Tag Archives: stair climbing

Exercise tips from Tufts

The following were actually a sidebar in a missive from Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter. I thought they constitute a super summary for us folks who want to eat less; move more and live longer. I am very happy to add that I have incorporated a number of these into my lifestyle.

At the risk of sounding like Debbie Downer, I would like to point out that failing to exercise on a regular basis is one of the main causes of seniors falling down. This is because inadequate physical activities often lead to reduced bone mass and flexibility. It also contributes to the loss of your balance and reduced muscle tone. These problems often lead to difficulties in making proper movements, thereby resulting in the fall.

woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

All forms of physical activity count—not just structured workouts. Here are some ways to add more physical activity to your day:

Walk rather than drive to destinations you can reach on foot within 10 minutes (which will ensure walking a mile there and back).-Park wherever you first see a space at your destination, instead of driving around to find the closest one.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Get up to turn the television on and off or change channels manually rather than using the remote.

Do stretches and exercises, or pedal a stationary bike, while watching television or listening to the radio.

Join a walking group in the neighborhood or at the local shopping mall. Recruit a partner for support and encouragement.

-At work, replace a coffee break with a brisk 10-minute walk.

Cut the grass with a push mower instead of a gas or electric mower.

-When traveling, stroll around the airport, train or bus station instead of sitting.

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Skip the coffee, take the stairs to feel more energized

I am a great believer in the benefits of stair climbing. Check out my post 5 Reasons stair climbing is good for you to read much more about it. Here are some neat further benefits of this simple, but not necessarily easy, exercise that you can do in lots of places.

A midday jolt of caffeine isn’t as powerful as walking up and down some stairs, according to new research from the University of Georgia.

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In a new study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, researchers in the UGA College of Education found that 10 minutes of walking up and down stairs at a regular pace was more likely to make participants feel energized than ingesting 50 milligrams of caffeine-about the equivalent to the amount in a can of soda.

“We found, in both the caffeine and the placebo conditions, that there was not much change in how they felt,” said Patrick J. O’Connor, a professor in the department of kinesiology who co-authored the study with former graduate student Derek Randolph. “But with exercise they did feel more energetic and vigorous. It was a temporary feeling, felt immediately after the exercise, but with the 50 milligrams of caffeine, we didn’t get as big an effect.” Continue reading

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How to sneak exercise into your day

Eat less; move more; live longer. Let’s be more specific about that moving part.

According to the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services:

Adults 18 to 64 should get:
2.5 hours/wk of moderate intensity exercise.
OR 1.25 hours a week of vigorous aerobic physical activity
Or Some combination of the above – equivalent episodes of at least 10 minutes spread throughout the week.

That is really not a lot of exercise to sneak into a seven-day week. But, this is an old guy who has been retired for 17 years talking. What about the guy/gal who is clocking 50 or more hours a week on a demanding job with after work dinners and out of town travel assignments. All of a sudden a total of 2.5 hours a week becomes difficult to downright impossible.

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Consider a desk that allows you to stand to protect yourself from the damage of prolonged sitting.

Well, WebMD has some really good ideas on how to squeeze some exercise into each day – even with a demanding job. You can check them all out at the link, but here are some that particularly impressed me. Continue reading

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This Is Why Climbing Stairs Leaves You Breathless

Fascinating insights here into our mental and physical activities.

On a related note, I am an avid stair-climber and recommend this for good cardio and weight bearing exercise.

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If you would like to learn more about the benefits of stair-climbing, check out my series:

Stair-climbing is good for you – Part One

Stair-climbing is good for you – Part Two

Stair-climbing is good for you – Part Three

Stair-climbing is good for you – Part Four

Tony

Our Better Health

A flight of stairs can leave the fittest people feeling out of breath.

It’s happened to all of us: We’re running late for a meeting and it’s only one flight of stairs away, so we dash on up. But when we arrive at the meeting, we’re embarrassed to be huffing and puffing as if we had just sprinted for a mile. It was just one little flight of stairs!

If you’re tempted to take this as a sign that you need to hit the gym more often, think again: Even marathon runners can get winded by the sudden task of vaulting a flight of stairs quickly, because physical fitness has little to do with it. It’s also tempting to assume it’s just a matter of not warming up. Eh, not really.

