We have all read and heard about the many benefits of exercise.  Exercise has been shown to lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, improve cognitive function, fitness, improve your mood and reduce depression, and reduce the risk of cancer. It’s also been shown to change the T cells in cancer patients from unhealthy to healthy and create a low sugar environment that discouraged the growth and spread of cancer cells in patients who are already diagnosed.

So if you’re looking for an excuse to re-start your exercise plan, there are many! But did you know that if you are sedentary throughout most of your day, your risk of health concerns is much higher, even if you are a rigorous and religious exerciser?

Research shows that long periods of sitting have negative effects on our health that are not fully erased even if we demonstrate healthy habits after work. Movement, it turns out, is even more important for good health than exercise. Especially since I just read a statistic that more than 50% of men and women don’t engage in vigorous physical activity for more than 10 minutes a week which is not enough to attain any real health benefit. If you’re in that group, moving is even more important!

But even if you work out, it’s moving throughout the day that seems to make the biggest difference. USA Today recently reported the results of a study that revealed that the risk of heart failure was more than double for men who sat for five hours a day outside of work and didn’t exercise as compared to men who sat for less than two hours a day and were physically active. Men with the lowest risk were those who exercised the most and sat for less than two hours a day.

But while this may seem to highlight that men who exercise more are healthier, the study also confirmed that a regular fitness routine did NOT erase the effects of sitting for long durations. The study followed 82,000 men for 10 years and found that the increased risk correlations to sitting were true no matter how long they exercised. It wasn’t the exercise that made the difference: it was the amount of time spent sitting that played the biggest role in the men’s health risks.

Whether you are exercising regularly or not, if you want to improve your health, you should create time for movement breaks throughout the day. According to James Levine, co-director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, “If you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting too long.”  Dr. Joseph Mercola thinks even an hour is too long. He recommends that you take a movement break every 15 minutes and suggests setting a timer at work or using a phone app to remind you to get up and walk or stretch.

If you think about it, it makes total sense. As we evolved away from chasing our food (and being chased by it!) and settled down, we still lived in a state of constant movement. Cooking, weaving, gathering, building, everything we did in our day was movement. Even if we sat to mend something we would then get up to stir the pot or get more material. Even in more recent years as we built businesses that were more stationary, the business owner would check out his fleet or land or livestock, on foot or on horseback. Ladies would take long walks in the garden, as would couples after dinner, and for a special occasion, the entertainment after dinner would involve dance.

Taking frequent breaks throughout the day to get up and stretch your body will  release tightness from your muscles and keep energy (and blood and oxygen) flowing smoothly throughout your body. A stretch, some simple calisthenics or yoga poses will go a long way. If you can, take a little time to go for a walk.

While a nice long walk during lunch or after work is a great health option that can also provide a forum for social interaction or emotional reconnection with a friend or loved one, little intermittent walking breaks throughout the day can improve your health… and your creativity.

A new study from Stanford University revealed that our ability to solve problems creatively, or our divergent thinking creativity, increases during and after walking. Researchers put 176 college students into groups and asked them to generate as many possible solutions in a set time by coming up for different possible uses for an object. The scores were evaluated on their originality, whether other participants also identified that same solution, and their appropriateness, or whether the ideas were actually realistic.

The participants took the test while sitting, being pushed in a wheelchair, or walking inside or outside for a period of 5-16 minutes. They found that participants scored 60% higher when they were walking than sitting, whether it was indoors or outdoors and that their creative thinking levels remained elevated for a period of time after their walk.

So the next time you are sitting at your desk working hard to solve a problem, rushing to finish a report, or struggling to find an answer, take a few minutes to get up and go for a walk. The answer just might come to you more quickly and your health will be improved as well.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!



Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal and a free copy of Inger’s bestselling ebook at www.IngerPols.com/freegifts

Photo Source: courtesy of photostock / Free Digital Photos


There are different types of exercise and there are various reasons why they are all important for your fitness and health. We know exercise matters for weight management, but it is also a critical component to heart health, managing hormones and blood sugar levels, improving immune function, and preventing cancer. Now a new study shows that exercise is a critical component of cancer recovery as well.

Cancer survivors were given individually tailored exercise plans including cardiovascular, endurance, strength and flexibility training. After 12 weeks, the researchers discovered that a large portion of the T cells associated with the cancer were transformed from unhealthy to healthy by virtue of the exercise regime. At the same time, it created a low sugar environment that discouraged the growth and spread of cancer cells. So let’s look at the different types of exercise and how to create an effective fitness plan incorporating all of them.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Activity to the point that we start breathing harder, heavily, or maybe even lose our breath may seem intimidating if you don’t do it regularly, but raising your heart rate, as happens during cardiovascular exercise, is important: it enables the body to burn more fat and calories, reduces inflammation, helps the body remove waste, and it enables oxygen and nutrients to be more readily delivered to body tissues. Cardiovascular activity helps manage stress by lowering cortisol levels, which can make you feel better and reduce inflammation.

Cardiovascular exercise is good for your body on many levels but people either love or hate it. For some, it’s because it feels uncomfortable and we spend most of our lives trying to avoid being uncomfortable. (Plus it’s hard not to measure effort against others — be it in the gym or on tv — and feel discouraged if we have not led an active lifestyle.) Others become addicted to the feeling, or to the challenge of setting cardio training goals such as triathalons, road races, or cycling “centuries.”

But regardless of where you begin, all that really matters is that you start. And that you continue. Gradually over time you’ll increase your efforts and see more and more results.

Strength Training

Research now confirms that strength training is not just important to slow bone loss, it can actually add bone. Strength training creates a stimulus for new bone growth that is a treatment as well as a preventive for osteoporosis.

And since we know that muscles burn more calories than fat, being leaner and more muscular can help you with your weight goals as well.

You don’t need to go to a gym or lift weights, though both can help if you don’t know where or how to start. Functional body movements, like those you would naturally do each day in the times of old, like lifts and squats and push-ups are very effective strength builders. I love using the weight of the body as resistance for increasing muscle strength; it’s more natural to me than bands, balls or dumbbells. But you can also be creative and arm wrestle your kids, pump food cans like arm weights, carry your own grocery bags, or work on your core through pilates, power yoga or ballet.

Flexibility Matters

A good stretch after a work out feels amazing: we are instantly rejuvenated and energized. It releases muscle tension, prevents contractions, and can help prevent injury. But even if the workout came earlier in the day or it was a rest day, stretching still feels great and it increases the temperature of the body’s tissues, which will increase circulation and improve the transportation of nutrients.

Eastern medicine teaches that tension prevents healing and blocks our energy and that our tension gets stored in certain spots in our bodies: just like a good massage, stretching can release that energy and unblock our muscles, our stress, and our minds.

There are number of structured programs such as yoga, chi gong or tai chi that can help you improve your flexibility and stretch open your body and your mind.

But you can also just put on comfortable clothes and lie down on the floor listening to music or your favorite tv show before bed and just relax and deeply stretch each area of your body, feeling your muscles lengthen and the oxygen and energy flowing freely.
Breathing to Improve Health
Breathing has been shown to lower your blood pressure as effectively as most medicines. Breathing regulates your autonomic nervous system, which impacts your immune system and can impact hormonal balance, kidney function, and bowel dysfunction in addition to regulating your high blood pressure.

One of the major benefits of exercise is bringing oxygen into the muscle tissues. If you breath deeply into the muscle while you are exercising, whether it is during a cardio, strength or flexibility workout, you can enhance the benefit.

If you cannot exercise because time prevents, deep breathing into the area you wish to direct oxygen is proven to have an impact. So while you are stuck in traffic or on the train, breath deeply into your key muscle areas, flexing and releasing or imagine them going through your favorite workout routine and you can still have some of the benefits you would have received had you actually exercised them.


