Dr. D   Wellness Guru

Welcome to Dr. Hutch Dvorak's Web Page! You can just call me "Dr. D.-the Wellness Guru". My goal is to help you understand important Wellness concepts that will truly make a difference in the quality of your life.

When I talk to people of all ages about Wellness issues, it's amazing how the same recurrent themes pop up. Across the board, the most frequently asked questions are:

  • How do I get in the best possible shape with the least  possible effort?
  • What is the best way to lose weight?
  • How can I relieve stress?
  • Should I do any weight training?

I will answer these questions in a common sense way that you will be able to understand and hopefully use in your daily life. If you have any follow up questions, I will be happy to answer your email. My Email is  hdvorak@hbu.edu.

How do I get in the best possible shape with the least possible effort?

It's impossible to get results without effort, but I think you will be surprised at how little effort it really takes to make major differences in your fitness level! The key to lifelong wellness and avoiding heart disease is to have a good level of cardiovascular fitness. Most people think this means that you have to work very hard (translation: drudgery) and probably join a health club, hire a personal trainer, sweat in an aerobics class, become a track athlete, or all of the above. Well the answer is not necessarily.

The key to understanding cardiovascular fitness is to learn the concept of target heart rate. You have probably heard of this but don't understand it's significance. The target heart rate is the intensity threshold necessary to get a training effect on the cardiac muscle (heart) and the vascular system (blood vessels). In real English this means that you have to reach a certain level of work and maintain it for a minimum of at least 20 minutes to improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Therefore it is no longer necessary to worry about how far you run, bike, or swim, and what your time was. All you have to do is monitor your heart rate, reach your target, and then start counting for at least 20 minutes! If you are way out of shape, this could be done with a long leisurely walk. If you are in reasonable shape, you might have to go 70 rpms on your bike, or jog at an 8-10 minute pace. But everybody is different and you and your neighbor may respond differently to the same work load. The key is to start out gradually at a work level you know you can handle, and periodically increase your workload by increasing the intensity (pace), or the duration (time) that you workout. Remember a workout can be a long leisurely walk or a slow bike ride -whatever- as long as you reach and maintain your target! You don't have to buy a multicolored thong leotard and join a high-tech aerobics class!

Some people have trouble getting their heart rate but it's easy.  See the Heart Rate Calculator Page for an easy way to establish your target heart rate.


Now the key is to take your heart rate often so you know when you reach your target. That is when you start timing your workout! You should stay at your target for a minimum of 20 minutes. The optimum time is 30 minutes, and anything over 30 minutes, I would call a bonus. The good news is that you will burn calories at an accelerated rate over resting metabolism for as much as 6 hours after your workout is through.

I'll give you an example. In the summer I ride my bike at a moderate pace in Houston's heat and humidity for one hour. It's not drudgery, and I listen to my walkman the whole time. I'm at my target for 50 minutes, so my cardiovascular system gets a terrific workout and I burn calories way above resting for 6 hours afterward! If a one hour walk is a challenge for you and you get to your target for 50 minutes, you will achieve the same results. You should never workout at or close to your maximum heart rate! You will have to stop anyway because you will be working too hard! All you have to do is reach the minimum target heart rate- you don't get a better workout at a higher heart rate.

So this leads to the next question which is-

2. What is the best way to lose weight?

It's not diet. Only 10%  who diet lose a significant amount of weight, and  only 1% of those keep the weight off for more than  3 months.

Everybody is on a diet. Some are great, some are terrible. Most are not that bad because  people eat fairly well except everyone probably eats things they know they shouldn't,  like candy, cake, whole milk, fried chicken, etc. So step #1 to lose weight is not to go on a diet, but rather modify your diet and cut out the things you know you shouldn't eat. It's a lot easier than worrying about food groups and weighing and measuring your food!

Step #2 is to start doing aerobic exercise as we discussed in the first section. Do it 5 to 6 times a week alternating between moderate-heavy and easy-light sessions. Another good strategy is to do a moderate workout in the morning (followed by 4-6 hours of accelerated calorie burning) and then a light workout (walk) one hour after dinner. If you don't start eating every thing in sight, you have to lose weight. It's a physiological imperative!

To prove the importance of exercise in the weight loss battle, let me summarize the research. Start with 3 groups- diet only, exercise only, and diet plus exercise. Who loses the most weight? Congratulations- its a no-brainer- the diet plus exercise group. Second place goes to exercise only, with diet only a poor third. Not only that, there is a significant difference in the amount of weight loss when you compare each of the first two groups to diet only. But here is a startling result- there is no significant difference in the amount of weight loss between the diet plus exercise and exercise only groups! Simply put, this means that exercise- not diet- is the real key to weight loss. Not only that but you've got a better chance to keep the weight off because you will feel so good being physically fit that you will want to continue exercising!

A word of caution at this point would be appropriate. When you begin exercising you will undoubtedly gain muscle  and therefore gain weight. Muscle weighs three times what fat does so if you like to step on the scales it can be discouraging. But your body fat percentage (which is far and away more important than body weight) will go down and when your muscle tone stabilizes, the weight loss will gradually take effect. This is called the long haul concept in weight control (rather than the quick fix) that we Americans always want! You might actually gain weight, but lose a couple of dress sizes, or belt notches.

If you are implementing the concepts in questions #1 and #2 guess what- you are well on your way to answering question #3, which is:

3. How can I relieve stress?

Moderate exercise (whatever that means to you) for 15 minutes will measurably relieve stress for up to 4 hours! I tell that to my college students and some of them have told me they exercise before big tests. They claim it helped them have a clearer head and more confidence. People who are regular exercisers deal with short and long term stress in better and more constructive ways. They deal with people better and have better family relationships. Some of the by-products of fitness relates to self esteem and a noticeable increase in work productivity as well as better sleep patterns.

Exercise may not be a panacea, but if half of what I've said is true, wouldn't it be worth a try? Of course there are plenty of healthy ways to reduce stress such as meditation, reading, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, and yoga. All methods have achieved measurable results, and the best method is the one that works for you. But why not try exercise? hmmmm?

4. Should I do any weight training?

Everybody needs firm muscles. Do you ever climb stairs? How about hauling golf clubs or   lifting grocery bags out of the car trunk? Do you ever carry babies or toddlers? How about lugging luggage?  Do you plan on being able to do these things when you are 65? Well guess what,  strength is the fitness element that you lose the least of when you get older. You have to work the muscles to stay strong. Young people need more strength because they are usually more active. It's not just a male thing either. Don't judge the use of weights by the female "steroid Annie's" on the ESPN body building shows! Women have 50 times less testosterone (male hormone) than males, so it is virtually impossible for women to get "big" like the men do. It's giving weights a bad name. Ask any female who has "discovered" the weight room and she will tell you how much better she feels being a bit stronger. Weaker sex, bah, humbug!

You know what the best thing is?  For every pound of muscle you add, your body burns 35 more calories per day. So over the long haul (there's that word again), the best lifelong management of body weight is to do 3 to 4 aerobic workouts per week, mixed in with 2 to 3 mild weight training sessions!

Well. that's all for this first go-round. After you read through my web page, I hope you will ask questions, then I will include the answers next month.

Wishing you a future full of wellness!!

Dr. D.

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Dr. Hutch Dvorak
Houston Baptist University
Email hdvorak@hbu.edu

Ph.D in Exercise Physiology, Wellness, and Exercise Science.

Teaching at  Houston Baptist University for 25 years.

Coached collegiate gymnastics for 25 years, including 3 Olympians,
6 NCAA Champions, and 36 All-Americans.

Involved in personal training and exercise prescription for 15




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