Exercise is important, but what is the right intensity?

Horizon Sports Medicine Clinic Photo: Courtesy of Sunny Ma
While a growing number of people are realizing the importance of exercise to stay healthy, a cramming workout on a weekend doesn’t guarantee fitness, and even risks injuries. Whether you are slimming down or packing on muscle mass, doing it the right way is crucial. Sino-US.com visited Horizon Sports Medicine Clinic, where Derric Wang (王川), director of rehabilitation & sports medicine, answered some frequently asked questions on fitness.
1. For most office workers who sit about 8 hours a day in front of a computer, how can they protect their lumbar and cervical vertebra from overstress and injury?
Derric Wang: The most common cause of back and neck pain is postural stress. It is frequently brought on by sitting for a long time in a poor position. You will see most people have allowed their backs to slouch and become rounded which causes overstretching of ligament and pain. Therefore, it is necessary to sit correctly and to avoid prolonged sitting at a regular interval. Here are some tips on how to sit correctly:
1) Sit up-right and lean your hip and lower back firmly against the back of the seat.
2) Avoid bending your neck forward in front of the computer.
3) Adjust the seat height to the level that you can relax your feet on the ground and keep your knee bent at around 90degree.
4) Adjust the computer screen to your eye level.
2. I’ve tried many ways to get slim but to no avail. What kind of sports and of what intensity are best for a woman to lose weight?
Wang: In order to lose weight, you need to focus on two things: decrease daily calorie intake slowly, and increase calorie expenditure consistently, such as exercising. People who cut 3500 calories (1lb body weight) per week are likely to lose more weight than others in the long run. Recent research shows that a combination of cardio and weight training is most effective way to build up muscles and burn fat, which leads to increased metabolism rate and loss of weight. Some of the popular exercises are HIIT (high intensity interval training), cross-fit, bodyweight training, spinning and kickboxing, etc. High intensity and low intensity workout are both effective in losing weight. Adding a couple of HIIT workouts into your weekly exercise program will burn more calories. Remember always to increase your exercise intensity gradually to avoid overtraining.
3. Why the joints of my knees, elbows, wrists and ankles often click? Is it a precursor of arthritis? How can I reduce the clicks?
Wang: Some common joint clicks are harmless; they occur when the air-filled sac in the joints is popped by sudden change of joint position making the snapping sound. So it is not necessarilly a precursor of arthritis. However, some of the joint clicks and noise need to be checked out by a medical professional to rule out some possible injuries, such as tendinopathy, bursitis or arthritis. The bottom line is click plus pain is more likely to be a problem than just joint noise alone.
4. Does post-workout muscle soreness mean muscle growth? In order to build muscle, can we regard post-workout soreness as an indicator of maximum intensity and increase the intensity accordingly?
Wang: Post-workout soreness is believed to be the result of micro-tear of muscle fibers by weight training, and muscle growth happens when those tiny torn fibers recover and increase their amount. Therefore muscle soreness is one of the indicators of muscle growth, not the only one though. It is not correct to use muscle soreness only as an indicator of maximum intensity, because you might reach maximum intensity without any soreness in some cases. You can increase the exercise intensity by checking your workout plan, heart rate, RPE (rate of perceived effort), and body adaptation (muscle soreness).
5. What types of exercises are good for people suffering high blood pressure?
Wang: Research shows that even a small amount of modest exercise can help lower blood pressure. One of the best and easiest exercises is walking; also easy swimming is another good exercise. It doesn’t matter if you prefer to walk or swim, just try for 30 minutes a day and 5-6 days a week, it will help control your blood pressure.

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