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Ask the Expert: Lisa Ferguson Stegall on Exercise Science

Biology professor Lisa Ferguson Stegall, director of the Public Health Sciences Program at Hamline, tells us what we need to know about the benefits of exercise.

How much exercise is “enough”?

A good rule of thumb is at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week.

If we don’t exercise when we’re young, is it too late to get the benefits?

There’s a study by Dr. Maria Fiatarone Singh and colleagues from The University of Sydney, published in 1990, that tells us it isn’t. They studied 10 nursing home residents 90 years old or older, all of whom were characterized as very frail. The researchers led them in a high-intensity resistance-training program for eight weeks. Amazing things happened. Strength improved by 174 percent, thigh muscle mass increased by 9 percent, and walking speed improved by almost 50 percent.
It is true that the greatest benefits in older age are realized by starting young and keeping it up for life. That said, it’s never too late to start and get really important benefits. Consult with a qualified fitness professional and a physician before starting an intense exercise program.

What tips do you have for incorporating exercise into daily life?

Find an exercise you enjoy. If it helps motivate you, exercise with a partner or group. Make the commitment to yourself and to the people you love.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

There are many modes of exercise to choose from. Key benefits of endurance exercise center around heart health, muscle and joint health, controlling blood glucose, and more. Resistance exercise helps preserve or build muscle mass and bone density. Yoga helps develop strength, balance, flexibility, and mindfulness. Water-based exercise is a joint-friendly option.

Hamline’s exercise science lab offers cardio respiratory, metabolic rate, and muscle strength testing. Contact Ferguson Stegall at lstegall01@hamline.edu or 651-523-2147.

Check out Hamline students conducting research in the Integrative Physiology Laboratory.