By Clinical Nurse Specialist Anna Katzman, GalTime.com
Whether you are going for the Gold in London this summer or just going to Gold's Gym in town, here's the skinny on exercise, and what determines how far you could... or at least should... go.
While professional athletes train for, among many goals, performance, the rest of us train or simply exercise, for health and if we desire, weight loss.
No matter what our goal, we need a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training to achieve it. This involves a minimum of 150 minutes per week doing aerobic activity and a minimum of two times per week engaging in strength training.
"That's the level at which we begin to see really significant benefits to health, such as a decreased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, decreased risk of heart disease and stroke, decreased blood pressure, and decreased risk of developing certain cancers specifically related to exercise" (colon cancer and breast cancer), says Dr. Steve Farrell, Science Officer for the Division of Education at The Cooper Institute.
It's estimated that 150 mintues a week is the minimum amount of exercise time required to achieve an adequate fitness level but increased amounts can lead to greater benefits, according to the experts.
It is at this higher level of time commitment that weight loss is achieved.
What is "moderate" and what is "vigorous" exercise? "This depends upon what your heart is doing." Dr. Farrell indicates, namely what "heart rate reserve" is being used.
The heart rate reserve is the calculated difference between maximal heart rate (the max amount your heart can beat) and resting heart rate.
Exercising at a heart rate reserve of 40-59% is considered moderate exercise and at 60% or higher is vigorous.
An easier way to determine whether or not you're doing moderate or vigorous exercise (I was told there would be no math) is: If you can carry on a normal conversation during exercise without becoming breathless, you're engaging in moderate exercise, whereas if it's difficult to carry on normal conversation, (and you're not talking to a crazy person), then you are engaging in vigorous exercise.
Related: 4 Top Ab Exercises for Women
Why am I not a Natalie Coughlin? Because your parents did not name you Natalie; but more importantly because they did not pass on to you the type of genetics that Natalie inherited.
Genetics come largely into play when it comes to making it as a professional athlete. Training, good nutrition, proper rest and recovery, good coaching, and remaining free of injury, determine how far people can go in a sport, explains Dr. Farrell.
However, he declares that it is genetics that is perhaps the biggest determinant. Genetics determines body type, height, weight, the size and the function of the heart, the function and size of the lungs, and the function of the muscles that control breathing.
Most importantly, genetics controls muscle fiber type: slow-twitch fiber muscle allows for endurance and fast-twitch allows for speed and strength: "Most of us are born 50-50 with regard to muscle fibers. That's why most of us aren't going to the Olympics this summer." states Dr. Farrell.
He explains that people "blessed genetically" with a high percentage of one of these types of muscle fibers can excel athletically.
For example, a woman with a high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers may excel as a gymnast, using these muscle fibers to perform the gymnast's required tremendous amounts of work in a short period of time.
A person with a high percentage of slow-twitch fibers may make an excellent 10 K runner, as a result of his great endurance.
If you're not competing in London this summer, you can still maintain a bloody good exercise regimen. What's even better, since you'll be cutting your workout down to 300 minutes or less per week, you will have more time to actually lie on the couch and enjoy this year's Summer Olympics!
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