What happens when we approach a flight of stairs, with the intention of darting up them quickly, is that…

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How Stair-Climbing Promotes Healthy Brain Aging – Study

I started writing about stair climbing more than two years ago when my  home town of Chicago suffered an unusually bitter winter. At the time I focused on the weight-bearing aspect of the exercise as well as the cardiovascular benefits. If you are interested, you can check out the beginning of a multi-part series of posts starting with: Five Reasons Stair-climbing is good for you – Part One.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see this Concordia study on how stair climbing benefits the brain and promotes healthy aging.

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Taking the stairs is normally associated with keeping your body strong and healthy. But new research shows that it improves your brain’s health too — and that education also has a positive effect.

In a study recently published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, researchers led by Jason Steffener, a scientist at Concordia’s PERFORM Centre, show that the more flights of stairs a person climbs, and the more years of school a person completes, the “younger” their brain physically appears.

The researchers found that brain age decreases by 0.95 years for each year of education, and by 0.58 years for every daily flight of stairs climbed — i.e., the stairs between two consecutive floors in a building.

“There already exist many ‘Take the stairs’ campaigns in office environments and public transportation centres,” says Steffener. “This study shows that these campaigns should also be expanded for older adults, so that they can work to keep their brains young.”

For the study, Steffener and his co-authors used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to non-invasively examine the brains of 331 healthy adults who ranged in age from 19 to 79.

They measured the volume of grey matter found in participants’ brains because its decline, caused by neural shrinkage and neuronal loss, is a very visible part of the chronological aging process. Then, they compared brain volume to the participants’ reported number of flights of stairs climbed, and years of schooling completed.

Results were clear: the more flights of stairs climbed, and the more years of schooling completed, the younger the brain.

“This study shows that education and physical activity affect the difference between a physiological prediction of age and chronological age, and that people can actively do something to help their brains stay young,” he says.\

“In comparison to many other forms of physical activity, taking the stairs is something most older adults can and already do at least once a day, unlike vigorous forms of physical activity,” says Steffener, who is also a researcher at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal.

“This is encouraging because it demonstrates that a simple thing like climbing stairs has great potential as an intervention tool to promote brain health.”

Regular readers know that I have keen interest in anything the promotes brain health. Here are some further posts you may want to read:

How Seniors Can Bolster Brain Power

You Can Slow Down Brain Drain

How to Have a Healthy Brain and Keep it

10 Ways to Love Your Brain – Alzheimer’s Association

Exercise Benefits the Brain – Chicago Tribune

What is a Defense Against and Aging Brain?

Tony

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How About a 5 Minute Office Workout? – Infographic

I am well into retirement, so being tied up at the office and unable to exercise does not happen to me any more. For the benefit of those of you who still feel pressured by long hours and demanding jobs, here is a little five minute workout that can at least assuage some of your guilt and make you feel fitter. I am impressed with the amount of ground it covers.

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Nice to see the little stair climbing in there. I still do that occasionally.

Tony

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Weight Loss Hacks – Infographic

Rome was not built in a day and you didn’t put that spare tire around you waist in one, either. It took lots of hours, days, weeks and months to accomplish that. So, don’t expect to get rid of it in a day or week. Check out these simple small changes that can work wonders over a longer period of time.

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Eat less; move more. You can expect results.

Tony

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What is a Pulse Oximeter from Costco?

Funny you should ask.

The pulse oximeter pictured here is a neat little gadget that Costco is selling. As you can see from the picture, it monitors your Heart Rate (pulse), Oxygen Level and your Blood Flow. In sum, very useful information provided in a matter of seconds with no penetration of your flesh. There is even a cool graph of your heart beat on the screen.350-588488-847__1 In this period of wearables, the Pulse Oximeter is reminiscent of the first cell phones. But, you can feel like a camp counselor and wear it around your neck using the attached lanyard.

Before I go into explanations and specifications, I want to disclose that I bought one of these and have been using it for a week now. Love it! It is particularly useful when I am stair climbing. I like to get a handle on how my heart rate accelerates on the climb and then nosedives when I walk around to bring it down.

