Category Archives: Fitness

Weighing the Myths of Women and Weight Training

If you have yet to learn the benefits of weight training, or are still debating whether or not to try it, this information is for you.

Tufts University conducted a study on the benefits of weight training which involved forty postmenopausal women. The control group – half of the volunteers – simply maintained their lifestyle for a year. The others lifted weights twice per week.

At the end of the year, the sedentary women’s bones and muscles had aged. They had lost bone density and strength. And they were even less active than before.

Contrary to that dismal scenario, the bodies of the women who lifted weights were fifteen to twenty years more youthful. They gained bone density and their strength level soared to levels typical of women in their late thirties or early forties. They traded fat for muscle, therefore, looked trimmer and dropped dress sizes.

The women who lifted weights actually got smaller, not larger, once again debunking the myth some women still believe about weight training making them bulky. These women gained nine percent muscle, and lost a corresponding amount of fat. Since muscle is denser than fat, they were smaller, leaner and more toned and no one complained about looking unfeminine.

Aside from the physical changes, the women who lifted weights felt happier, more energetic and had greater self-confidence. These women also became more active as they got stronger. They not only felt younger, they were leading younger lives. Physical changes caused emotional changes, which impacted their lives positively. They regained enjoyment of life they thought they had lost forever. All of that for two workouts per week!

Although research has shown that when women maintain a regular strength training program they will benefit from the long list of health advantages, many women are still held back by the many myths surrounding women and weight training.  It’s time to dispel those myths so women of all ages will begin participating in weight training and can start feeling the life long benefits that come with it.

Myth#1 – I should loose weight before I start weight training.

Fact – Why wait when weight training burns fat best. Weight training is the best way to loose weight because it permanently increases your metabolism. It is important to understand that dieting without exercise causes the body to lose muscle, which slows the metabolism. Only the combination of weight training and positive nutritional changes makes it possible to lose fat and keep it off.  As you add muscle, your resting metabolism increases, so you burn more calories all day long. For each pound of muscle you gain, you’ll burn 35 to 50 more calories daily. So, by gaining only three pounds of muscle, you’ll burn an average of 120 more calories per day, or approximately 3,600 more calories per month. That equates to a loss of 10 to 12 pounds in one year!

Myth #2 – Aerobic exercise is better than weight training to burn fat.

Fact – If you really want to lose fat – and keep it off — the best way to do it is with weight training. While it may feel like running on the treadmill for an hour (while you are dripping with sweat) is burning tons of calories, it’s only burning calories while you are exercising and for one to two hours after. Weight training is the most effective way to burn fat because the more muscle you gain, the more fat you burn all the time – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  With more muscle, you are not just burning fat one or two hours when you’re exercising, but every hour of every day, whether you’re exercising, eating, sleeping or sitting at your desk.

Myth #3 – If I weight train I will get bigger and I want to look smaller.

Fact –  Muscle actually takes up less space than fat, so ultimately, by weight training, you will be smaller, firmer and toner; and your clothes will fit better. What about weight? Yes, you may end up weighing the same or even more because muscle weighs more than fat, but remember the true test is how you look and feel – not what the numbers on the scale say.

Myth #4 – Weight training will make me bulky and masculine – I don’t want to loose my femininity.

Fact – No worries – weight training will not turn you into to an Arnold Schwarzenegger look-alike over night. Women don’t become overly muscular – it’s just not possible.
Women don’t naturally produce enough of the hormones it takes to grow massive muscle.
Weight training will, however, give you that toned look you’re striving for – you can’t burn fat off to see muscle tone that doesn’t exist. Crash diets that burn precious muscle tissue only leave you with a temporarily smaller version of your original fat self.  “Skinny fat” is still flabby, but muscle is sexy!  If you want curves and definition, and a tight toned body, weight training is the way to go.

Myth #5 – I’m too old to start weight training.

Fact – It’s NEVER to late to start weight training.  Studies have shown strength improvements and numerous other benefits from weight training are possible at any age, even in subjects well into their 70s and 80s.  In fact, a recent study, published in the
Journal of the American Medical Association, found that post-menopausal women can reduce their body fat, increase muscle mass, build up their bones, and improve their balance by lifting moderately heavy weights on a regular basis. Biologically, the women were about 20 years younger then they were at the start of the yearlong study.

Research has also found that weight training can increase spinal bone mineral density by as much as 13 percent in six months. So weight training is a powerful tool against osteoporosis.  The benefits of weight training are now indisputable, both to prevent the effects of aging in pre-menopausal women and reverse the effects of aging in post-menopausal women.

And if all that isn’t enough to convince you the weight training is the single most effective way to burn fat, increases metabolism, build strength and increase bone density, here are a few other benefits you may want to consider.

