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Exercise & Weight Loss

Determining if you are overweight

To determine quickly if you are overweight the following is a surefire way of pinpointing your health risks.

Waist to Hip Ratio determines distribution of body fat. More body fat in the upper body (chest and waist) suggests increased health risk for elevated triglycerides, high blood pressure, strokes, longer time to conceive, heart disease or diabetes. More fat in the lower body (hips and thighs) suggests fat loss is difficult.

  • Using a tape measure, measure the hips in inches (or centimeters) at the top of the hip bone on the right front of the body. This spot will be slightly lower than your belly button.
  • Next, measure the waist 1" (2.5 cm) above your belly button in inches (or centimeters).
  • Using these two measurement values, divide the waist reading (2) by the hip reading (1). This tells you where most of your body fat is located.

Apple shape (a ratio of .95 or greater) means your body fat is located above your waist which indicates a higher health risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers. Pear shape (a ratio of less than .95) means your body fat is located below your waist which indicates a lower health risk, but fat located in the lower half of the body may be harder to lose during weight loss.



Suggestions to lose weight and keep it off

Weight loss itself is an ambiguous term, a more appropriate definition is weight training. This is not to say you want to build yourself up as a bodybuilder but rather you want to convert your fat into 'lean muscle tone'. That's the whole point of keeping fit and losing unwanted body fat. If you follow a well thought out exercise routine with an end objective in mind, coupled with a sensible diet, not only will you improve your general cardiovascular or strength fitness but you will keep those unwanted pounds off.

If you are over weight it just might be that your body composition has a slow metabolism. It is a proven scientific fact that lean people burn fat more efficiently than overweight people and this is true more so of those with lean muscle tone. Overweight people who go on crash diets do not fare so well and probably end up worse after a course of dieting as the body seeks to restore to it's old level. Diets alone and crash diets in themselves are the worst possible choice if you want to lose weight and keep it off permanently. The best way of achieving weight loss and keeping it off long term is to do it slowly over a period of time so that your body can adjust to the changes you are thrusting upon it by changing your eating habits and taking up regular cardiovascular exercise.

  • Change your eating habits (i.e. start eating smaller portions of food) before if you ate a full plate of food try eating 2/3 of a plate instead.
  • Substitute aspartame for sugar
  • Try eating 3 or 4 smaller meals during the day rather than 2 large ones
  • Eat your main large meal at midday with the other meals much smaller in content
  • Don't eat heavy meals late in the evening as the body wont have time to digest it so it ends up stored as fat in your body.
  • Balance your meals out during the day so in one day you have a mix of protein, carbohydrate and vitamins
  • Drink lots of water during the day and before, during and after exercise, you should drink at least 8 big glasses of water per 24 hours
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Stop smoking if you smoke or cut down
  • Eat more fibre i.e. pulses grains nuts, pasta, brown rice, cereals, fresh fruit
  • Eat more vegetables as part of your diet
  • Eat less dairy products or choose those with less fat content i.e. cottage cheese
  • Try steaming or poaching food instead of frying it, frying adds calories by the bucketful
  • Cut down on Red meat and eat more lean or better still chicken and fish instead
  • Use low fat oils in cooking i.e. sunflower, corn or Mazola
  • Cut down on your salt intake, there are hidden salts even in tinned foods
  • Try substituting carrots or fresh fruit instead of biscuits and sweetmeat when you have a craving for something in between meals.
  • Drink semi or skimmed milk as opposed to full cream

Simply choose a diet which is low in fat and cholesterol, moderate in sugar and salt and high in fibre but at the same time has a variety of everything thus making it a balanced diet.

  • Start taking up regular aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise if you don't already (i.e. at least 3-4 times a week) This is aimed at those who want to burn fat and convert it into lean muscle, if your intention is to build muscle then you need a different routine based on heavier weights and less repetitions.
  • If you are in a gym and are starting off at unfit level and want to convert fat into lean muscle:

    • Stretch your body in order to prepare it for activity (5 minutes stretches)i.e. side stretches, hamstrings, touch your toes etc etc.
    • Do 10 minutes at easy pace on Cycle then 1 minutes rest then 10 minutes on rowing and 1 min rest and so on for each exercise machine you want to do.
    • If you have weights then do 10 repetitions at a very light manageable weight, rest for 30 seconds and repeat this twice. So you do 3 sets of 10 repetitions at a light weight on each weight machine.
    • Do the same for other weight machines taking only 1 minute rest in between each different weight exercise remember to use light weights
    • Concentrate on cycling, rowing, stairmaster, stepper type machines, I don't recommend the treadmill simply because it puts a lot of strain on the joints, i.e. heels, ankle, knee. Jogging effectively can put 10 times the bodyweight force on the joints and should only be done on soft surfaces such as grass and with adequate cushioned footwear. That's why the treadmill is not to be recommended. The other aerobic machines put less stress on the joints.
    • At the end of your program which should be about 40 minutes on average you need to cool down, try easy cycling for 3 minutes and then stretches after that.