The Costco listing: “The Quest Pulse Oximeter is designed to support individuals as they monitor their pulse rate and oxygen saturation. This lightweight portable device takes fast, non-invasive measurements at the fingertip. Ideal for monitoring heart rate and oxygen saturation during sports activities, while exercising or during air travel. “

Okay, what does it measure?
Pulse Rate Measurement (BPM) – Measures the number of heart beats per minute. A normal adult pulse rate while resting is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Oxygen Saturation (SpO2) – Oxygen saturation is a measure of how much oxygen the blood is carrying as a percentage of the maximum it could carry. Measuring saturated hemoglobin is a useful screening tool for determining basic respiratory function.
Perfusion Index (PI%) – Perfusion index is an indication of the pulse strength at the sensor site. The PI’s values range from 0.2% for very weak pulse to 20% for extremely strong pulse.

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How I Fight Cabin Fever in Frigid, Snowy Chicago

Cabin fever is an idiomatic term, first recorded in 1918, for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations. Wikipedia

Regular readers know that this blog emanates from Chicago in the Midwestern heart of the U.S. While readership extends to over 18 countries, the majority of you dwell right here in the U.S. of A. So, many of you are suffering similar frigid weather this winter as a result of the polar vortex(es) or is the plural polar vortices, vorti? See what cabin fever does to your mind.

Here are just a few of the weather facts from Chi-town:

1. Chicago’s 59.6 inches of snow is more than six times last year’s 9.2 inches and nearly three times normal annual snowfall.
2. This is the eighth snowiest winter on record since 1884-85.
3. There have been 20 days at or below zero fahrenheit so far. This is the most since 1983-84 and winter still has more than a month to run. Only one of the past 143 years has recorded more zero days. Stats courtesy of Tom Skilling’s Chicago Weather Center blog.

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The relevance of the cold along with the snow is that most of the snow that fell this winter is still on the ground. There are two foot deep mounds of snow in downtown Chicago.

So, what’s a boy to do? Bike riding is virtually out of the question. Most outdoor activity is virtually out of the question.

Here are a few of my fixes. Reading. I have read a number of really good books including three Thomas Perry novels: The Butcher’s Boy, Sleeping Dogs and The Informant. Perry is a superb novelist. These are not just thrillers, but full-fleshed novels. The Butcher’s Boy series is about a professional assassin who works for the mob. He gets stiffed by them after a job and the three novels depict in detail the ramifications of that.

I also spent much of Super Bowl Sunday watching all the SB preliminaries offered by the various networks topped off by the game itself.

Since weather conditions pretty much precluded biking, I have taken to climbing stairs in my highrise home. I started with 15 flights and have progressed to 24 flights twice a day. For details please check out my four part series of posts on this exercise starting with Stair Climbing Part One. Remember, you still need to exercise regardless of the weather conditions.

But, part of the pain of cabin fever is just being cooped up inside. You absolutely have to get out of your apartment/house.

I live 15 miles from Harrah’s Horseshoe Casino and managed a couple of visits to those hallowed halls.

A good remedy for cabin fever is just to take a walk. Actually, one of my great pleasures in winter is layering, that is wearing several layers to provide insulation against the cold. I am a big fan of Eddie Bauer outdoor wear. I have Eddie Bauer hoodies, down jackets, vented shell jackets, windbreakers, etc., not to mention long underwear. You need to bundle up when it is frigid outside, but I recommend it.

Check out Cold Weather Exercise Tips and A Cold Weather Exercise Tip for more.

A couple of years ago when the blizzard hit Chicago, I wrote – A walk after the blizzard of 2011.

I have mentioned the courses I take from The Great Courses. I don’t know how many posts I have written based on ideas from these courses.

Listening to lectures from the following: The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works How the Stay Fit as you Age and Secrets of Sleep Science: From Dreams to Disorders to name a few, helped fight that closed in feeling. I have mentioned these courses repeatedly throughout the four years of writing this blog and recommend them highly.

Almost last but not least, I have been writing blog posts. Hope you were able to find something useful.

