By J. Ron Eaker, M.D.

If you are a mom, or even if you are not, here is one thing you can do that will bolster your long term health and sanity almost more than anything else and I don’t mean Prozac!

Staying active is the elusive fountain of youth. From eight to 80, you can live longer and with greater gusto if you keep fit.  If you are heavy, harried or hormonal then moving with purpose is a critical part of the solution. There is no other single activity that can make you look better, feel better, lose weight, defeat depression, cure PMS or reduce your risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease like exercise. Not only is it becoming increasingly important for adults to exercise but it is also important  for young children who are suffering from sedentary lifestyles.  Overweight kids and overweight adults are at risk for such a myriad of maladies that excess weight will soon supplant cancer as a leading cause of death.

So let’s step back a moment and look at the big picture.  The energy that you expend every day can be broken down into two categories: exercise and everything else.  Surprisingly, it is the “everything else” that plays a huge role in healthy living.  A typical exercise session may be 30 minutes to an hour and all of us have had that sinking experience of seeing “total calories burned” on the treadmill listed at 80 after an hour of sweat. I know I have thought, “Well, dang it, all that work for the equivalent of a Twinkie!”  The reality is that most of the benefit of exercise is manifested during the other 23 hours of the day.  The goal of exercise is to increase overall fitness, which is simply your body’s ability to extract oxygen from your bloodstream.  I don’t want to wallow in the weeds of metabolic minutia here, just suffice it to say that the more you exercise regularly, the fitter you get, the less you weigh, the lower your risk of disease, the longer you live and the more time for solving the world’s problems.

Here’s a fun fact to share at your next dinner party.  The majority of energy that you expend in a day from activity has nothing to do with exercise.  There is a fancy concept called NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) which actually makes up 60% of your daily activity energy.  This includes any movement such as walking to meetings, chasing little Johnny through Kroger, cleaning your cubicle at work, standing up or anything at all that involves motion.  So here is a pearl, anything simple that you can do that increases this form of activity can markedly increase your energy (i.e. calories) burned.  For example, take the stairs, get up from your desk every 30 minutes and walk around for 30 seconds, walk to your workmate instead of sending an e-mail, walk the dog, walk the kids, walk your spouse (they probably need it more than you).

There is a simple formula for being amazingly efficient with your activity for maximizing results. Its called the WALC approach (I love acronyms!).  The “W” is wind sprints. This is not running as fast as you can and throwing up, this is simply periodically picking up the pace of whatever you are doing.  If you are walking, every 5 minutes accelerate for 30 seconds then go back to your regular pace.  This simple practice can burn more calories and boost fitness faster. The “A” is aerobic.  That means with oxygen, so always exercise so that you aren’t gasping for breath. You need oxygen to burn fat, so long and slow wins.  The “L” is weight lift.  Anything that builds muscle is good. Muscle is where fat is metabolized so they are your better butter burners. The “C” means cross-train.  Simply mix it up.  If you always walk, look at riding a bike now and then.  The more you can fool the body into using different muscles, the more results you will see.  The body has an amazing ability to adapt so if you do the same thing everyday then eventually you will get diminishing returns.  Mixing it up will not only help motivation, it will also help you drop a dress size.

Every part of you body is designed for movement.  Every muscle, bone, and ligament is geared for action. We are not meant to be sedentary creatures, we are meant to move and it is through this movement that we can achieve better health and a brighter outlook on life. You don’t have to train for a marathon and you don’t even have to train at all. Just remember that the more you can move in your daily activities, the better off you will be.      

This article appears in the March 2018 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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