Ok, so we know we need three kinds of exercise: something to get our heart rates up, something to build lean muscle and body strength, and something to elongate muscles and release blockages. A good exercise plan also needs to factor in the FITTER guidelines: Frequency, Intensity, Type, Time, and Rate of Progression.

Frequency simply refers to how often you will do it. Let’s say you are already fit and active, you may want to make a plan to exercise 5-6 times a week for 60 minutes at a time. If you are just beginning, your frequency may be more like 20- 30 minutes 3-4 times a week. The key is to decide this in advance and lay out your work out plan for each week in advance.

Intensity refers to how hard you will work, or how high you will raise your heart rate.

Steady state lower intensity endurance training lays a foundation for fitness that enables you to build upon it without injury. Longer exercise duration also means more calories burned overall so it is an important component to fitness training. Interval training will improve cardiovascular capabilities and is also shown to burn more fat, so integrating interval training into your cardio will maximize health (and weight loss) benefits.

You can and should vary your intensity depending on your goals and your fitness level. Some workouts should be geared more toward endurance and building strength in your activity, while others should be chosen specifically as interval sessions designed to maximize your cardiovascular output. You will want to include both endurance and interval training over time.

Type is simply what type of exercise you’ll engage in: running versus walking, outdoor vs. indoor, flexibility vs. strength vs. flexibility. Varying the type will enhance the benefits to your body by challenging your muscles in new and different ways, and will keep you from getting bored.

Time refers to how long you will exercise. Research now shows that an hour a day is necessary for mature women to maintain their weight levels due to slowing metabolism. The USDA also recommends 60 minutes of exercise a day for all. The 60 minutes does not have to be completed in one session, so you can break it into smaller workouts if that fits better into your day, but the goal should be to work your way up to an hour of rigorous exercise a day.

Rate of Progression references the fact that as you do something your body will adapt to it. So over time, you need to continually change your workout plan and make it different by incorporating new elements, making it longer, or making it more intense. If you have never lifted weights and you lift a 10-pound weight for a set of 12 repetitions 3 sets in a row, your arm will be sore the first time you do it. If you continue to do that same workout, over the coming days and weeks it will no longer be uncomfortable and eventually, it will be easy. Your body has adapted to that stress and is now able to handle it and respond. If you want to get stronger, you will need to vary the exercise you are doing, the weight you are lifting or the number of repetitions you are doing.

The same is true for cardiovascular exercise. If you are a beginning walker, it may be hard at first. But over time it will get easier, and you’ll want to walk longer or faster. If you take the same indoor cycling class over and over, your body will adapt. So you need to either ride more classes, ride longer classes, or change the way you work within the classes you are taking, making some endurance and others interval classes.

This also holds true for walking or running or playing golf or any activity: vary the intensity levels, the terrain, the duration of the workout or the frequency, or cross train and mix in other activities into your plan if you want to continue to improve your fitness.

It is easy to measure most of those changes with your watch, your calendar, or your map, but intensity level can be harder to assess. Should you go purely by how it feels? Or do you need a heart rate monitor to guide you?

Heart Rate Monitors

Heart rate monitors can be great training tools, but most people don’t use them effectively. If you have a medical condition and your doctor has told you not to go beyond a certain heart rate, they are very helpful in allowing you to monitor where you are more precisely. For most people, though, heart rate monitors are meant to be a guide for training, not an absolute.

There a number of concerns around using heart rate monitors that go back to the formula that is used to calculate optimal heart rate ranges. Some people have used the 220-your age method to establish max heart rate. This formula was never intended for use in the broad population; it was created for specific use with cardiac rehab patients.

