Friday, January 27, 2012
What is basal metabolic rate?
Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the rate at which your body burns calories just to sustain life. For most people, that's roughly 50 to 80 calories per hour, or 1,200 to 1,920 calories per day. Exactly what your BMR is depends on genetics, your muscle mass, and other factors.
Of course, you burn more calories when you exercise -- or just go about the activities of daily life. For example, if you work out at the gym for 60 minutes and burn 400 calories, that comes in addition to whatever your BMR burns up. (If you walk home from the gym instead of driving, you'll burn even more!) At the end of the day, if your total energy expenditure is greater than the number of calories you've eaten, you'll lose weight.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
What's the difference between the fat-burning mode and the cardio mode on the machines at the gym?
There are problems with the fat burning option on the cardio machines, and it really ought to be eliminated. The idea behind the fat burning option is this: Because fat is denser than carbohydrate, it requires more oxygen to burn. So, to maximize the percentage of fat you burn, compared to carbohydrate, the fat-burning mode would have you work out at a pace at which your body can deliver lots of oxygen to your muscles. That generally means a slow pace, to keep you from getting breathless. The problem is that when you exercise at a slower speed, you burn fewer total calories -- from both carbohydrate and fat -- because you simply don't do as much work. Further, the way to get aerobically fit is to get your heart rate into the training range (usually 60% to 85% of your maximum heart rate), which is hard to do at slower speeds. And fitness is ultimately what you're after, whether your goals are better health, burning calories, or improving heart and lung capacity.
The bottom line is that the fat burning mode probably won't be intense enough to maximize total calorie- or fat-burning, or to help you increase or maintain optimum fitness levels. Use the cardio mode to maximize your exercise benefits.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
What is interval training?
In interval training, you alternate between bursts of higher-intensity exercise and periods of less-intense exercise (or "active rest"). As you get more fit, you decrease the "rest" time and increase the high-intensity periods. You'll see big fitness gains if you train this way regularly.
For example, if you now run for 30 minutes at 6 mph, try this routine: Jog for five minutes to warm up. Then, increase your speed to 6.5 mph for one to two minutes (less if you can't go that long). Then, jog for a few minutes at your normal speed, then again at the faster speed, and so on until you reach your time limit. Your ratio of work to active rest would be 2:3 if you ran for two minutes at 6.5 mph, then jogged for three minutes at 6 mph.
You can also use your heart rate to set intervals. For example, if your heart rate hits 70% of your maximum when you jog at 6 mph, start at that speed. Then increase either your speed or elevation (if you're on a treadmill) to get your heart rate to 85% or 90% of maximum for one to three minutes. Then, go back to jogging at the 70% heart rate, and continue alternating.
As your fitness improves, your heart rate will be lower at the higher speeds, and then you can spend more time at those speeds. A good starting ratio of work to active rest is 1:3; you can always vary the ratios if they turn out to be too hard or too easy.
I recommend interval training just once a week to start, as it is more intense than you may be used to. Once you get a feel for it, you can do it more often.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
What if I am physically unable to exercise due to a medical condition?
There is virtually no medical condition that will keep you from doing any type of exercise. Even people with congestive heart failure -- who were long told not to exercise at all -- can benefit from moderate amounts of activity.
And people with limited mobility can often do water exercises, or do yoga or other exercises while seated in a chair (some "chair exercise" videos are now on the market). Of course, if you have any medical condition, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
If you have questions about your condition or are still not sure what exercise you can safely do, please consult your physician.
Monday, January 23, 2012
What's the bottom line to weight loss?
The bottom line to weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume all day. (The behavior isn't simple, but the equation is.) For example, if you eat 2,500 calories a day and only burn 2,000, you gain weight; if you eat 1,500 calories and burn 2,000, you lose weight; if you eat 2,000 and burn 2,000 you maintain weight.
It's true that there are several medical conditions, and medications, that can make weight loss difficult (see below). But even if one of those factors applies to you, you still need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight.
The good news is this: You can lose weight with a very modest amount of exercise.
People lose weight all the time without exercise by reducing their caloric intake. But keeping the weight off without exercise is another matter. Many experts agree that exercise is the single best predictor of long-term weight control. If you lose weight and don't start exercising, there's a very good chance you will regain it.
Here are some factors that can keep you from losing weight and/or cause weight gain:
• Thyroid or adrenal gland problems.
• Medications like antidepressants.
• Stopping smoking.
• Rapid weight loss. This can lower metabolism because the body senses it is starving and make it harder to lose weight. The decrease in metabolic rate is often due to loss in muscle (when you lose weight, approximately 25% of the loss comes from muscle), so lifting weights is a good idea.
• Menopause (and premenopause).
If you think any of these things are factors for you, your doctor may be able to help. Otherwise, patience, determination, regular physical activity, and attention to your diet are the keys to long-term weight control. Doing these things will give you your best shot at reaching your weight loss goals and keeping the weight off.
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