it every day.

But rather than just think of exercise as one more thing to check off your to-do list, did you know that exercise is the gift that keeps on giving? For those who exercise vigorously, you will continue to burn calories long after you have completed your workout. Now, that does not mean that you can quit halfway through or pig out on cookies afterward. Researchers continue to learn that when people exercise in a more intense manner (this is not your leisurely walks), i.e., when they engage in sweat-producing or sporting activities where they are continuously moving, their body temperature rises and their heart is beating faster. When you watch the TV program, "The Biggest Loser," you see those contestants really sweating--a key to their rapid weight loss, combined with a healthy diet.

You may wonder just how researchers can determine that the calorie-burning carries on once a person stops exercising. They use a scientific device called a metabolic chamber, where they measure the person’s oxygen consumption, as well as other functions and production. While you continue to burn calories after one of these high-intensity workouts (over more than 700 calories a day), to maintain that calorie burning and not gain weight, you are required to do one thing: Don’t wolf down something unhealthy for you, like cookies or cake, afterward. You should have some protein, though, since your muscles were engaged in some heavy duty work.

This may all be fine and good, you are thinking, but what about those of us who are unable to ramp up the workout in our activities? You aren’t expected to go play a game of basketball with your bad knees, or run in a marathon. But you could take your daily walking and turn it into a more intense activity than you have been doing. One, try walking faster. You can do interval walking, too—walk at your usual pace for one to two minutes, and then do some race walking (faster) for 30 seconds. Alternate that routine. Two, find some inclines or small hills to walk. Finally, you can carry something with you to increase the exertion, such as a backpack (not an empty one, either). Some women carry handbags that would qualify for weight training! If your house has stairs, walk up and down them for part of your workout.

People will find any and all excuses not to exercise. I prefer to find reasons TO exercise, and I can think of no better one than living longer in a quality lifestyle. So can you! Remember, right now there are thousands of people in wheelchairs who would give anything to be able to exercise standing on two feet. If you can, then do it--don't waste that opportunity that you have that many do not.

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