Finally, don’t let cabin fever get you down and start bingeing on junk food and letting your exercise habits go down the drain. Eat less; move more will get you there. Don’t let the weather knock you off your scheduled workouts. You don’t want to get into a negative spiral that will damage you physically as well as emotionally.

Those are a few of the arrows in my quiver for fighting cabin fever. Feel free to share some of whatever you are doing to keep your sanity this frosty season.

Tony

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Stair Climbing is Good For You – Part Four – ACSM

I just finished posting comments on questions I raised on stair climbing when I heard back from another of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) experts. You can read Stair Climbing – Part Three here.

Michele Olson PHD, FACSM, Professor of Exercise Science at Auburn University Montgomery offered the following answers to the queries I asked in the previous post. Doctor Olson is also the co-author with Henry N. Williford, Ed.D., FACSM, HFS of the ACSM brochure Selecting and Effectively Using an Elliptical Trainer or Stair Climber which is available free at the link and contains a super rundown on using these machines.

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How does actual stair climbing compare with the machines? Is one more effective, healthier, safer?

Olson: ACTUAL STAIR CLIMBING IS MORE INTENSE BECAUSE YOU ARE MOVING YOUR BODY FARTHER AND FARTHER AWAY FROM GRAVITY AT EACH STEP.  MACHINES WITH REVOLVING STEPS TEND TO BE MORE VIGOROUS THAN PUSH-DOWN PEDAL MACHINES. BUT ALL OF THAT CAN VARY WITH THE SETTING USED ON ANY MACHINE.

As I usually do about 15 flights in around five minutes, I was interested in whether or not this was beneficial. I asked, is there a minimum time required to benefit from stair climbing? Is five minutes a session enough?

Olson: THERE ARE RESEARCH STUDIES WHERE PARTICIPANTS HAVE DONE MULTIPLE BOUTS OF 2 MINUTES OF STAIR CLIMBING AND REALIZED CHANGES IN FITNESS.  AS ONE IMPROVES, ONE WOULD NEED TO SPEND A GREATER AMOUNT OF TIME.

Is there a difference in physical benefits between climbing 15 flights of stairs straight up vs. 15 flights by walking three flights up and then two flights down.

GOING DOWN STAIRS IS ABOUT ONE FOURTH OF THE DEMAND AS GOING UP. SO IF A TOTAL OF 15 FLIGHTS ARE TAKEN UP AND THEN A FEW FLIGHTS ARE DONE IN A REVERSE, THAT WOULD BE MORE DEMANDING THAN JUST 15 UP.  BUT DOING 10 FLIGHTS UP AND FIVE DOWN WOULD NOT BE COMPARABLE TO 15 ALL UP.

Speaking of down, is it a good idea to walk down stairs, or is it better, safer to take the elevator?

Olson: SURE. WE HAVE TO WALK UP AND DOWN OFF CURBS, IN AND OUT OF CARS, ETC. PEOPLE WITH BAD KNEES MIGHT NEED TO TAKE THE ELEVATOR DOWN, OR, DO A FEW FLIGHTS DOWN AND THEN JUMP ON THE ELEVATOR. BUT A MIX OF UP AND DOWN MIMICS REAL LIFE AND REAL MOVEMENTS DURING DAILY LIFE.

Many thanks to Dr. Olson for these very helpful insights.

Tony

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Stair Climbing is Good For You – Part Three – ACSM

I started climbing stairs in my building a couple of weeks ago and began writing about the experience shortly thereafter. You can read Stair Climbing Part One and Stair Climbing Part Two if you want to catch up.

In the past few weeks I have spoken with neighbors and readers about their stair climbing experience and in the process as many questions have been raised as answered. I went back to my friends at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for more info.

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I was lucky enough to get Henry N. Williford, Ed.D., FACSM, HFS, Department Head Physical Education/Exercise Science to give us some further observations. Mr. Williford is also the co-author with Michele Olson, Ph.D., FACSM of the ACSM brochure Selecting and Effectively Using an Elliptical Trainer or Stair Climber which is available free at the link and contains a super rundown on using these machines.

