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

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


We all want to look and feel our best and stay healthy, vibrant and full of energy but it can be hard when our days are packed full and we are under stress trying to get everything done. There may be little time to work out or we may be thrown off of our daily eating habits by changes in routine. Then when we are not at our best, we are confronted with temptations at gatherings, given food gifts by family and friends, or find ourselves eating out more than we normally do.

As we count down to 2014, there is often so much is packed into the remaining weeks of the year. This makes it even harder to stay on track if you are trying to lose weight or simply hoping to maintain your current weight through the holiday season.

Even if weight is not a concern, it can be a challenge to eat healthy and maintain high energy levels and to avoid feeling tired or run down and vulnerable to seasonal colds and flus at this time of year. So in this newsletter, I want to share a few of my own strategies for surviving holiday stress and avoiding excess weight gain along with my favorite fat-blasting express workout. Let’s get right to that and then we’ll tackle the holiday strategies.

In last week’s newsletter, we learned about the three different kinds of exercise and why they are all important to your health. (We also talked about something you can do to get the benefit of a workout even if you can’t work out.) While a healthy fit body needs cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility training, the research shows that if time is tight or push comes to shove as they say, and you can only do one, the biggest impact can be gained through cardiovascular exercise.

Going one step further, the biggest impact to be gained if you are going to do cardiovascular exercise is through a form of exercise known as high intensity interval training, during which small bouts of work are so intense that they leave you breathless or out of air. When this happens, the body cannot get the energy it requires from oxygen and so to keep working, it must find energy elsewhere and so it goes into the fat stores in order to generate what it needs.

Many studies have shown that shorter amounts of high intensity work can yield results similar to longer more sustained exercise efforts. So when you don’t have time for an hour class or a good long run, it doesn’t mean you have to settle for half the workout benefit; you can create a 30 minute workout that does as much or more as your hour long routine.

If you have 30 minutes, start by warming up with dynamic movements. These are motions that are fluid and get the muscles to move, the best way to loosen muscles and prepare for work. For example, if you are going to run or power walk, warming up by walking gently or lightly jogging is better than doing a stretch where you hold your muscle in one position.

High knees (lifting your knees up and down in an exaggerated marching motion), going onto your toes and then rolling back onto your heels and back again or other such movements would also be appropriate. Sitting or lying down in a stretch or grabbing your foot with your hand while standing, for example, are not the best means of warming up the muscles: save that for after your workout as a cool down.

Once you are warm and ready to work, the goal of this super intense fat and calorie blasting workout is to work as hard as you can for one minute, hopefully squeezing all your air out of your lungs until you are out of breath. (You don’t need to go the whole minute; if you run out of air at 42 seconds or 53 seconds, you are done!) But continue until you lose your air or you have pushed as hard as you can for 60 seconds and then go into recovery mode and focus on deep breaths and water for 2 minutes. Repeat nine more times until you have done a set of ten: one minute of intense effort followed by two minutes of recovery for each one.

Even though you will only be working 10 minutes of the 30, research shows that this super intense workout will blast fat (assuming you are able to get to the point of breathlessness) and calories and give you comparable benefits to a longer workout at a more sustained lower intensity pace. But don’t kid yourself: this is a very intense, very difficult workout! And it is only meant for those already active and engaged in a fitness regime. (Check with your doctor to be sure.)

The challenge – and it is a big challenge — is to push yourself hard 10 times in a row, so if you are the type that likes/needs someone pushing you, pair up with a friend or ask someone to talk you through and “coach” you while you take it on. You can work out side by side even if you are on different machines or doing a different exercise and swap one-minute intervals pushing each other.

The good news is that you can do this on a treadmill, a stationary bike, an elliptical machine, a rowing machine or most any piece of gym equipment you have at home or find at a gym. You can also do it in a pool, dancing in your living room, or outside doing your favorite exercise if it’s not too cold where you live.

If you are not fit or experienced enough to take this work out on, or if you are pressed for time and only have 20 minutes, you can modify this to a slightly easier but still powerful workout by reducing the intervals to 30 seconds and following each burst with 90 seconds of recovery. A set of 10 will take you 20 minutes and still yield great rewards. It’s the intensity of the intervals that matters: they have to be all out, hard and at least some of them have to be breathless. (The more the better!)

As you do it more and more, (you can do this once a week when you are pressed on time, or make it your regular routine and do it 2-3 times a week in place of your traditional workout), you will be able to reduce the recovery time in between each push and either squeeze in a few more intervals or get your workout done a few minutes sooner. If you only have 10 minutes, do 5 intense intervals and you’ll still receive the benefits of a much longer workout: something is always better than nothing and in this case, ten minutes really gets you a lot.

