120613 Using exercise to lose and maintain your weight
“The starting point of all achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desires bring weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.” — Napoleon Hill, author
Many people equate physical fitness with being able to run long distances or ride the cardio machines for a long time without stopping. Certainly those are admirable goals but jogging or using these machines for long slow workouts does very little to increase your fat loss. One proven way to lose fat is to increase the intensity. You can do that by doing hard, fast, intense intervals.
Interval workouts consist of specific, high-intensity, time limited exercises and using 20 to 90 seconds of rest in between each high-intensity section.
For example, if running outside, you would warm up with an easy 5-minute run. Once warmed up, you would transition into 5 to 10 high-speed sprints. Each of these high intensity sprints would last between 20 to 30 seconds at approximately 80 and 90% of your fastest speed. Keep in mind that if you continuously try to go one hundred percent of your fastest speed, eventually you will create a speed barrier, which is another topic altogether and will not be further discussed. Suffice it to say these self-inflicted physical and mental barriers are hard to break.
By continually challenging yourself and lowering the rest periods between the intervals you increase the intensity, which increases the benefits, which burns more calories. It sure sounds simple doesn’t it?
Anyone trying to lose weight knows it’s not as easy as this to do. Cardiovascular exercise is not the only ticket to increasing weight loss nor is it the only ticket to staying physically fit. Well-structured weight-loss programs utilize strength training to boost metabolism (1) and increase lean muscle mass.
(1) Metabolism–noun 1. Biology, Physiology. The sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed.
Using exercise to lose and maintain your weight
“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you’re ready or not, to put it into action.” — Napoleon Hill, motivational expert
Losing weight, in the simplest of terms, means using up more calories than you take in. According to the scientific research, one pound of fat is 3500 calories. Therefore, in order to lose one pound of fat you either have to burn up 3500 calories or cut 3500 calories from your diet. Obviously not eating 3500 calories from your diet in one day is not going to cut it.
Maintaining your ideal weight is a matter of balancing the number of calories required to remain there. This means balancing out the number of calories consumed with the calories burned during the day. The United States Department of Agriculture’s site at ChooseMyPlate.gov states that 60 minutes of moderate to intense exercise is needed each day to prevent an increase of body weight or to lose weight.
If you have already lost the weight and want to keep it off, then maintain your caloric intake and physical activities at the current level and you should be OK. But pay attention to the scale and don’t let it creep back up again.
The key ingredient to losing or maintaining weight is to have an exercise plan.
Throughout the week, schedule time to do cardiovascular work, strength training, and stretching exercises. You could do each of these in each session but doing so would mean giving short shrift to one or more of them. You may be better off scheduling separate times for each.
For instance, one week’s schedule could look similar to this: three days of cardio and two days of strength training with stretching include at the end of each. The next week would be three days of strength training, with two days of cardio with stretching at the end. The reason you do the majority of stretching at the end is because your muscles are warmed up and your body is in a much more receptive mood.
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Increasing your lean muscle mass through the use of bodyweight, bands or free weight exercises boosts your metabolism, maintains and increases your bone mineral density. A study conducted in 2002-2003 showed that regular strength training, note the words strength training, reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by approximately twenty three percent when compared to men who did not resistance train.
As a minimum, head off to the gym or to your exercise room and work the large muscle groups at least three times a week on alternate days for a minimum of twenty minutes each session. If you’re already exercising for twenty minutes then bump it up to thirty with the goal of forty five to fifty minutes three times a week. Do so in stages of ten percent per week until you reach the top times.
The large muscle groups include the shoulders, chest, legs and back. You can use your body weight, free weights or elastic materials during these training sessions. Keep a log book.
After the strength training session is over, move into five to ten minutes of static stretching. Hold these stretches at the point of mild discomfort for ten to thirty seconds, three to five times per stretch per area.
Stretching will improve your flexibility; the answer to those tight lower back, hamstring and shoulder muscles and joints. It is vital that you do stretches for your calves, thighs, hips, low back, your neck and shoulders if you want to stay fluid in your movements. Do them slowly and hold them for the prescribed amounts of time for each one.
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Engaging daily in a regular physical activity will make a positive difference in your overall health status. Being active strengthens the skeletal bones, muscles and your ability to maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, your mind tends to remain sharper.
As a person gets older, it becomes even more important to stay active or become active if this has not been the case in the past. Keeping the muscles strong helps ward off some of the inevitable muscle loss that affects every one after the age of thirty.
It is estimated that muscle mass decreases on an average of about one percent per year after reaching thirty. With this diminished capacity to exert force, balance problems begin to show up along with a lack of energy to sustain normal daily living habits.
Just because our body begins to lose muscle, doesn’t mean we have to stop exercising. It is never too late to slow this age related degeneration down. Your muscles were meant to be worked. As the old adage goes, use it or lose it.
Burning off the calories and keeping healthy
Physical activity burns calories. The optimum method of controlling your weight is a combination of good nutrition (see a registered dietitian), and exercise. The question now is what kind of exercise is the most efficient and longest lasting in its effects.
Many people use aerobics to successfully help control their weight and improve their physical fitness while others use strength training to achieve similar goals.
In each case, physical activity speeds up your metabolism for a few hours afterwards. Of course, how much this materializes depends a great deal on the intensity and duration of the activity. Nonetheless, it happens and at a higher rate than if you did nothing at all.
The best way to keep this higher rate of calorie burning is to strength train. The reason is because strength training increases your lean muscle to fat ratio. The higher this ratio is the more your body burns the calories since muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue.
Strive to strength train 2-4 times a week for a minimum of thirty to fifty minutes at a time. Do your large muscle groups such as the chest, shoulders, legs, and back for 3-5 sets of 8 to twelve repetitions for each exercise. On the off days from strength training, do your aerobic training for fifteen to forty minutes per session.
No matter which method you choose, consult with your doctor beforehand, keep the intensity up, and stick with it.
As a person ages the tendency is to lose muscle mass and gain fat tissue, especially the deep visceral fat that has been linked to diabetes. This is an inevitable process but it can be slowed down with proper strength training.
Not only will strength training increase your strength and your lean muscle mass you will notice a decrease in your waistline. The whole body training program is a natural fit for most people. Don’t fall for a spot reduction program that an unscrupulous trainer may try to sell to you. Unless you are undergoing liposuction it is impossible to spot reduce.
Brenda Davy, associate professor of nutrition at Virginia Tech, states, “We use a whole body training program, not a spot reduction approach.” She then continues with a controversial statement by saying, “is not that we target the abdominal area with exercises, it’s just that fat in the abs is the first to go.”
She explains this latter statement this way,” the abdominal adipose tissue depot is particularly sensitive, so it’s easier to lose fat from there then from other fat storage depots in the body.” Even though the statement is controversial in the training world and in real life Davy clarifies by saying” you may have reductions in the abdominal fat even when you don’t necessarily observe large changes in total body fat.” This means your belly fat may still be there on the outside, however, on the inside the visceral fat has actually decreased through your training.
During the training session, your body is rapidly trying to adapt to the stresses that are being put upon it. It’s natural to assume, and you would be correct, that you’re using energy to perform whatever activity you have decided to engage in. However, it is not only during exercise that you burn fat, it also during the recovery period afterward.
In fact, according to Prof. Colberg, an Old Dominion University professor of human new movement sciences in Norfolk Virginia, “recovery from exercise is fueled primarily by fat, so the real benefit for fat loss is burning as many calories as you can during any type of physical activity.”