There are many different aspects that greatly affect physical health including nutrition, environmental factors, stress management, sleep quality, and exercise. For this month’s article, we’re focused on exercising for physical health. We’ve interviewed exercise physiologist Sahar Massoudian to learn more.

MTO Tamarkoz App: What is one thing you wish everyone would do?

SM: Exercise and sleep are the most underrated aspects of health. Most people may not realize how much a lack of sleep and lack of exercise negatively impacts their health.

Sleep helps the body and brain rest from stress imposed throughout the day. Usually, when work and life become too busy, the first thing we skip out on is our sleep. We end up sleeping less, and it eventually manifests in other ways that can be detrimental to health over time.

[Check out our article on how to improve sleep quality].

SM: Exercise is the closest thing to an all-encompassing health pill. The benefits are incredibly expansive. Just to list some of them:

  • Increases oxygenation in the body.
  • Helps relieve “negative” stress stored in the body.
  • Improves the functionality of the cardiovascular system.
  • Increases muscle mass, which helps maintain strength and optimal functioning.
  • Aids in blood sugar regulation and decreasing fasting blood glucose.
  • Helps manage blood pressure, lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
  • Protects brain function.
  • Improves mood and mental health.
  • Decreases perceived stress.
  • Resistance training can battle insulin resistance and to increase insulin sensitivity.
  • And increases bone density.

Ideally, I’d recommend combining resistance training with cardiovascular training.

Resistance training can look like weightlifting or training using your body weight—essentially anything that overloads the muscle. This type of training typically consists of multiple repetitions of an exercise repeated over multiple sets. It can be done at home with body weight, resistance bands, or even just heavy objects you have laying around or at the gym!

Check out this video link as an example of resistance training to get started. Try this workout anywhere from 3-5 times per week and aim for 3 sets of 8-15 repetitions per exercise. This is intended as an example of a well-rounded resistance training workout—please consult a fitness professional for progressions as necessary. It would be best to vary your exercise routine.

Cardiovascular training includes exercise that elevates the heart rate, which increases blood flow and blood volume and maintains cardiopulmonary health.

The ideal beginner workout routine would include a workout of at least approximately 30 minutes that includes both resistance training and cardiovascular training done 3 times per week.

Really, any amount of exercise you can reasonably incorporate into your routine will improve your health more than not exercising at all.

MTO Tamarkoz App: How does one get started?

SM: When examining your health journey, always consider nutrition, sleep quality, and exercise. Doing your research is helpful. Every person is different. Depending on health status, physical readiness, and your individual needs, see what is best for you.

Unsupervised exercise training is not for everyone. It is important to learn how to exercise properly with resistance training to avoid injury. One of the best ways to do this is with a qualified trainer but be sure to be mindful of who you pick. The American College of Sports Medicine website is a good resource for more information online.

Exercise is beneficial for everyone. The sooner you start, the better. As we age, there is loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) and that happens quicker if we don’t engage in resistance training. Oftentimes younger people will take their physical abilities for granted, but this needs to be maintained over time.

If you don’t already have an exercise routine, start thinking about moving more. Every day makes a difference. Start today. Do what is in your capacity, because doing something is better than nothing. If you can only go for a walk, then start there. You don’t need a full regimen before you start. Anything you do is better than nothing. The more you can do, the greater return you will receive in the future.

Treat your body as if it is an investment with compounded interest. You will get a great return overtime! Our body is important to every aspect of our lives.

For menstruating women, the phases of the menstrual cycle can also impact perceptions of difficulty during exercise and work capacity. During the follicular phase (~first 2 weeks of the cycle), you will likely experience increased energy and higher work capacity. During the luteal phase (~ last 2 weeks of the cycle) you may experience high levels of fatigue and impaired recovery. Please mindful of this and listen to your body.

For women who are post-menopausal, resistance training is incredibly important. As you enter menopause, estrogen significantly decreases, which ultimately affects the skeletal system. The body becomes less efficient in reinforcing bone mass, and calcium is pulled from the bones which weakens the bones. To help combat this bone density loss, the most effective intervention we can undertake is to overload the spine and resistance training. This will help reinforce bone density.

MTO Tamarkoz App: How best could someone who is so busy that they skip out on sleep partake in regular exercise?

SM: When you are choosing how to prioritize your day, know that skipping exercise and sleep is a trade off in your quality of life. Make time! Anything is better than nothing. The most important factor is to build a habit or routine with an actionable goal. Find a small way include in exercise in your life and stick with it.

For example, if you can only do a 5-minute body weight circuit, then do that. If you can only do 5 pushups a day or 1 squat a day, then do it 5-7 days a week and aim to build this small habit over 30 days.

Even if you can only start with 5 minutes, do that, and work your way up. It is just like starting a Tamarkoz routine. You do not have to engage in a formal full-hour Tamarkoz class to benefit, just a few mins can make a huge positive difference.

The biggest goal is to be consistent. If 5 days is impossible, then do 3 days. Specifically, people who are intimidated with a full workout routine can start there.

Understand the role of exercise in your life and how much it can do for you. You are worth it. Everyone is worth it. Whatever you can do, start with that. Prioritize making SMART changes. Take that first step.

[Check out our Tamarkoz App article on how the busy person can make time for themself].

MTO Tamarkoz App: What should people do less of?

SM: Worry less about how you look, if you are doing enough, or if people think you look silly at the gym. The majority of people don’t know what they are doing either. Nobody is paying attention to you at the gym, so don’t feel like you are being judged. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from a fitness professional in-person or online. If you feel intimidated by the gym, remember that you can always start working out in the comfort of your own home.

MTO Tamarkoz App: How does one recognize when the body needs to stop and not overdo physical exertion?

SM: This is subjective. Always listen to your body. Don’t overexert yourself. Symptoms of overexertion include dizziness, extreme fatigue, overheating, nausea, uncomfortably fast heart rate, feelings of extreme breathlessness, and lack of color in face or lips are all signals that you need to stop. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, please make sure to get clearance from your physician before you get started. Majority of people would be fine starting with low-intensity exercise. If someone has a major pre-existing condition or has been hospitalized for one, e.g. experienced a heart attack or has been cautioned against high-intensity exercise due to high cholesterol, please get medical clearance before you begin a high-intensity exercise routine.

MTO Tamarkoz App: How much does one need to stretch before and after an exercise?

SM: Stretching is very beneficial for maintaining physical health and well-being because it helps increase mobility and decrease injury. I advise dynamic stretching before beginning a workout, which consists of stretching a muscle for a less than 30 seconds while in motion. This helps to mobilize the joints and raise core temperature, along with other factors that prepare the body for exercise to help reduce injury and optimize the workout. At the end of your workout, partake in static stretching for 30 seconds – 1 minute at a time. Consult with a fitness professional for a more in-depth prescription.

MTO Tamarkoz App: Well, thank you very much. We’re officially motivated now. Going to ride our bicycles to the Farmer’s Market today instead of driving there. ☺

Interviewee’s bio:

Sahar Massoudian is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with a focus in combat sports (MMA, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, boxing, etc.) and in programming exercise around the hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle for women. She earned her M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Texas at Austin and will soon begin her physical therapy doctoral program at Texas Women’s University. Sahar has a passion for combining elite human performance exercising programming with injury prevention and rehabilitation. Sahar has fostered a passion for health and fitness since her teens and aims to spread her love for exercise wherever she can.