Finding balance on your path to well-being - Part 1 of 3

While we often talk about striving for optimum health, I like to think that the term “well-being” includes much more than just one aspect of our lives such as nutrition and healthy eating. Well-being is a balanced approach to becoming the best you possible – physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually. Each of us has a personal avenue to health, and each of us has an optimal state of well-being. 
Combining good nutrition with exercise can improve all aspects of well-being, especially physical, social and psychological. This three-part series will help you understand how to start, or get re-connected with, your personal exercise regimen. 
I sat down recently with our summer intern, Matt Maassel, to talk about some new ways to think about getting started with an exercise routine or rejuvenating an existing worn, tired approach to fitness. Matt is a student at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science and Nutrition. He is certified as a 
personal trainer and nutrition coach. Some of you may know him as a former exercise specialist at Parkview Health & Fitness Center, 3000 E. State Blvd., Fort Wayne. 
I think we can all agree that starting an exercise routine can be tough, and excuses to avoid exercise are prolific. Matt has heard them all: I don’t have time; a gym membership is too expensive; my joints hurt; it’s boring – the list goes on and on.  
But successful programs are built on your inner motivation that makes you want to achieve a greater level of well-being. Is there a family history of disease you know you can avoid with exercise? Are you just hoping to feel more energy and vitality? Think through your motivation to get on your personal avenue to health. Find your purpose, then get into action.
Once you find that motivation and determination to stick to the program (reports say it could take two to eight months to make a new behavior automatic), developing deeply cultivated habits (and the addicting endorphins your body generates during exercise) will keep you going.
Matt advises that no matter what fitness level you are at right now, “Do a little more, a little better.” Start with small, simple goals and always work to make your exercises more challenging over time. If you’re not moving at all right now, find a movement you can start with. If you’re already exercising, ratchet things up a bit. It doesn’t matter where we start with fitness, but it does matter where we are going. 
Note: Before you start or intensify any exercise program, ask yourself these questions to make sure your body is healthy enough.
Finding purpose
Here is this week’s Q&A with Matt, focused on the topic of finding purpose in your exercise routine – weight loss, muscle gain or general, all-around fitness. Let’s keep the conversation going. Post additional questions unique to your situation in the comments section of this blog. 
Does exercise help you lose weight?
  • The short answer is yes. Exercise, while offering a plethora of other benefits, can help you lose weight, but it is not the only factor. Nutrition is the most important companion to exercise for weight loss. 
What types of exercise are better for weight loss?
  • Anything that gets you moving, your heart beating and your lungs working can be an effective exercise for weight loss, whether it’s hiking, running, dancing or cycling. When it comes to cardiovascular exercise, it’s more about what activity you enjoy doing and can use to challenge yourself. 
  • Some form of strength training should be a regular part of your exercise program if you want to lose excess fat and maintain your lean muscle mass. Maintaining muscle mass through resistance training is so important, especially as we age. You can actually still lose muscle mass if the only thing in your exercise program is cardiovascular exercise or machines, so resistance training is very important.
  • Consider your exercise intensity. Walking, for example, is not very intense. Most people, if they had to, could walk for hours. But, if you had to walk while carrying a 20 – 40 lb. weight, THEN walking becomes very intense and very valuable for weight loss. Always look for ways to make your exercise a little more challenging. 
  • Embrace interval training. The idea of interval training is to alternate between periods of very intense, vigorous exercise and less intense, moderate exercise. For example, while running, you could alternate between running close to your max speed and jogging at a slower, more leisurely pace. This allows for a higher volume of high-intensity exercise. 
Should I lift weights? Do I need to do strength training?
  • Strength training is beneficial for everyone. Strength training maintains muscle mass while building strength. Maintaining muscle mass throughout life is crucial to well-being and overall quality of life, keeping you mobile and flexible for everyday tasks. Strength training also helps develop mobility, stability and control of your body position and posture while also offering many of the same benefits of traditional cardiovascular exercises. 
Should I be concerned about getting too bulky with strength training?
  • No. Body builders with ripped muscles from head to toe are professionals who exercise as a career. Most of us aren’t going to end up looking like that. Building muscle is a gradual process, so if you’re paying attention, you’ll be able to see how your body responds to weight training and adapt your training accordingly. Muscle adds shape and definition to the body. As you become more comfortable with weight training and see the results, I think you may become more excited about weight training. You don’t have to load on tons of weight. Even walking while carrying a two-pound weight in each hand, swinging your arms as you walk, can intensify your workout. In reality, resistance training helps burn fat more efficiently due to the muscle repair process. This is where body composition becomes more important than overall body weight. A body composition test can help determine your amount of fat weight compared to lean weight.

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