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Activity Breaks

Why Lean Muscle is So Important
It is often said that increasing your body's percentage of "lean muscle tissue" is a major benefit of performing regular, strenuous exercise. Building lean muscle tissue is one of the ways your body adapts to certain types of physiologic stress. Lean muscle tissue acts like a metabolic furnace - burning extra calories even while your body is resting.

You can think of it as though your increased percentage of lean muscle tissue turns up your internal thermostat, causing your body to burn fat in order to satisfy the increased demand for energy.

Lean muscle tissue is more dense than body fat, so as you increase your percentage of lean muscle tissue, you may notice your waistline and other measurements decreasing faster than your weight on the scale.  For some people, their weight may even increase a bit while they become slimmer and more toned.  That's why it's best to not rely on a scale to chart your fitness progress.  Increasing your lean muscle tissue will give you a stronger, firmer, and more shapely body that increases your vibrancy, and makes it easier to stay in shape.

You may have heard that regularly performing just thirty minutes of strenuous exercise each day will reward you with many health benefits.  The greatest difficulty for many people though is finding the time to exercise consistently. We only have twenty-four hours each day to accomplish everything we need to do.  In many cases, working, shopping, cleaning, cooking, taking care of the kids, and all the other daily duties we need to perform often take precedence and may leave little room for working out.

Most of us have at least some motivation to exercise1 - we want to workout regularly and we realize it's important and good for us.2 But how and when can we manage to fit it into our busy lives?  A small minority are motivated enough to get up at 5:00 a.m. to workout - making more time in their day but sacrificing their precious sleep. Others wait until the end of the day to exercise, but that can often be stressful and counterproductive, and much more difficult to remain consistent long-term. Clearly though, many people make a good effort to exercise at least a few times each week, wherever they can fit it in.

Over time however, many of our good intentions get thwarted by our daily concerns. Scheduling concerns and deadlines end up taking precedence, and the item on our to-do list that is easiest to cast aside - exercise - ends up getting lost in the time crunch. When this happens, it usually doesn't take long before we're back to not exercising at all. So how can we overcome this tendency, other than getting up very early and exercising first thing in the morning before other concerns vie for our energy and attention?  One way is by performing short bursts of activity throughout each day. Studies have shown that "activity bursts", lasting from three to five minutes, provide significant health benefits for people who would otherwise find it difficult or impossible to exercise in more traditional ways.

The idea of activity bursts is slowly catching on. You may even find that some people at your place of work are starting to take "activity breaks" instead of taking coffee breaks.  Spending a few minutes walking briskly outside, climbing the office building stairs or performing a brief set of calisthenics is all it takes. Six to ten of these short, three to five minute bursts will fulfill the minimum daily requirement of thirty minutes of exercise. You won't even have to find time in your schedule for a typical workout. You're already at work, and you're already taking breaks. It's easy to convert your breaks to exercise breaks. And by the time you've finished your work day, your exercise for the day has also already been completed. The other nice thing about it is that you end up feeling great all day, due to the increased amounts of endorphins that are being released throughout the day.

You don't have to work in an office building to take advantage of this type of exercise.  These "activity bursts" are also great for those who work from home, as well as for school children. Studies in schools are showing that short bursts of intense physical activity increases attention spans and results in increased learning.

This is a way to exercise that makes it easy to fit physical activity into your life.  Finally, everyone can have a workable system for getting the exercise they need. Your Millar chiropractor is a fitness expert and will be happy to help you design an exercise program that works for you.

1Vallance JK, et al: Maintenance of physical activity in breast cancer survivors after a randomized trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc 40(1):173-180, 2008
2Heckman GE, McKelvie RS: Cardiovascular aging and exercise in healthy older adults. Clin J Sport Med 18(6):479-485, 2008

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