The flaw with this is obvious as it implies that everyone at the same age has the same heart capacity, regardless of their fitness level, their weight, or their medical conditions. Lance Armstrong is no different than any other person of his age under this calculation. I don’t know about you, but even at his age, I would not have wanted to go up against his numbers! It also says that triathaletes are in the same place as beginning walkers, and we know that is simply not true.

Another popular approach is to determine your target heart rate using the Karvonen method. This formula asks you to determine your resting heart rate by taking your pulse for a minute when you awaken in the morning. They suggest doing it three times/days and averaging the three numbers together.

But your true resting heart rate is the rate when your body truly is at rest, or at sleep. Once you wake up, a surge of energy flows through your body and your heart rate will be raised a little if you awaken naturally or a lot if your alarm goes off. So the number you get is likely higher than your actual resting heart rate truly is.

Then you take your age from 220 as discussed, which leaves you with a one size fits all number that is likely off by 10-30 beats per minute. From that number, you subtract the resting heart rate you took in the morning, which is likely overstated, to get your heart rate reserve.

Then they suggest that you use 60% as a low end and 80% as a high-end number and you multiply them by your heart rate reserve to get your low and high-end heart rate ranges, which you then average to find your target. But as you can see, at each step in the process, the numbers could be flawed. So this process can give you a guide, but it can – and often is – significantly off.

Follow your Heart

I often see people working until they reach the number they think is their max and then staying there, even if it feels comfortable. It is a concern because your fitness level is constantly evolving and your goal is to continually improve your max heart rate over time. Last year’s numbers shouldn’t be your guide this year because you – and your fitness level – do not stay the same. Another problem is that the number may not be accurate and I see people simply stop when they get there regardless of how it feels because they think they should stop and not exceed that number.

If you are feeling good that day and you reach what you think is near your max (and you do not have a medical condition preventing such), that’s a time to push past and work a little harder. On the other hand, if you start working out and your mid range is feeling really hard, your body may be fighting something or you may need rest and that day, your max may be much lower and you need to honor that and listen to your body.

Instead of allowing the monitor to rule your workout, let it be your guide. If you decide to use a heart rate monitor, exercise at what feels like an easy comfortable pace and see where your numbers are. Take it up to moderate or medium and record your rate. And finally, take it up to what feels like really hard work to you and see where it leads you.

Do that three times, on different days, and you will have a good range for easy, medium and hard efforts. Let those be the numbers you shoot for in your workouts. And on days where you can get to hard and it feels good, let that be a day to push past. When your body is resisting your medium workout, dial it back and keep it at an easier pace that day.

Working out in all zones is beneficial to the body and listening to your body on each given day will make your heart rate monitor work more effectively for you than following a formula can. Using how you feel (easy, medium, and hard on any given day) can be just as effective for many people as using a monitor. So whether you use a monitor or not, don’t be ruled by numbers, follow your heart.

(And as always, please consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program!)

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.IngerPols.com

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


Most of us know we need to start–or increase–our fitness efforts, but many of us have difficulties getting started. In addition to weight management, exercise improves your mood, increases energy, reduces stress, helps you sleep better, boosts self-esteem, supports hormonal balance and reduces risks of chronic diseases and conditions including heart attacks, osteoporosis and breast cancer.

A recent study on mature women showed that just to maintain their current weight, the women needed to exercise for an hour a day; to lose weight would require even more time. In our busy lives, finding an extra hour can be a challenge, even if we have the desire to do so and the willpower to stick with it.

The good news is that we don’t need to work out for an hour in one session: We can break it into smaller blocks. And doing something is better than nothing, so even small efforts will make a difference in your health and well-being. In this newsletter, I’m going to give you some tips that I use when coaching that can help make your workouts work better for you.

Tip #1: Set a Goal and Measure Your Progress

Knowing what you are working toward will increase your effectiveness. As in everything else, what is measured and monitored gets done. Begin by setting an overall goal for your fitness plan. Be clear on what you want, for example, losing 25 pounds, training for a 10K or building enough endurance to be able to be comfortably active with your grandkids. The more specific you can be, the better. If your goal is to get fitter, define what that means to you.