Following is a list of my questions and his answers:

How does actual stair climbing compare with the machines? Is one more effective, healthier, safer?

Williford: The energy costs of stair climbing are based on the weight of the person, height of the step, and speed of stepping. There are stepping machines that are used for fitness development, and groups such as firefighters use the devices to evaluate job performance. Generally the stepping machines move at a designated rate and the person must keep up with the machine.  With treadmills or other devices the individual tends to be traveling on a flatter surface, unless the device is elevated.  As the incline goes up, the energy cost goes up greatly. I have not seen any data on a comparison of health or safety.  The benefits of physical activity are generally based on the total amount of work the person does.  The more work or energy spent the greater the benefit.  The ACSM has appropriate guidelines for individuals of different fitness levels and risk factors.

As I usually do about 15 flights in around five minutes, I was interested in whether or not this was beneficial. I asked, Is there a minimum time required to benefit from stair climbing? Is five minutes a session enough? 

Williford: Five minutes does not meet the minimal ACSM guidelines for health. Individuals can do multiple 5 minute segments throughout the day to meet the daily 30 minute daily recommendation.  Intense exercise 3 days for shorter durations may be appropriate. However, any exercise is better than none.

Is there a difference in physical benefits between climbing 15 flights of stairs straight up vs. 15 flights by climbing three and and then descending two. I read some place on the web that a good way to climb stairs for a beginner (me) is to go up three flights and then down two and continue with that.

Williford: The energy cost of going down is approximately 1/3 of climbing up.  So the person would use more energy going up as compared to down.  Going down is what is called eccentric exercise. There is less energy use, but a greater risk of muscle soreness.

Speaking of down, is it a good idea to walk down stairs, or is it better, safer to take the elevator?

Williford: Avoid the elevator.  Going down stairs can add to the total amount of work.  Always use caution.

In conclusion, as regular readers know, I am a bicycle rider here in Chicago so I was interested in the effects stair climbing might have on my biking. I rode for the first time in the past few weeks yesterday after climbing stairs regularly in that period. I was absolutely aware of further strength in my legs to the point that I found myself checking the gear shift because I thought I was riding in too low a gear. So, anecdotally, I can attest that a just couple of weeks of climbing stairs has added to my strength pedaling the bike.

Tony

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Stair Climbing is Good For You – Part Two – ACSM

Two days ago I wrote “Stair Climbing is Good for You” which talked about the value of this often overlooked exercise. At least overlooked by me.

I was impressed with the exercise, but wasn’t sure about whether or not descending stairs was a valuable part of it or potentially harmful. Some friends who do it said that they take the elevator down after they walk up because they don’t want to damage their knees. Also, a personal trainer friend (who has a titanium knee) said not to walk down stairs, only up.

stair-climbingSo, I asked around and the American College of Sports Medicine sent my post to one of their experts.

Here is what David R. Bassett, Jr., Professor, Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies Senior Associate Editor, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Senior Editor, Research Digest, The University of
Tennessee had to say: “This blog post is mostly accurate. One thing that is not 100% accurate is the statement that stair climbing burns more calories than running. This COULD be a true statement, but it is not generally true. It depends on the rate of stair-climbing and the speed of running on the level. The energy cost of running is: running 6 mph (9.8 Metabolic Equivalent of Task  (METs), running 7 mph (11.0 METs), running 8 mph (11.8 METs), running 9 mph (12.8 METs), running 10 mph (14.5 METs). The cost of stair climbing has been measured at a slow pace (4.0 METs), at a fast pace (8.8 METs). We did a study where we measured the energy cost of stair climbing at 70 steps/min and found it to be 8.6 METs. Stair-climbing could get up to 15 METs, but that would almost require jogging up the stairs.

“Regarding the question of whether walking downstairs is beneficial, the energy cost of descending stairs is about one-third that of ascending stairs, so from a caloric standpoint descending stairs is not nearly as beneficial as ascending stairs. The impact forces of descending are probably greater, which would increase bone loading. Another difference is that the quadriceps muscles are contracting eccentrically, as opposed to concentrically, when descending stairs. What this means is that the thigh muscles are performing a lengthening contraction, as opposed to the more typical shortening contraction. This could lead to muscle soreness if done for extended periods of time, but over time your muscles would adapt and you would be able to do the activity with little or no soreness.”

