The highs of low-intensity exercise

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Shelia Kalas

All right, it’s New Year’s resolution time. Time to get serious about exercising. That means it’s time to hit it hard. Time to sweat up a storm and lose some weight, right?

If you watch the commercials on TV or read gym membership fliers, then this is what you may believe: hard, high-intensity exercise is the way to go if you want to get results. What if I told you that just the opposite was true? What if I told you that it was low-intensity exercise that was the key to improving overall health and fitness? What if I told you that your body burns a higher percentage of fat when you work out at 50 to 75 percent of your max intensity, than when you work out at 85 percent? Would that make the likelihood of you participating in exercise higher?

Those things are true, and I do believe that most people are more likely to engage in exercise that is not unbearably painful.

It is low-intensity, aerobic exercise (such as walking, running, biking and swimming) that is associated with improving the function of your heart, lungs and circulatory system. It is low-intensity aerobic exercise that is associated with your body using fat for energy. This type of exercise should be the base of every fitness regimen.

High-intensity, anaerobic exercise (like intense weight training and sprinting) burns sugar, or glycogen, for energy, which is replaced as soon as you eat. It is this type of exercise that, for an unfit person, can often lead to injury. This type of exercise should be a part of a well-balanced exercise program, but should be incorporated into an established foundation of aerobic exercise.

You need both aerobic and anaerobic exercise to be healthy, strong and have a high quality of life. However, these types of exercise require very different things from the body with very different benefits.

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