  1. You Will Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes. Adult-onset diabetes is a growing problem for women and men. Research indicates that weight training can increase glucose utilization in the body by 23 percent in four months.
  2. You Will Fight Heart Disease. Strength training will improve your cholesterol profile and blood pressure.  And the benefits only increase your regimen also includes cardiovascular exercise, flexibility training and a good nutrition and supplement program.
  3. You Will Be Able to Fight Back Pain and Arthritis. A recent 12-year study showed that strengthening the low-back muscles had an 80 percent success rate in eliminating or alleviating low-back pain. Other studies have indicated that weight training can ease arthritis pain and strengthen joints.
  4. You’ll Be a Stronger Woman Physically and Mentally. Studies have shown that moderate weight training increases a woman’s strength by 30 to 50 percent. Extra strength will make it easier to accomplish daily activities, such as lifting children or groceries. Most strength differences between men and women can be explained by differences in body size and fat mass. Pound for pound, women can develop their strength at the same rate as men.  In addition, a Harvard study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced symptoms of clinical depression more successfully than traditional counseling did. Women who weight train commonly report feeling more confident and capable as a result of their program.

As you can see, the benefits of weight training far outweigh any myths that might be associated with it.  So hit the weights — and get ready to reap a host of health benefits that you probably never imagined possible with just one small lifestyle change.
See you at the gym!

Weight Training: Weighing in for Adolescent Weight Control

In the United States at least one child in five is overweight and the number continues to grow each day. Over the past two decades, the number of children who are overweight, as well as the number of grossly obese children has more than doubled. And no, children do not out grow it. Overweight children are at a higher risk of becoming unhealthy adolescents and adults. And, it’s overweight adults who are most at risk for a number of problems including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and all forms of cancer. Overweight in children and adolescents is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with genetics and lifestyle both playing important determining roles. Children whose family members are overweight are also at an increased risk of becoming overweight, although not all children with an obese family will become overweight. However, it is more likely then not, shared family behaviors such as bad eating habits and lack of activity will have an impact on a child’s body weight.

Our society has become very sedentary with television, computer and video games contributing to children’s inactive lifestyles. Children are spending less time playing outdoors and more time watching TV or sitting in front of their computers, and as a result, they’re getting heavier.  In fact 43% of adolescents watch more than 2 hours of television each day, and only half of U.S. children get as much exercise as they need. As a result, children are displaying signs of heart disease and diabetes before they even reach their teens.

The good news is that almost any kind of physical activity can help prevent the rising tide of obesity. In addition, studies have found that physically active children are far less susceptible to emotional problems, are more likely to stay away from drugs, resist smoking cigarettes, delay sexual activity; develop more self-confidence and higher self-esteem, and even get better grades.

In addition to competitive and recreational sports, weight training has become increasingly popular as an effective method of exercise for preadolescents and adolescents. From Hercules to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the image of the muscular hero has inspired children for generations. And now, perhaps more than ever, physical education experts are encouraging kids to hit the weights.  The benefits of weight training in the preadolescent and adolescent population outweigh any possible risks. Improved muscular strength, endurance and flexibility; prevention of bone loss and osteoporosis; improved self-image, confidence and well-being; improved motor coordination and sports performance; decreased risk of injury; lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels; weight maintenance; neuromuscular therapy and physical rehabilitation; improved aerobic capacity; and the promotion of a lifelong lifestyle of physical activity can all be attributed to weight training.

Weight training also offers particular advantages to children who are overweight and struggle to keep up with their peers in more traditional sports.  By lifting weights, children can improve their strength, endurance and coordination, enhancing their performance in other sports. And, when they lift weights, children can exercise in privacy, away from the critical eyes of their schoolmates.

Despite increasing acceptance of strength training for preadolescents and adolescents, some parents, coaches and instructors are skeptical that weight training offers benefits without causing harm. Myths and misinformation have helped persuade many to disapprove of preadolescent weight training. This is changing, however, as new knowledge replaces old misconceptions. The most common is the concern about musculoskeletal injury and epiphyseal fracture, however, this old “damage the growth plates” myth has never been clinically proven to occur as a result from weight training, but most often from falls due to horseplay or simple accidents.  If we consider that a standard push up involves pressing 60% of your body weight with the muscles of the arms and chest, then a child weighing 80 pounds doing 10 push ups is basically pushing 48 pounds with his arms and chest for 10 repetitions. Why would this be safer than having the same child do a bench press with a 20 pound barbell for 10 repetitions? The answer is…it’s not!!  Damage to the bones and epiphyses, or growth plates, is potentially serious, however, it is more likely for injury to occur due to improper training techniques or lack of supervision. The risk of injury can be minimized with a properly designed training program and close adult supervision.

