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CREATION Health: Activity

God wants us to be healthy and prosper. The Bible says In 3 John verse 2, “Beloved, I pray that thou may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”  Activity is one of the eight universal lifestyle principles that makes this possible. 

Activity includes both the physical and mental aspects of our being because the mind and body are intimately connected.  A fit mind promotes a fit body and a fit body promotes a fit mind.  For optimal health, we must exercise both.

Here are the many ways mental activity benefits us. It allows:

  • Us to embrace and enjoy chances to learn,
  • Keeps us open minded and accepting instead of intolerant and judgmental.
  • Helps us show respect and curiosity for other ideas without feeling a need to conform.
  • Gives us confidence when confronted with unfamiliar situations, facts or figures.

The adult brain grows in response to the regular demands placed on it!  This was thought impossible until recently. In fact, mental activity can actually change the physical structure of the brain. This was seen in a study on London taxi drivers where magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to measure hippocampal volume (an area of the brain involved in memory). Persons with intensive spatial training (e.g. taxi drivers) have significantly more hippocampal gray matter than usual. This part of the brain was enlarged in the taxi drivers because they use it every day.

Other activities that exercise the brain are jigsaw puzzles, memorizing poems or Bible verses, learning a new activity, increasing your vocabulary, learning a new language, and practicing a task with your non-dominant hand (using chopsticks with your left hand). As the old saying goes, “Use it or lose it!”

In order to sustain regular, effective mental activity, the brain needs fuel, which begins with breakfast because the body has fasted through the night.  

In 1995, the Pediatrics Department at the University of California at Davis hosted a group of psychologists, neuroscientists, nutritionists and physiologists to review the scientific research on breakfast.  The researchers concluded that “eating breakfast is important in learning, memory, and physical well-being in both children and adults.”

People often wonder, what kind of breakfast is best?  The answer is: foods with a low glycemic index. Foods low on the glycemic scale are whole grains, oatmeal – complex carbohydrate foods, that release energy in a way that sustains brain power.  The Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly carbohydrates are digested and turned into sugar in the body. Mixing complex carbohydrates with fiber, fat and protein, effectively lowers the glycemic index.

Scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that regular, moderate-intensity physical activity provides substantial health benefits. Adults should expect many health benefits from moderate-intensity activity—i.e., enough to burn approximately 200 calories per day. Moderate would be the equivalent of brisk walking 3 to 4 mph for most healthy adults, in other words a 15-20 minute mile.  So, walking briskly two miles a day will burn approximately 200 calories.

A simple way to gauge whether or not you are getting good benefits from your exercise is to utilize the talk/sing test, which is done by monitoring your breathing.  It’s good to feel a little winded while carrying on a conversation during exercise but not to the point of gasping. On the other hand, if you can sing to your exercise partner then consider “stepping it up a bit.” You should feel mildly winded to get the most from your exercise in terms of general health benefits.

We might think housework isn’t very beneficial when it comes to exercise. But according to research in the UK, housework can substantially reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. More than 44,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the UK every year. Last year 12,400 died from the disease, most in their postmenopausal years.

In this study, the active pre-menopausal group did 17.7 hours a week; the active post-menopausal women spent 16.1 hours.  The active Pre-menopausal group was 30 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than the pre-menopausal women who did none. Meanwhile, the post-menopausal women who did housework were about 20 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than post-menopausal women who did none.  Researchers found that all women, both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal, who undertook housework had a significantly reduced risk of getting the disease.

Interval Training is another way to reap great health benefits that makes physical activity interesting, tolerable and is a time effective way to get good results. It consists of timed intervals of different intensities done during the same session.

One study examined the changes in exercise capacity and molecular and cellular adaptations in skeletal muscle after low volume sprint-interval training and high volume endurance training.  The participants performed six training sessions over 14 days. Each session consisted of either four to six repeats of 30 seconds "all-out" cycling with 4 min recovery or 90–120 min continuous cycling.  Training time commitment over 2 weeks was ~2.5 h for the sprint-interval training group and ~10.5 h for the endurance training group.  The total training volume was ~90% lower for sprinters versus the endurance trainers. Both types of training induced similar improvements in muscle oxidative capacity, muscle buffering capacity and exercise performance. Other studies have found improvements in performance and VO2 max through incorporating intervals.

