You need lots of exercise each week to prevent the weight gain that usually comes with aging. A study measuring the exercise programs of more than 19,000 adults for 20 years or more shows that the people most likely to avoid significant weight gain with aging are those who exercise more than the current recommended amounts (British Journal of Sports Medicine, published online April 29, 2014).
• The Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences recommends an hour a day of moderate-intensity physical activity.
• The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
• The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise three days per week. The authors describe moderate-intensity exercise as moving fast enough to still be able to talk, but not able to sing. Intense exercise requires you to become short of breath.
Over 20 years, the women who followed these guidelines gained an average 19 pounds, and the men gained almost 17 pounds. Women and men who exercised in excess of the guidelines gained 12.5 pounds and 8 pounds less than men and women who followed these inadequate guidelines. Any exercise is better than none, but this is still too much weight gain. People who exercise just once a week live longer than those who do not exercise. However, if you want to prevent gaining weight, you need to do far more than that. You should try to exercise for at a least an hour a day and the more intensely you exercise, the less weight you will gain.
Short-Interval Exercise Lowers Blood Sugar In one recent study, intense short-interval exercise before meals lowered blood sugar more than a single 30-minute session of moderate exercise (Diabetologia, May 2014). The subjects were two women and seven men with high blood sugar levels. They served as their own controls and did the following workouts weeks apart:
• Before the evening meal they performed 30 minutes of moderate intensity walking at 60 percent of maximal heart rate, or
• Every second day before all three meals they performed six one-minute intense incline-walking intervals at 90 percent of maximal heart rate with one minute of slow walking recovery between each interval. The intense interval workouts resulted in 13 percent lower blood sugar levels three hours after meals and lower blood sugars for the next 24 hours.
How Intense Exercise Lowers Blood Sugar Blood sugars rise highest after meals, even if you are not diabetic. Resting muscles require insulin to get any sugar at all into their cells and they remove almost no sugar from your bloodstream even with insulin. On the other hand, contracting muscles remove huge amounts of sugar from the bloodstream, don't need insulin to do this, and the more intensely you exercise, the more rapidly and effectively they remove sugar from your bloodstream. This effect of increased sensitivity to insulin and removing sugar from your bloodstream is most effective while you are exercising and for up to an hour after you finish exercising. After that the ability to remove sugar from the bloodstream without insulin rapidly decreases until it can't even be measured about 17 hours after you finish exercising.
Intervals for Most People If you have a limited amount of time available for exercising, try interval training. You can help prevent weight gain, diabetes, heart trouble and even cancers by exercising intensely for just 20-30 seconds, resting for a minute and repeating these alternating intense/slow intervals. Start with four or five intervals and work up to more as you gain strength.
• People with heart disease could suffer heart attacks during intense exercise, so if you have heart disease or any questions whatever, check with your doctor before attempting intervals or increasing the intensity of your current exercise program.
• For those of you who have never done intervals or are out of shape, it is best to spend a month or two first doing slow continuous exercise before you try more intense workouts.
• Most people cannot do intervals every day without injuring themselves. They benefit most by doing intervals only every other day.
• If your legs hurt or feel heavy or stiff, skip that workout and do not try the intervals again until your legs feel fresh again.
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