Making Time for Fitness
Making exercise a regular part of your daily routine will help you lose, and maintain, your weight more easily. Exercise helps tone and strengthens muscles – making your body more efficient at burning calories.
Keep a fitness diary – which activities you will do, on which days, and for how long. Space similar workouts 24 hours apart to allow muscles recovery time.
Alternate high – impact aerobic days with low-impact activity or strength training. If you’re a new mother, use your bouncing baby to work your muscles. Lie on the floor and “bench press” your child. Hold your baby and do “squats”. It’s bonding time that gets your muscles moving!
Always check with your doctor before beginning a fitness program.
Fit Heart (aerobic exercise)
Exercise vigorously three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes. Aerobic exercise burns fat, speeds up your metabolism, strengthens the heart and is a good stress-buster.
Take a hike, go ballroom dancing, play racquet sports, swim or ride a bike. If you have already been exercising, increase the amount and the intensity. Burning more calories allows you to eat more.
Some of the best aerobic activities don’t require a membership in a health club! Everyday activities such as walking and climbing stairs are equally as effective over the long term at lowering body fat and boosting cardiovascular health. Walking is one of the easiest exercises to work into your day.
It requires no special equipment beyond good walking shoes, and you can refer to the many books available at libraries and bookstores that will explain in detail the mechanics of the “power” walk. Weight-bearing exercises like walking increase bone density, which helps stave off the bone-thinning disease, osteoporosis. Add a slow trot of 15 to 20 seconds to your fitness walk every 15 minutes or so and you’ll work your thigh and buttock muscles, forcing them to burn more calories.
Start slowly, and pick up the pace gradually. If you have been ignoring fitness, you may feel a need to go to bed an hour or two earlier. Be patient. With regular exercise, your body will increase its number of fat-burning “power plants”. It may take one to two months before increased stamina is just part of your life.
Fit Muscles – Strength training
The best thing you can do for your weight is to gain a few pounds—of muscle! Muscle burns more energy than fat, even when resting. Five extra pounds of muscle lets you eat 375 more calories in a day and not gain weight.
If you maintain your calorie intake, energy for new muscle will come from fat stores, so you will actually lose weight. Don’t be fooled by what the scales say.
When clothes start fitting better but the scales show you weigh more, you’ll know the fat that was formerly there has been replaced by muscle elsewhere. Muscle-strengthening exercises include weightlifting, leg-lifts and standard pushups.
If you have the space, invest in home exercise equipment.
Healthy Pleasures – Part 1
Warm Up, Cool Down – Spend at least 5 to 10 minutes warming up before shocking your body with any “serious” exercise. It gets the heart beating faster, helps the muscles work more efficiently, and reduces the risk of injury.
Stretching is good for getting the blood moving. However, you may also want to do some very mild aerobics involving the muscles you intend to use (i.e. slow jog before running). A good warm-up will actually leave you perspiring mildly.
Bend and Stretch – Stand with feet shoulder width apart, arms at side. Slowly bend forward from the waist, gently stretching the spine, until your hands touch the floor. Don’t strain. If necessary, flex your knees slightly.
Arm Circles – Stand with arms straight out at sides, palms up. Keeping arms straight, make circles in the air with your hands, starting with very tiny movements and then making the circles as wide as possible. Repeat exercise, making circles in opposite direction.
Side Stretch – Stand with feet apart and knees slightly bent. Repeat with other leg.
Sitting Stretch – Sitting with legs stretched out in front of you, place bottom of right foot on inner thigh of left leg (or against inside of knee). Reach gently forward from hips with both arms, sliding them along extended leg as far as you can go without feeling pain. Keep back straight. Repeat with other leg.
Hamstring Stretch – Stand straight, holding back of chair or doorknob. Bend one leg up behind you, gently pull up, grasping by the foot. The supporting leg should be slightly bent. Repeat with other leg.
Forward Lunge – Stand with right foot stretched out in front of you, arms at your side. Slowly bend right knee until knee is directly above your ankle. Keep other leg straight. Repeat with other leg.
Shoulder Stretch – Stand with knees slightly bent, hands clasped behind back. Slowly lift arms up, keeping hands clenched. To increase the stretch, bend forward at the waist and raise the arms higher. Hold for 15 seconds.
