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Work Out Smarter, Not Harder: Personal Prescriptions for Exercise Part 1


By Alexander Germanis

Thousands of years ago, mankind hit upon what would later be defined as the simple machines. The first of these — the lever, pulley, and screw — were perhaps our species’ first successes at figuring out how to multiply force without exerting reciprocal force.
In short, we had figured out how to work smarter rather than harder.

Even now in the 21st century, the often agonizing — and certainly agonized-over — journey of losing weight and getting in shape is as difficult as it has ever been. Dropping a few pounds seemingly requires far more effort than the results would suggest.

Fear not. Bryan Jasker, PT, DPT, Director of Therapy at McLean County Orthopedics (MCO) Therapy Department, says working smarter not harder can apply to losing weight as well.

It all begins with our perception of weight loss and what it means to be active, he says. “Historically, whether it’s through your physician or otherwise, most people look at dieting,” Bryan begins. “They look at food restriction or caloric restriction in some form.”

“Then the recommendation that comes from physicians or health care providers is generally that you need to exercise more,” he continues. “That’s very vague. What does that mean for you?”

That’s where it all starts to break down. Without getting into the often-contradictory and definitely faddish trends of dieting, improper exercise regimens can be as much to blame for that frustration of seeing little to no change in one’s waistline.

“The exercise may not have a lot of guidance,” Bryan points out. “There are kind of general recommendations or guidelines that come from the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine. They are these percentages based on your maximum heart rate. So 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate would be moderate or 70 to 85 percent of your max might be considered vigorous activity.”

The heart rate percentages are usually also defined by your age. Your age-predicted maximum heart rate is figured by subtracting your age from 220.

So, for example, a 40 year-old person would have an age-predicted maximum heart rate of 180. Were that individual to want to engage in vigorous activity, they would want to shoot for a target heart rate of 70 to 85 percent of that maximum, or 126 to 153 beats per minute.
One of the wonderful things about being human is that no two humans are exactly alike and, as Bryan indicates, the age-predicted maximum heart rate settings are generalized prescriptions from these organizations. They are applied to everyone in that age range, regardless of medical history, level of activity, etc.

Looking at it from a perspective of medicine, say two people are diagnosed with the same ailment but one of them is allergic to antibiotics. Those two people will not be getting the same prescription, even though they both suffer from the same malady.

Why then, should there not be specialized prescriptions for exercise based on the unique complexities of the individual rather than simply their age?

The answer is hopeful and simple: there are indeed such prescriptions.

A pairing of Cellular Respiration and Analytics (CR-A) testing with a Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) body scan can help experts like Bryan start laying out a prescription for exercise that will apply to you and only you.

These two elements, in essence, act like the simple machines that can make the difference between working harder, leading to few or no results and working smarter, leading to a healthier, happier you.

To learn more about CR-A testing, the DEXA body scan, and prescriptions for exercise, read “Work Out Smarter,  Not Harder, Part 2” in next month’s issue of Healthy Cells Magazine.

For more information on physical therapy or any type of orthopedic problem or injury, contact McLean County Orthopedics, 309-663-6461 or visit them online at Their new office is located at 1111 Trinity Lane in Bloomington.