It is very important to warm up before an exercise routine and to cool down after wards, this is so that you don't suffer from muscle soreness and tenderness after wards and besides it keeps the muscles and ligaments supple and with less chance of muscle tear and injury during a workout.

Remember muscles work better when they are warm.

If you follow this program after a few weeks you will notice considerable improvement and will want to either increase the intensity, duration or weight in your program as it gets easier. Increase the reps to 20 for each exercise if you want to carry on getting leaner.

Remember to burn fat and get lean defined muscle do more repetitions at a less weight, to build heavy muscle and gain strength do less reps at a heavier weight.



Tips on Starting Exercise Programs

If you're considering putting an exercise program together it's perfectly normal to have a lot of questions swimming around in your head. What's the best activity to participate in? How do I get the most out of exercising? How long should I exercise? Often, the hardest part of getting into shape is taking the first step. Here are some simple steps to help you begin your journey.

Think F.I.T.

To make physical improvements, you need to work your body harder than usual. This is referred to as the overload principle. As your body becomes more conditioned, you need to increase the frequency, intensity, or time of your workouts in order to continue improving your fitness level.

  • Frequency How often you exercise. For beginners, consider starting with 2-3 sessions per week.
  • Intensity How hard you exercise. For example, the pace you walk or run, the amount of weight you lift, or your heart rate count.
  • Time How long you perform an activity. "Time" can also refer to the number of sets or repetitions you perform in weight training.

Exercise Components

  • Aerobic Exercise Aerobic exercise increases the health and function of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. For maximum effectiveness, aerobic exercise needs to be rhythmic, continuous and involve the large muscle groups (primarily located in the lower part of your body.) Walking, jogging, cycling, aerobic dance, and stair climbing are examples of activities that use large muscle groups. Activities combining upper and lower body movements such as cross-country skiing, rowing, and swimming can lead to even higher levels of aerobic capacity.
  • Strength Training Strength training is the process of exercising with progressively heavier resistance to build or retain muscle. Unless you perform regular strength exercise, you will lose up to one-half pound of muscle every year of life after age 25. Muscle is a very active tissue with high energy requirements, even when you are asleep, your muscles are responsible for over 25% of your calorie use. An increase in muscle tissue causes a corresponding increase in the number of calories your body will burn, even at rest.
  • Flexibility Flexibility is a critical element of an exercise program but it is often overlooked. Stretching is important for a number of reasons; increases physical performance, decreases risk of injury, increases blood supply and nutrients to the joints, increases neuromuscular co-ordination, reduces soreness, improves balance, decreases risk of low back pain, and reduces stress in muscles.

Choosing an Exercise

The best exercise is an activity that you enjoy enough to really pursue enthusiastically. Experiment with different forms of activity (cross training). Alternating new activities with old favourites will keep your enthusiasm high. Cross training also helps avoid injury due to repeatedly doing the same activity.

Here are some suggestions

  • Indoor (Facility) Activities If the treadmill, stairmaster, rowing machine or stationery cycle doesn't excite you, sample some group activities that strike your fancy. Participate in a group cycling class, beat stress with yoga, find balance with martial arts, stay cool with indoor swimming, or kick some you-know-what with boxaerobics.
  • At Home Activities You don't need to join a gym to experience a variety of activities. Your local video store or library will carry a variety of fitness videos that allow you to workout in the privacy of your home. Some equipment may be required, depending on the activity you select. A few inexpensive pieces of equipment include a jump rope, a set of hand weights (preferably with weight plates that you can add and remove), Dyna-Bands or tubing, or a basic step (for step aerobics).
    If you enjoy working out at home then you may want to consider investing in a larger piece of equipment such as a treadmill, ski machine, stationery bicycle, or elliptical trainer.
  • Outdoor Activities Outdoor activities abound during all four seasons. Sample the variety of activities available to you. For example, take a hike to enjoy the Fall colors, learn to cross-country ski when Old Man Winter visits, walk among the flowers in the Spring, or dive into swimming during the hot months of Summer. Getting outdoors into the fresh air not only adds variety to your exercise program but it seems to provide an uplifting of one's spirit as well.