If you only have 5 minutes, don’t let that be an excuse for not working out. Do a series of 8 intervals of 20 seconds each, with 10 seconds in between. It will be super hard, but it will boost your metabolism, burn calories during (and long after you work), reduce stress and give you energy. Five minutes is all it takes!

That’s tip number one for managing weight and staying healthy and full of energy this holiday season: try to squeeze a workout in, even if you are short on time. In addition to burning calories and fat, you will feel so much better, have more energy, less stress and you will boost your metabolism (and your immune system) to help compensate for any less healthy eating choices.

Now let’s focus on a few more strategies for surviving holiday celebrations. The first is something that may seem obvious but we often fail to do and that is to eat before the party. You don’t have to have a full meal, but never arrive at a gathering hungry!

Often when we know we are going to a party and that we will be tempted, we eat less during the day, thinking that by eating less we have balanced out the extra calories we’ll take in later. But actually, you will eat much more at the party because you’ll arrive hungry and all of your senses will be stimulated by the goodies; before you know it, you’ll have consumed much more than you planned.

So eat a good lunch and/or have a late afternoon snack. One woman in my indoor cycling class shared that she has a bowl of oatmeal before she goes out. Filling and satisfying, she’ll be less tempted by junk food and can then pick and choose a few indulgences that she’ll really enjoy.

Drink water before you leave and make a plan that every time you have a drink that is not water, you also get a glass of water too. Drink the water first before you enjoy your cocktail.

Don’t let anyone guilt you into eating, whether it’s because they really want you to try their dip or because they want to sabotage your eating along with theirs. Be gracious, but say you had a late lunch or smile and say you are resting in between rounds. Make your own decisions about what and when to eat.

Consider bringing a healthy treat to the party so at least you know there will be one thing there you can nosh on without guilt. (I find it’s better not to ask first: just bring it! But be kind to the host/hostess and make sure it’s plated appropriately and is ready to serve so that it causes no troubles.) Veggies and hummus, guacamole and pita crisps are good examples.

It probably needs to saying that veggies are a great party option but you need to be careful of the dips that often contain excess calories and chemicals. Think Italian when it comes to toppings: red is better than white and avoid creamy dips and dressings.

Look for protein such as shrimp, salmon or chicken to fill you up and balance out the carbs you’re taking in through food and drink.

Choose a few treats that you will really truly enjoy and enlist a friend, co-worker or your partner to help you help you pass on the rest, especially if they are being passed. It’s so easy to take one of everything that goes by: make sure it’s something you’ll really enjoy and savor and if not, decline. Consider deciding to only take one plate from the food station and choose wisely.

If possible, decide in advance on what you will splurge on and what you will pass on. Everyone has a favorite party food: allow yourself to indulge in a bit of that but pass on the other stuff. If you know in advance what that food is, you can use a trick that researchers discovered resulted in significantly less indulging: visualize yourself eating it before the party.

It may sound strange, but a study divided participants into two groups. One group was asked to visualize themselves slowly eating a popular candy. They were to take their time and imagine eating the candy one at a time until they had eaten 30+ candies. The other group did nothing.

When the researchers brought them into the room all together, they put bowls of the candy on the table and monitored the consumption of them. They found the group that visualized eating them prior ate significantly less than the other group. The brain can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is perceived, so the brain felt it had already had candy and really didn’t need any more.

So before you head out or while you’re in the car, imagine eating chips and dip or whatever it is and use all your senses to enjoy the experience. The study didn’t say why it had to be 30 something or if there is a minimum number of repetitions that is necessary, so just repeat it over and over again, at least a couple dozen times and see what happens! I tried it recently and it worked! I imagined eating my favorite indulgence slowly, savoring it for a couple minutes on my way to a gathering and when I saw it there when I arrived, I was not tempted by it.

The strategies I’ve shared are simple and easy and you probably already knew them: there are no magic bullets. It’s really about choosing the ones that will work best for you and seem the most manageable and then deciding to use them and following through.

Lastly, if you do go overboard and overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it: let it go! Often times we feel like we already blew it so why not just keep going and deal with it in January. But tomorrow is a new day and one bad day does not a whole season make! If you are the type that has trouble letting yourself off the hook, then give yourself a “punishment” to serve. For example, 15 minutes on the treadmill or a fast walk outside when you get up the next morning and then let it go.

Every little bit helps and each small decision makes a difference. Take as many little positive steps as you can: try to get a workout in, drink more water, get some extra sleep, take whole food multivitamin supplements, and do your best to take care of yourself each and every day, during the holidays and beyond. Little choices will lead to big results over time.

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. Learn more about Inger and receive her free bestselling ebook What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You.

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