News & Events

Get moving to beat obesity

May 16, 2012

By Shannon Harsh, The Review, Published May 16, 2012

To really change the obesity epidemic plaguing our country, we need to get moving. This is the idea behind the "Movin' With The Mayor" program that has been ongoing since April 1 and will wrap up May 27.

Alliance Community Hospital physical therapist/Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Coordinator Eric O'Brien praised the program for its efforts to get local residents exercising. "It's great anytime you can get people moving," he said. "And if you get them to do it as a group, there is more compliance with it."

O'Brien said exercise is an important part of preventative medicine, which he said will help decrease health care costs.

For those just starting out an exercise program, he said it is important to get clearance from a doctor and then begin slowly walking each day and gradually increase the length of time.

"If you have any aches or pains or you don't feel good after increasing it -- say you go from 10 to 15 minutes -- you go back to 10 minutes for two or three times and then you try 15 minutes again."

O'Brien said those who have ailments, such as hip, back or knee problems can be sent to physical therapy to learn how to do the right exercises for them. After an evaluation, he said a physical therapist can set up an individualized basic exercise program.

The recommended amount of daily exercise is at least 30 minutes for five days a week. O'Brien said to be really effective in weight loss, this needs to be 30 consecutive minutes of cardiovascular exercise. He said slow leisure activities won't be beneficial. "You need to walk fast enough to get your heart rate up."

O'Brien said an easy way to tell if your heart is at the right rate to burn fat is by the talk test. "You should be able to say the Pledge of Allegiance for about a minute, but you should be able to say it without taking too many breaths," he explained. He added that the proper exercise intensity to accomplish this is different for everybody.

In addition to cardiovascular exercise, he noted the importance of resistance training to help increase metabolism, burn more calories and decrease weight.

"The big catch phrase now is core strength," he said. "If you think about it, when we walk, our core is our center. So, if you're weak there, you're going to actually have decreased gait deficiencies; you're not going to be able to walk as smooth; you're going to set yourself up for injuries. So, getting on a simple core strengthening program would be a great thing to do."

O'Brien said this would involve some exercises for the abdominal, back and glute muscles that can be done at home. He recommended picking five to seven exercises -- a few for the core and one or two for the arms and legs -- and said to only do resistance training every other day.

Due to what he called "negative return," he said rest is important for those working out frequently. "Our body actually improves when we rest because that's when our body heals -- that's when the nutrients are there. Resting is actually as important a part of the training plan as the exercise itself."

He added it should be active rest, continuing daily duties, but not doing the normal strenuous exercise.

Some other tips O'Brien suggested for an exercise program are:

Change it up -- Make changes to an exercise program when your body adapts and weight loss plateaus. Increase the amount of cardio or change the way you are lifting. It will not only keep your body from adapting, but will keep you from getting bored.

Don't move too fast -- To advance your workouts safely, never increase length of time or intensity more than 10 percent for a week.

Equipment counts -- Walkers should make sure their shoes are not worn and have good cushion. It is recommended to replace shoes every 500 miles.

Delay stretching -- Do a good warm-up, such as jogging, before an activity, but wait to fully stretch your muscles until the end. Studies have shown that stretching before an activity actually decreases performance and a good warm-up improves it.

Know the purpose -- If the purpose is to tone up, use lighter weights with more repetitions. If you're trying to add bulk and muscle, use less heavy weights. "I think the majority of the population is looking more for increasing muscle tone, which could help increase your metabolism, so it would be more of a higher rep, lower weight, and then you also don't have to worry as much about injury because you're not trying to use these huge weights."

Gym shy can work out, too -- Those who don't have access to or aren't comfortable in a gym setting can do all their workouts at home. Lift soup cans or gallons of milk, do floor exercises and use the great outdoors for your cardiovascular exercise.

Enjoy the seasons -- There are outdoors activities available during every season, from cross country skiing to spring canoeing. Find one outdoor activity you like to do every season and you won't mind Ohio seasonal changes. You'll look forward to it.

No pain, no gain, no more -- If you're in pain, you're not doing it right. Pain is your body telling you something is not right. Push to a point where you are uncomfortable and feel you are working hard. Soreness should only last up to 24 hours. Anything longer than that means you did too much and you need to back off a bit.

Check your ego -- As you age, don't push it beyond what is healthy to keep up with the younger crowd. Know your body, listen to it and do what your body tells you. It will tell you where you should stop.

O'Brien said part of the road to success is staying motivated. To do so, he suggested working out with friends and setting a weekly goal to hold yourself accountable. "Make it attainable, but also make it a little bit challenging," he noted.

He also suggested keeping an exercise log that you can look back on to see what you've done and shed light on what you need to change.

For the best success in weight loss, he said choose an exercise that you enjoy doing because it will help you stick with it.

"You need to find one activity that you like to do for 30 minutes, five days a week, and do it -- any activity," he said. "If you're going to like it, you're doing to do it. That's the key. Find something you're going to like to do."

For those looking for another exercise motivation when "Movin' With The Mayor" ends, O'Brien said the hospital will be holding an eight-week "Couch to 5K" program leading up to the Steppin' Out for Hospice 5K. His department will set an exercise program for participants to do on their own with an end goal of walking or running the 5K. The program will start with a talk to be held at 6:30 p.m. June 20 at the Outpatient Physical Therapy Center.

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