Set a mini goal before each workout. Your first time, it may be as simple as walking without stopping for 15 minutes. That becomes your baseline and you can adjust from there by adding 5 minutes to your workout each time or running a mile a few seconds faster.

Be realistic with your goals, and yourself: If you didn’t sleep well the night before or you are fighting a cold, your goal may be just to complete the same workout you did the time before. And that’s OK. But if you are feeling good that day, decide how you can push a little.

Make a log to track your progress. When I was training to cycle from Banff to Jasper in the Canadian Rockies, my first cycling vacation, I kept a log of each training ride that included how far I rode, how long I rode, the time of day, the weather conditions and how I felt. Tracking that let me see how I was improving and how my performance was impacted by wind, time of day and my mood. This let me get smarter over time about how to train and when to push.

Tip #2: Know Yourself and Leverage Your Strengths and Passions

We all have different times of day when we feel most energetic and creative: Don’t resist your natural patterns. If you are forced to adopt new body rhythm patterns, you can do so over time, but it will take a little extra effort, so it may be harder to stick with.

Follow your passions to keep exercising from feeling like a chore. Go back to things you loved as a child like bike riding or tennis, or take up a new activity you have always wanted to try like golf or rowing. If you love watching Dancing with the Stars, try a ballroom dance or Zumba class.

But don’t feel you have to take on things that don’t appeal to you just because they are effective for others. If you hate the gym, don’t join a gym! If you don’t like exercising alone, find a class, team or group. Create a program that you will look forward to, not dread.

Tip #3: A Little Help from Your Friends

Studies show that people who join the gym with a buddy stick with their fitness efforts longer. It may be the accountability factor or the social factor, or most likely, both. If you take a class or play on a basketball team, the fun and social aspect will keep you committed and motivated beyond the pure physical benefits.

If you decide to workout on your own–at a gym, in your home, or outside–try to engage a partner or friend to either join you or to hold you accountable. For example, if you join a gym, get a friend to join too; while you may not work out “together,” you can plan to go several times a week at the same time. If you decide to walk your neighborhood after work, find someone to join you.

If you are using an exercise machine in your house and there is no way for someone to participate along with you, get creative. Find someone else that’s doing the same routine, and meet once a week to compare progress. Set some goals or challenges for each other and know that on Monday when you meet for coffee she is going to ask you if you met–or exceeded–your goal.

Tip #4: Schedule Your Workout

Life gets crazy at times and often the first thing to suffer is our workout time. Sometimes we feel selfish “indulging” in time for ourselves when there is so much else to do. Other times, people demand we prioritize other things. But taking care of yourself by working out ensures you will be around a lot longer to take care of others. And after you work out, release stress and improve your mood, you will be a better partner, parent or friend. So don’t let the workout slide.

Instead, schedule your workout just as you would a meeting or a dentist appointment. Mark the time in your calendar in ink and consider it unchangeable. If you think about everything you have to do in a day, there really is very little if anything more important than taking a little time to get or stay healthy. And you’ll feel so much better! Let it be known that you are unreachable during that time; you’ll find the world will still be waiting for you when you are done.

Tip #5: Find Your Motivation

When you are working out and feeling like you want to stop, or you are avoiding beginning your exercise, try to remember your initial goal and motivation for starting your fitness program. The more you focus clearly on that outcome, see it in your mind and feel how good it will feel to achieve that and be living that life, the easier it will be to find the strength to continue. Also remembering how good you feel when you’re done can help get you going.

But there will be days when even that is not enough. When you are working out, it will be easier to push to new levels if you also draw on other motivation techniques. Find what works for you, whether it is just inspiring music, a bet with yourself or creating scenarios to encourage you to continue on.

