Rich Weil: Fitness -- Let's Get Going

Sorting through your fitness possibilities

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Live Events Transcript
Event Date: May 1, 2003

Starting a fitness routine? What are you trying to achieve: strength, endurance, cardiovascular health, flexibility? We sorted through the possibilities and got our exercise questions answered when fitness expert Richard Weil joined us.

The opinions expressed herein are the guest's alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Hello Richard. Thank you for joining us today. How are you?

Weil: I'm doing well. I went for my run this morning; I did just three miles because I am coming off of a bout of bronchitis, four weeks of it, but starting to move again feels really good. In addition, I really missed not moving. It's unusual for me to not move. To be laid up for four weeks is difficult. So it feels really good to move again. And one other point is it doesn't take a lot of movement to feel good again. So even when I ran just one mile, the first day back, it all felt really good again. I got the same benefit, really, from one mile that I might get from five.

Moderator: For those who are just starting out with an exercise program (and who are intimidated by the thought of running a mile), can you explain the various types of exercise?

Weil: Yes. There are several types of exercise. I'll describe a couple in detail:

Aerobic, meaning with oxygen, meaning that you do it to the point where you're breathing a little harder than at rest, but not so hard that you're out of breath. If you feel warm and slightly out of breath, and sustain it for any period of time, really beyond 15 minutes, you're going to gain all the benefits of aerobic exercise. The benefits are:

  • Improvement in stamina
  • Decreased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes
  • You burn lots of calories
  • You strengthen the heart
  • It increases well-being, helps control mood, and, overall, people report that they simply feel better.

Furthermore, you don't need lots of aerobic exercise to gain those benefits. In fact, simply going from a sedentary lifestyle where you do very, very little activity to increasing your walking or any other type of aerobic activity, even just three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes, will give you these benefits. Other types of aerobic activity besides walking include:

  • Biking
  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Dancing -- any type that feels good and leaves you feeling warm and slightly out of breath.

In addition, any lifestyle type of activity that is aerobic also counts.

  • Taking the bus less
  • Parking your car as far from the location where you're going and walking across the parking lot
  • Climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator
  • Mowing your own lawn with a hand mower or a push mower. This is good news. It means that you don't have to do a lot of exercise or formal exercise at the gym to gain benefit from aerobic exercise. The guideline for aerobic exercise is from one of two different sources:
  • The American College of Sports Medicine. It recommends exercise three to five times per week for 20 to 60 minutes at approximately 60% to 85% of maximum heart rate. This is a formal exercise guideline. It's similar to going to the gym, working out on the treadmill, the bike, the elliptical machine or any of the other aerobic machines.
  • The United States Surgeon General. That guideline states that you can improve your health by accumulating 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days of the week. The key to this guideline is that you can accumulate the 30 minutes in three bouts of 10 minutes or two bouts of 15 minutes or one bout of 30. The good news is that people who simply cannot or will not adhere to the ACSM guidelines have an alternative. So you can incorporate physical activity into your daily life and your lifestyle and still gain benefit.

The Surgeon General's guideline doesn't replace the ACSM guideline, it is an alternative for people and can complement it. If you already adhere to the ACSM guideline, there's no reason to quit. You should continue with what you're doing. The Surgeon General's guideline simply provides an alternative. So climbing stairs, walking instead of taking the bus, trying to find any way in your daily life to increase physical activity is the way to go for those people who have been unable or unwilling to stick with more formal exercise. So saying there's no time to exercise is not necessarily a problem with the new Surgeon General guideline, because you can incorporate physical activity right into your day.

Another type of exercise is resistance exercise, which is any exercise that causes the muscle to contract against any external resistance. That resistance can be dumbbells, weight lifting machines, rubber bands, or even your own body weight. Calisthenics, like pushups, are a perfect example of body weight as external resistance. But again, any activity that causes the muscles to contract will work. So you don't have to necessarily join the gym to do resistance exercise. You can buy a videotape; you can use the rubber bands at home, or any type of calisthenics program. Sometimes it's useful to have a fitness trainer set up a program for you, whether it's at home or at the gym and then you'll be certain that you're doing the right thing.