In one study, the Intermittent exercise group showed statistically significant greater weight loss & greater body % fat loss and improved thyroid function than the Continuous exercise group, with equivalent VO2 improvement. Results demonstrate that IT is an effective way of exercise for weight loss with equivalent CV fitness improvement.

Jeff Galloway, an Olympic athlete and author of Galloway’s Book on Running and Marathon: You Can Do It! has had tremendous success using rest periods / walking breaks in his training routines and marathon races.

In his book, Galloway says this about taking walking breaks:
*Allows people who can only run 2 miles to go 3 or 4 and feel fine
*Helps beginners or heavy runners to increase their endurance to 5K, 10K or even as far as the marathon in as little as 6 months
*Reduces the likelihood of injury and over-training to almost nothing
*Restores resiliency to the main running muscles before they fatigue—it’s like getting a muscle strength booster shot every break
*Speeds up recovery
*Helps runners of all ages to improve 10 to 40 minutes in their marathon when compared to running continuously.

How much should you rest or walk?  Galloway suggests that beginners take jogging breaks in their walks, which means they take 1-minute jogs for every 5 minutes of walking.  As beginners get into better shape, they may reduce the walking segments gradually to 1 minute of jogging and then 4 minutes of walking.  Then to 1 minute of jogging and 3 minutes of walking, and progress until one minute of jogging is alternated with one minute of walking.   

Fitness runners will take a 2-minute walk break after 2 to 3 minutes of jogging.
Average runners will take 1 to 2-minute walk breaks after about 3 to 8 minutes of running.
Advanced runners take 1 minute walk breaks or “shuffle breaks” every mile after they have done 8 to 10 minutes of running.

The general rule of thumb is to exercise a minimum of 30 minutes on 5 days a week, if it is moderate activity, or a minimum of 20 minutes on 3 days a week (if it is vigorous) to maintain fitness.  However, if you want to improve your fitness, adding even 5 minutes can be very beneficial.

The Benefits of Strength Training Include:

  • Higher resting metabolic rate--meaning more calories are burned which promotes weight loss and maintenance.  Each pound of muscle tissue gained increases resting metabolism by 35 calories a day.
  • Muscular strength, endurance and tone
  • Ligament and tendon strength
  • Bone density which prevents osteoporosis
  • Reduces arthritic pain
  • Provides better posture
  • Easier acquisition of sport skills
  • Greater joint stability

Strength Training:

  • Increases strength & muscle mass
  • Decreases occurrence of injuries
  • Improves self esteem and appearance
  • Decreases incidence of lower back pain

Benefits of Strength Training:

  • Lessens risk of injury and falls
  • Aids in childbearing
  • Reduces chronic lower back pain
  • Improves cholesterol levels

His book Biomarkers: The 10 determinants of Aging You Can Control also illustrates vividly how strength training is a fountain of youth.

The 10 determinants that can be controlled are muscle mass, strength, basal metabolic rate, body fat percentage, aerobic capacity, blood-sugar tolerance, cholesterol/HDL ratio, blood pressure, bone density, and the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature.  Each of these determinants is directly and significantly affected by strength-training! 

For long term success, choose enjoyable activities you’ll stick with.  Recruit a friend, co-worker, or a family member to be your workout buddy. Make a plan for activity, and hold each other accountable. Add variety, record your progress, and stick with it! 

Be persistent.  Don’t give up.  If you’ve had a bad day or week, just start over the next day.  You will only fail if you quit trying.  

Knowing the importance and benefits of physical activity should get you moving.  But first begin with some guidelines like getting health clearance:  If you have a heart condition or other serious health problem, get your physician’s approval before beginning any type of exercise program.

FITTE is an acronym for:

Enjoyment – brings about motivation

You can be FITTE for life!

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