All exercise is not created equal

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What if I told you exercise is like a drug? Think of it this way, if your physician prescribed a drug to combat a particular symptom,such as high cholesterol, you would expect the drug to affect the physiology of your body in a specific manner, thus lowering your cholesterol! Exercise, much like the drug, will have a specific response on the body. The type of exercise, and the way that exercise is done, produces a specific effect or change in physiology. If one does the wrong exercise or applies it incorrectly, it’s like taking blood pressure medicine to lower your cholesterol. You will get an effect, but not the one you want! Choosing the right exercises and applying them in a way that produces the desired effect is the way to lose weight, get results, and get healthy…without hours and hours of beating yourself up!

The technical term for this principle is Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (S.A.I.D.). Even though that is a mouthful, you now understand the basic concept (specific work = specific results). Sometimes it’s not so complex. You want to improve your cardiovascular health and you start a walking program. The increased load causes your heart to become more efficient and you to get more oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Bam.That was easy.

But instead, let’s say your goal is to lose weight. How much cardiovascular training should you do? How hard should you do it? At a moderate heart rate you burn a greater percentage of fat as fuel, but at higher heart rates you can burn a greater overall amount of fat in less time, even though the percentage of fat you are burning is smaller. Maybe you are short on time and you only have 15 minutes. You could get you heart rate to a particular level and hold it there, and it would be just as effective that day as a30-minute workout at a lower pace.

Sticking with this scenario, let’s delve deeper into applying the S.A.I.D. principle. Is doing cardiovascular work going to help lose the “spare tire” around you middle?

The answer could be yes, because that“spare tire” is a result a declining insulin response to carbohydrates (insulin resistance). Doing the cardiovascular training would help improve the insulin to drive blood sugar into the awaiting cells. Improved insulin and blood sugar profile results in the loss of spare tire. Bam. Easy again. However, this time let’s say you start doing some cardio conditioning and NOTHING! OR worse…you GAIN!!! This time, the difference is that your body is already stressed out from such things as unsatisfying career, relationship problems, bad diet,and/or unresolved orthopedic issues. Many of us have heard of the hormone that is produced from stress called cortisol. Under stress this hormone is released.Under continued stress this hormone stays at a high level, not allowing you to lose weight or get rid of that spare tire. In doing aerobic exercise which hormone, among others, might get released as a response? You guessed it…cortisol! At this point the exercise is not considered a benefit to the body, but an additional stressor.

Applying the S.A.I.D. principle to your exercise program allows you to achieve the results you desire. Knowing how to apply the principle with precision and accuracy takes experience and knowledge of the systems of the body. Before prescribing a drug for high cholesterol, a doctor does testing to determine if your cholesterol is high. To get the most out of your exercise program, you should get tested by a qualified professional to determine the best exercises and program that will get you results. The other choice is to just randomly pick exercises that may or may not get you where you’re trying to go. All you have to lose is time...and these days I’m sure you have more than enough time to waste on performing the wrong exercises, day after day!

ExerciseCliff Long