Determining Your Starting Point

To achieve cardiovascular benefits, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends exercising 3-5 times per week (frequency) with a training heart rate of 60-85 percent of your maximum (intensity) for 20-60 minutes (time).

To attain muscular fitness benefits, the ACSM recommends weight training two days per week (frequency), performing one to three sets of 10 repetitions (time) of eight to ten different exercises at approximately 70-85 percent of your one repetition maximum (intensity).

If you're just beginning an exercise program, start in the low range of the above recommendations. For example, participate in a cardiovascular activity (walking, aerobics, cycling, etc.) for 20 minutes, three times a week and add strength training exercises to your workout, twice a week. Schedule your strength training workouts with 48 hours rest in between to allow your muscles to recuperate and repair after each workout.

Begin slowly and gradually. Unfamiliarity with movements and equipment can prove frustrating enough that you may consider throwing in the towel. Take heart, it's normal to feel awkward in the beginning, especially if you have undertaken an activity that you aren't familiar with. It doesn't take long for your skill to improve if you stick with it. After all, even fitness instructors were once beginners! If you attempt "too much, too soon" it will lead to soreness, fatigue and/or injuries.

Work at your own level, start out slow, and gradually increase duration and level of difficulty as your body progresses. Getting fit is not an overnight proposition, it's a lifestyle commitment. Don't expect immediate dramatic changes in your body shape or weight loss. Although changes are happening internally, most external benefits won't become visible for the first four to six weeks. Stay focused on your lifestyle choice and celebrate the internal benefits you're experiencing such as increased energy, less stress and anxiety, higher self-esteem, and an increased feeling of well-being.

Staying Motivate

Only one-third of those who begin an exercise program are still exercising by the end of their first year. The good news is that with some strategizing and planning, you can beat the dropout odds and make a successful transition to a lifestyle that incorporates exercise.

Here's some tips to help you stay motivated.

  • Find a Fitness Partner Studies show that exercise adherence is generally greater if the family or a friend is included in the commitment to exercise. Find a walking partner, play tennis with your spouse, or go rollerblading with the kids.
  • Start an Exercise Log or Journal An exercise log or journal is an excellent way to chart your progress and provide motivation. Nothing beats the feeling of success as you read through your accomplishments. Exercise logs can take on many forms; a calendar to record your workouts, a daily journal to record your feelings and goals, a computerized exercise log, or a log purchased at bookstore. The key is to select a log or journal that fits your needs and provides you the kind of information that is meaningful to you.
  • Schedule Your Workouts Exercise must be a priority in order to establish it as a lifestyle practice. Make time for your workouts and schedule them on your daily calendar or planner.
  • Toss Your Scale Ask yourself, "How often has stepping on the scale in the morning ruined my day?" If your answer is "often," consider whether or not you should give that little machine such power over you. The fact is that exercise should not revolve around a number on a scale. Exercise should be about making a commitment to your health and well being, weight loss is a natural side effect of that commitment.
  • Dress the Part Wear comfortable clothes appropriate for exercising, they will help you feel like working out. If you exercise at a gym put your exercise wear in a bag and set it beside the door the night before. When it's time to head out the door, all you have to do is grab your bag on the way out.
  • Entertain Yourself If you exercise alone, consider using a Walkman to listen to your favourite music or books on tape to help keep you entertained during your workout. Many pieces of exercise equipment have racks that fit onto the console to hold reading material. If you exercise at home, turn on some music or bring the television within viewing range.
  • Evaluate Your Progress It's a good idea to test your fitness level when you start and re-evaluate yourself every couple of months. There are a variety of fitness tests that you can administer yourself. Getting a body composition test is another great way to chart your progress and can be done every four to six months. The local YMCA or fitness club can perform this test at a minimal cost, even if you're not a member.
  • Make Exercise Non-Negotiable Think of exercise as something you do without question, like brushing your teeth or going to work. Taking the lifestyle perspective will help you make exercise a habit and will make you live a long and productive life hopefully keeping diseases associated with inactivity at bay.

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