EXERCISE PRESCRIPTION FOR THE BUSY EXECUTIVE
A full human life needs balance. You need to develop in four key areas: physical, mental, social, and spiritual (1). Unfortunately, physical development is often neglected due to excuses related to a lack of time, the effort required to produce results, or the length of time it takes to see results. Fortunately, a simple exercise program can help sedentary adults achieve results with less effort and time than you might expect.
Don't underestimate the importance of regular physical activity. Physical activity reduces your risk of an early death. Regular physical activity improves health by reducing the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, depression and anxiety. Regular physical activity helps control weight, builds and maintains healthy bones, muscles, joints and reduces the risk of falling. Strength training prevents the loss of muscle tissue and enables you to burn more calories. Without strength training, you will lose between 5 and 7 pounds of muscle and decrease your metabolic rate by 2 to 5% percent every decade (5, 7). Strength training leads to improved psychological well-being (2). The physiological and psychological benefits of exercise are significant. An exercise program provides an aesthetic appeal and a functional advantage. You will feel better, sleep better, and improve your disposition.
A regular physical activity program does not need to be time consuming. Excellent results can be made through as little as 25 minutes of strength training and 30 minutes of aerobic training twice per week (4).
Strength training is based on the concepts of overload and progressive resistance. Basically, to train you make your body work at an intensity above which it is accustomed (overload). Since your body adapts to the overload, you must systematically increase the load to continue to impose an overload (progressive resistance). A safe, effective strength training of overload and progressive resistance is based on the following guidelines (4).
Technique is critical for safe and effective lifting. Each repetition should be executed through a full range of motion and performed at a moderate-to-slow controlled speed. Each repetition should last approximately 6 seconds; two seconds to raise and four seconds to lower the weight.
Workouts per Week
Since a muscle requires 48 – 72 hours of rest to fully recover, you should strength train 2-3 days per week on non-consecutive days.
Repetitions are strength training lingo for the number of times an exercise is performed. If you are under 50 years old, you should complete 8 – 12 repetitions of an exercise in a set; if you are over 50, your set should consist of 10 -15 reps.
With limited time, one set of each exercise will be effective. If you have more time, multiple sets of each exercise will provide more benefit (up to three sets).
Performing 8 -10 exercises will condition all parts of your body, including the neck, chest, upper back, shoulders, arms, abdominals, low back, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hips.
Once you can perform a set of 12 (or 15) reps of an exercise with good technique, a safe progression is to increase the resistance 5% (typically 2.5 to 5.0 lbs.) to maintain the overload.* *
Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in the United States and insufficient exercise is a major risk factor. A successful cardiovascular regimen meets the following guidelines (4).
Mode of Activity
Any activity which uses large muscle groups continuously, and is rhythmical and aerobic in nature, is good for cardiovascular training. Common activities include walking, jogging, and cycling.
Frequency of Training
Training should occur 3-5 days per week. Training twice per week will maintain your current fitness, but less than 2 days per week will not produce meaningful gains.
Intensity of Training
Cardiovascular training can be prescribed by heart rate. Training intensity should be between 65%-90% of your maximum heart rate. A simple equation to predict your maximum heart rate is (220 – age = predicted maximum heart rate). A 50 year old has a predicted maximal heart rate of 170. The training intensity zone would then be 110 (65%) to 153 (90%) beats per minute. A heart rate monitor is recommended to accurately monitor your heart rate.
Duration of Training
Following a 5 minute warm up, you should keep your heart rate in the training zone for 20-60 minutes of continuous training. End your session with a 5 minute cool down phase. During the warm up gradually raise your heart rate into the target zone; in the cool down, gradually lower it back down.
Aging often results in a loss of flexibility limiting joint motion, impairing your ability to perform daily tasks. Use a well rounded program of stretching to counteract the loss of flexibility.
A stretch for each major muscle group should be held for 10 to 30 seconds at mild discomfort. Four repetitions per muscle group should be completed on a minimum of 2-3 days per week.
WHAT IS THE PROGRAM?
Gradual Increase in HR
65-90% of Max HR
Gradual Decrease in HR
1 set of:
Setting reasonable short and long term objectives is critical for success. Do not expect unrealistic, short term changes. Over an eight week period, participants in a simple program, featuring 25 minutes of aerobic activity and 25 minutes of strength training two or three times per week can expect to increase muscle and decrease fat (3). The tremendous physical and psychological benefits will be gained as long as you continue to be active. Remember, you are making a long term change in your attitude to activity, not a certain to fail short term fix.
Physical activity can not only add balance to your life, but also to those around you. The most important asset in an organization is people. Leaders positively influence others. A leader can positively impact the worksite environment by encouraging others to begin regular physical activity.
- Consult a physician before initiating a new program of physical activity.
- When beginning a new program, start slowly and progress gradually to avoid injury and soreness.
- Seek out trained personnel, such as a personal trainer, for the first several strength training sessions. Close supervision ensures proper technique.
- In addition to strength training and cardiovascular exercise, try to accumulate 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity (equivalent of walking 3 – 4 MPH). Example of activities include yard work, walking instead of driving short distances, gardening, raking leaves, and walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
- Diet is a critical component for success. A daily diet low in saturated fats including five or more servings of fruits and vegetables plays a key role in maintaining good health. Other nutrition guidelines for the workplace include (7):
· Eat Breakfast
· Drink 100% fruit juice with breakfast or take a can to work
· Add a banana or handful of berries to your cereal, yogurt waffles, etc.
· Take a piece of fruit to eat during your commute.
· Consult a Registered Dietician for additional advice
- Life Application Study Bible, New International Version. Zondervan Publishing. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Luke 2:52. Page 1794
- Department of Health and Human Services. *Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General*. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1996.
- Westcott, W. (1995). Strength Training for Life: Keeping Fit. Nautilus, Spring: 5-7
- American College of Sports Medicine (1998). The recommended quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and flexibility in healthy adults. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30 (6): 975-991.
- Forbes,G.B. (1976). "The adult decline in lean body mass," Human Biology, 48: 161-73.
- Keyes, A., Taylor, H.L. and Grande, F. (1973). "Basal Metabolism and age of adult man, " Metabolism, 22: 579-87.
- Department of Health and Human Services. Nutrition & Physical Activity and Health: Healthy Eating Tips. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1996.