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How to Get Started on Your Road to Fitness

Aug 17, 2007
What do you have in common with your cave-dwelling ancestors of the paleolithic era? Your genes. As you are about to discover, this is crucial to your ability to achieve fitness.

You see, we have a "thrifty gene". Actually, there are probably many such genes, but for the point of this article just one will suffice.

In a fascinating compilation study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (Vol. 93, Issue 1, 3-30, July 2002), Booth et. al. set out to prove a hypothesis -- that physical inactivity leads to chronic disease. Sounds like common sense...but then again, common sense is rare these days when it comes to health.

What is most interesting about this study was the level of exercise that Booth et. al. used to establish an "activity baseline". What do you think it is? Running for an hour a day? Hard weight training four days per week?

Hardly. Try "30 minutes or more of brisk walking per day."

Thirty minutes!

That is all the researchers determined was required to prevent many of the killer diseases we currently experience. This was sufficient activity to "deactivate" our thrifty gene, and let our bodies know we were not, in fact, about to head for the cave and hybernate.

While I realize not everyone can walk, there are numerous alternatives to walking that just about anyone can do that will provide the same health-protective benefits described in this study, as well as over 35 studies published in the past two years alone on the subject of walking and health.

Yes, walking is the king of easy-to-do, no-excuse exercise. I personally used nothing but walking and nutrition to lower my body fat to under 10%...a level most men would consider highly desirable. Hard, long cardio was right out. I was more concerned with the health benefits and, yes, the fat-burning benefits of walking.

The Evolution (Literally) Of Walking

Obviously exercise of any kind will "burn calories" - but this is not the only key to long-term fat burning. Every thought and action you take that is contrary to the "programming" of your current neuropathways and cellular signals serves you exponentially as your body regenerates cellular tissue.

I know...that sounds complex, but isn't really. Think of it as memorizing something you're not accustomed to, like a new password or a combination to a new lock.

Before long, this becomes "second nature" to you - you recall it easily. This is cellular programming, cognitive restructuring, and a lot of other lofty-sounding tech stuff that amounts to imprinting the CD that we call our brain. The more imprints that are positive, the more weapons we have (in the form of billions of encoded cells) that literally propel us toward our new paths. This can be as simple as a combination to a lock, or as seemingly "huge" as a lifestyle change.

Back To The Basics

Just because you're walking doesn't mean your "strolling", or engaging in an exercise that requires no progression. All exercise must be progressive. You can increase your pace and even keep track of your results by using a $30 pedometer.

Set a goal of 10,000 steps in a day. This sounds like a lot, but it isn't - even the average couch potato gets about 2,000-3,000 steps in a day. I know, I found it hard to believe myself. Perhaps a few may get less, but 10,000 steps really does not require much effort.

Here's how you can start today: grab yourself a pedometer and a sheet of paper, a good pair of walking shoes, and hit the trail. Pretty simple, right? You can also do exercises like Nordic Track, the glider, or whatever. Base your activity on the following formula: moderate exercise = about 1,000 steps for every 10 minutes. Intense exercise = about 2,000 steps for every 10 minutes.

You can walk in the mall, around the neighborhood, or even in your home if it's big enough (although that would get a bit boring.) Just walk, and increase your pace and length a bit at a time, and watch what happens. Your endorphins will increase, which will help propel you to want to exercise 'more'. Your body fat will steadily decrease. Your health will really benefit, as the study above demonstrates.

Most of all, you'll be taking action towards momentum. What does that mean? We must establish a lifestyle that's momentum-based, not "willpower-based". Willpower only lasts so long, but momentum can carry you almost effortlessly toward your goals.

Hit the road!
About the Author
Jon Benson is a nutrition and fitness counselor who specializes in weight loss and life coaching. He is the creator of The Fit Over 40 Role Modeling System, and the author of "Fit Over 40". More information on fitness is available at http://www.fitover40.com/kw/fitness.
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