I got the statement about the value of stair climbing vs. running from Run Society, but neglected to include them as the source. I have since included that citation along with a link in the original.

Thanks to Professor Bassett for his observations.

For more on this important topic, check out: Stair climbing is good for you – Part Three – ACSM.

Tony

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5 Reasons Stair Climbing is Good For You – Part One

Regular readers know that I have been an avid bicycle rider for years. I logged over 7000 miles in the year just ended. And, I have not stopped riding. I have, however, begun a new exercise, for me – climbing stairs.

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Although this person is walking down the stairs, I don’t recommend it. You can develop knee problems among others.

How come? Well, the only drawback to cycling I know of is that it is not weight-bearing. So, while the aerobic activity benefits my cardiovascular system greatly, I get no benefits for my skeletal system. I need both and I just can’t get into weight workouts.

An additional benefit of  stair climbing over bike riding is that you can do it indoors so the weather conditions do not present a problem. Having just suffered through historic cold weather with much of the country, this is particularly relevant now. While current temps here in Chicago range in the mid 30’s, there is still a lot of snow, ice and slush around that makes for dangerous biking conditions.

So, what about climbing stairs? It burns more calories than running and doesn’t beat up your legs as much as running does. RunSociety says, “When you stair climb for exercise, you burn twice the fat in half the time than if you run and three times more than walking. An intense stair-climbing exercise session will produce more aerobic benefits in a shorter amount of time than running or walking. One hour of stair climbing will burn approximately 1000 calories.”

Nonetheless, you can climb at your own pace and still get a good workout.

A New York Times article by Dr. Harvey Simon on the heath sciences technology faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founding editor of the Harvard Men’s Health Watch, wrote, “What’s so special about climbing stairs? Researchers in Canada answered the question by monitoring 17 healthy male volunteers with an average age of 64 while they walked on the level, lifted weights or climbed stairs. Stair climbing was the most demanding. It was twice as taxing as brisk walking on the level and 50 percent harder than walking up a steep incline or lifting weights. And peak exertion was attained much faster climbing stairs than walking, which is why nearly everyone huffs and puffs going up stairs, at least until their “second wind” kicks in after a few flights.”
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How Good Are Mini Exercise Sessions?

A very commonly heard reason (excuse) for not exercising is I just don’t have the time. Everybody finds themselves working longer hours these days. That’s one of the explanations for the increased productivity we hear so much about. Businesses cut jobs and reallocate the work among the remaining employees. I get it. You are likely to be working longer hours now than you ever have in your life. But there are solutions for curtailed free time.

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One of the basic facts of healthy living that you need to know is that exercise is not optional. You need to do it. If you aren’t getting some kind of exercise, you are on a fast track to big time medical problems. Being overweight and under exercised is a prayer to an unkind god that will be answered in a way that does not make you happy.

One of the basic principles of healthy living is that you can break exercise up into smaller segments. Your body needs 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Besides providing much-needed work for your muscles and cardiovascular system, exercise also helps to lower your LDL cholesterol (the bad one) and raises your HDL cholesterol (the good one).

You can break up your 30 minute exercise requirement into 10 minute segments three times a day and still get the benefit of 30 minutes of exercise.

Remember there are lots of ways you can do exercise without going to the health club. Park the car at the far end of the lot and walk the rest of the way to work, shopping mall or supermarket.

If you work or live in a high rise building, take the stairs for the last few flights. Stair climbing is a super exercise to get your heart going. You are using the big muscles in your legs to lift your body and pump your blood around your circulatory system. I have written a number of posts on the benefits of stair climbing: Stair climbing is good for you – Part One, Stair climbing is good for you – Part Two, Stair climbing is good for you – Part Three and Stair climbing is good for you – Part Four.

Get going on these mini exercise segments and remember to be kind to yourself. If you only get in two instead of three, do it again tomorrow. Two is better than none.

Tony

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Filed under aging, Exercise, HDL Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol, overweight, Weight