At Least Go For A Walk – One of the easiest exercises you can add to your busy day is walking. Walking is effective, and it requires no special equipment beyond good walking shoes. Keep your posture straight, not bent forward, as you walk, as if there were a string attached to the top of your head and someone were pulling it up. Let your arms swing freely. There are many books available that will explain in detail the mechanics of a “power” walk. Check your local bookstore or library.
Healthy Pleasures – Part 2
Exercise speeds up your metabolism. When you do aerobics and strength exercises, you build muscle tissue. Since muscle tissue uses more calories than fat, it means your body will start burning more calories throughout the day.
More importantly, exercise is one of the best ways to prevent:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Colon and Breast Cancer
A fit body also becomes efficient at ridding the body of toxins, including the chemical byproducts of your response to everyday situations. (Stress hormones released into the bloodstream put a strain on every cell in the body. Unchecked stress can lead to depression, headaches, and assorted muscle aches and pains.) Working muscles produce an enormous amount of heat, helping to burn off toxins and expel them through perspiration. This is another reason to drink plenty of water during exercise. Water helps regulate temperature. During a medium-intensity workout, you can sweat off almost one liter/quart of water.
So the next time someone says you’re looking “sweaty” after exercise, thank them, because you know you’ve done your body a good turn.
Going for Heart Strength
Aerobic exercise puts demands on your heart for oxygen, making it and your lungs stronger. (Aerobic means “in the presence of oxygen.”) Aerobic exercise burns fat, and makes you feel good. There’s also some evidence it can “limber up” your arteries, and it benefits your bones – living tissue which requires plenty of oxygen. (As blood vessels become rigid, blood pressure can rise.) A more efficient circulation system makes it easier for you to carry on your everyday activities.
Aerobic exercises should be done 3 to 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes. Running, power walking, stair climbing, cycling and racquet sports are all aerobic activities.
Building Muscle and Bones
A well-toned body not only looks attractive, it’s good for your health. Try to alternate aerobics with strength training (i.e. muscle-building) exercises to build flexibility and muscular strength. Do aerobics one day, strength the next. Both are important to over-all health.
Why build muscles? It’s simple: The more muscle you add to your frame, the more efficient your body becomes at burning fat. Everyone loses about five pounds of muscle per decade, and gains 15 pounds of fat. Your thin friends might look at the scale and feel pleased by what they see, but scale weight is no indication of fitness. That’s because muscle weighs more than fat. So don’t go by the scale when assessing your relative fitness. Let your energy level and the way your clothes fit be your guide as you incorporate muscle-building exercises into your weight-loss program.
Lifting weights or free weights, or using toning rings, helps build muscle. If you’ve been inactive, you may find it easier to begin by toning your muscles. Then, when your muscles are stronger and more limber, you can incorporate aerobics.
The added benefit of weight-bearing exercise (and that includes any exercise that requires you to carry your own weight, not just weight lifting) is that it increases bone density, which guards against osteoporosis, or bone-thinning disease. It may seem a far-off possibility when you’re young, but building big, strong bones early on in life is your best strategy for preventing this crippling disease. Bone increases in density until age 35, after which it begins to lose calcium faster than it can replace it. So while you cannot escape normal bone loss due to aging, if you start with more bone, you will have more bone left.
But Exercise Makes Me So Tired!
Almost half of the people who start exercising after being sedentary for a long time will lose the battle because of the initial fatigue they feel. Why do they feel so worn out, they wonder, if exercise is supposed to give you energy? Better quit, and so they do.
The body requires time to rebuild the number of energy factories in its cells, which go into decline when an individual stops being physically active. Some fatigue is normal. For example, perhaps you notice you want to go to bed an hour or two earlier than normal. That’s OK. Be patient. If you stick with your exercise program, your body will eventually increase its number of “power plants” and increase the number of capillaries that transport oxygen to those energy-burning sites. However, it may take a month to notice a boost in energy, and two months before increased stamina is part of your life.
To minimize fatigue, don’t rush into exercise. Start slowly, and pick up the pace after a few weeks when you feel more able. And try to get your normal amount of sleep. Don’t trim an hour off to go running.
Comparing Calorie Burners
Housework will keep you on your feet, but it does little for the health of your heart.
|Activity||Calories Expended in 30 Minutes|
|120 lbs.||180 lbs.|
|Playing with the kids||120||159|
|Walking (4.5 mph)||165||270|