As a spinning instructor, I see lots of competitive people in my classes. (Spinning, or indoor cycling, is a form of high-intensity exercise that involves using a stationary exercise bicycle in a classroom setting.) It is easy to inspire them with race situations where they are competing for the podium or to beat their best time. If that works for you, use your competitiveness to make some fun scenarios in your workout to make you work harder.

For non-competitive people, I use a lot of visualization to encourage increases in effort. As you accelerate and push for your interval, imagine a group of runners or riders ahead of you that you need to go around.

Or imagine you are in one of those charity rides/races and there are hundreds of people you need to pass because the road is full of riders. As you go around each one, ride for the cause that that race represents. Imagine yourself passing–or climbing that hill–to beat cancer or heart disease, for yourself or for the loved one you lost to them who cannot be here to ride.

It doesn’t have to be serious, though; sometimes motivation can be just pure fun. An elderly woman in one of my classes once confessed to me that every time she took an interval, she imagined racing her husband–the loser had to clean the bathrooms. In all her years in my classes, in her mind, she never lost.

For endurance situations, I often think of Terry Fox, the Canadian who decided to run across his home country to raise cancer awareness after his leg was amputated. He ran the equivalent of a full marathon for 143 days in a row until he had to end his journey because the cancer returned.

When I am tired after running a few miles, I think about that: A full marathon every day for 143 days, all on one leg. That inspires me to keep going. When Terry was asked how he kept going, he once said that he told himself just one more telephone pole. So think OK, just one more telephone pole, one more set, one more …

Tip #6: Pace Yourself and Be Realistic

We often get excited upon starting a new plan and take on too much too soon. You didn’t gain that weight overnight: In most cases it was small choices each day that built up over time. An extra 500 calories a day would net 3500 extra calories a week, or a gain of about 50 pounds in a year, assuming no change in exercise.

Most of us aren’t gaining 50 pounds a year, so more likely it’s the extra 100-200 calories here and there that just add up slowly over time. Generally speaking, you cannot escape the calories in/calories out equation, though it is really important to note that 500 extra calories of fiber and vegetables will not have the same impact in your body as 500 extra calories of cookies and bread.

You can’t lose more than a pound or two a week safely and keep it off long term. If you keep your food habits the same, to lose a pound a week, you’ll need to burn 500 extra calories a day. But physically, you can’t run an hour the first time out, nor can you serve and volley after your first tennis lesson.

It takes time, but that’s OK. Making the commitment and sticking with it is what matters. Creating a solid fitness foundation that you can build upon will serve you over the long haul: Trying to take on too much too soon will burn you out or result in injury and leave you on the sidelines.

Tip #7: Change is Good

We tend to find something that works and stick with it. And while that’s good, our bodies quickly adapt to what we do regularly. Intensity progression and cross training can yield great benefits. If you take a set of 10-pound weights (or whatever would be appropriate for your fitness level) and do three sets of 10-12 repetitions, the first time you do it, you’ll probably be sore.

If you continue to lift the same 10-pound weights in the same three sets over time, after awhile, it will not be hard any more. Eventually it will be easy. What burned the first time and built some muscle, no longer has any muscle growth because the body has adapted to it. When lifting, we know you need to progress and either increase sets or increase weight.

It is also true for your other workouts: Your body will quickly adapt to the same hour-long spin class or 18 holes of golf and it will not be a challenge anymore. Varying the intensity will allow you to continue to progress while doing the same thing, and cross training will force your muscles to work in different ways.

Throwing something new at your body through cross training has many benefits physically, including helping you get stronger, faster and fitter. But it’s also good for the soul. Trying new things and being a little uncomfortable challenges us; succeeding at them helps us grow and builds confidence and self-esteem.

Getting out of a training rut and mixing it up will keep you from burning out and will make your training fresh and new. And most of all, it keeps working out fun! And if it’s fun, you’ll stick with it longer.


To your wellness and health: your true wealth!

Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.IngerPols.com

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art

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