As with any sport, however, children can injure themselves if movements are not performed properly or with too much intensity. Children should not be treated as miniature adults, particularly in terms of intensity, and training principles for adults do not necessarily correspond to those for children. Children are affected by interacting components such as musculoskeletal growth and sexual maturation.  Therefore, borrowing exercise prescriptions from adult strength-training programs is inappropriate. For example, pushing to failure and performing forced may be dangerous. Exercise prescriptions must be tailored to children’s individual needs, and fitness professionals or certified trainers must closely supervise all children while performing weight training exercises. It is imperative that trainers possess the background knowledge and experience to handle the preadolescent population, as well as have current CPR and first aid certifications.

In 1996, the National Strength and Conditioning Association laid out guidelines to ensure the of children safety who want to lift weights.  Considering these general guidelines, as well as some basic principles of a good beginner weight-training program, the following recommendations should be considered when starting a child on a weight-training program.

Children can begin around the time they would participate in organized sports (about age 7), but each child’s readiness needs to be evaluated on an individual basis with careful attention given to their ability
to follow directions.

Children should use machines that are properly designed for their size. Only child certified machines or weight-lifting equipment specifically designed for children should be included in a preadolescent and adolescent weight-training program. Machines designed for adults are not safe for most children because children’s arms and legs are not long enough to use them correctly. Light free weights may be more appropriate for some children, but even doing squats while holding a broomstick may be a good starting point.

Optimal prescription parameters, such as the number of sets and repetitions, have yet to be defined for the preadolescent population. It is recommended that children use the minimum amount of training that produces beneficial improvements in strength and health without undue risk.

Of all of the strength- training parameters, exercise intensity seems to be the key determinant of an effective program. Present guidelines suggest that intensity be moderate (approximately 10 to 15 repetitions) and that preadolescents avoid lifting maximal amounts of weight.

A child should begin a program with one set of little or no weight and concentrate on learning proper form. Once proper technique is demonstrated, a resistance can be selected that allows approximately 10 repetitions to be performed. The number of repetitions is slowly increased until the maximal number (15) can be completed. Resistance is then advanced in small increments of one to three pounds. As the child advances, one to three sets can be performed as tolerated.

The sequence of exercises should progress from larger muscle groups to smaller ones, and the frequency of training can start at two days per week and advance to three, as long as at least one day of rest is permitted between each training session.

Workouts of approximately 30 minutes should be preceded by an appropriate warm-up and finished with a cool-down. Proper training techniques, such as lifting in a controlled manner, must be demonstrated and consistently emphasized throughout the program.

Supervising trainers should encourage children to achieve at their own personal best and discourage children from competing with their peers.

Competitive sports such Styles of Olympic powerlifting and bodybuilding should be highly discouraged in the growing child and adolescent.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson is to be a good role model for your child and teach the next generation how to develop a lifelong habit of physical activity. If your child sees you enjoying healthy foods and physical activity, he or she is more likely to do the same now and for the rest of his or her life. Promoting a healthy lifestyle, maintaining the habit of activity throughout the school years and preventing sedentary behaviors in adulthood will benefit not only today’s children, but also future generations to come.

The Fastest Way to Fat Loss – Cardio vs Weight Training

Summer is here, and if you haven’t yet made that commitment to a fitness program, the thought of shedding a few pounds to look good in those shorts or that bathing suit, may be just the encouragement you need.

So with time of the essence, (immediate gratification being a must, with a trip to the beach just around the corner) what type of program do we embark on.  For most, the seemingly obvious solution would be to cut back on the meals and start doing cardio – and lots of it.

And as much as this may sound unpleasant (at least to most of us), it’s bound to burn up that extra fat, leaving us lean and toned, ready to show of those abs, right?  Wrong!  The good news is that these myths about weight loss are just that – while you do need to cut calories and increase activity to loose weight, there is a better, healthier, and more efficient way to do it.

First of all, embarking on some crazy fad diet that severely restricts calories may initially produce results, but in the long run will actually slow down your metabolism. Eating more frequent meals throughout the day will actually boost your metabolism.  The key is better food choices, balanced meals and portion control.

What about exercise – what kind and how much?  While it may feel like running on the treadmill for an hour (while you are dripping with sweat) is burning tons of calories, it’s only burning calories while you are exercising and for one to two hours after.  If you really want to lose fat – and keep it off — the best way to do it is with weight training.  Weight training is the single most effective way to permanently increase your metabolism.  The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn all the time – 24hours a day, 7 days a week — not just one or two hours when you’re exercising, but every hour of every day, whether you’re exercising, eating, sleeping or sitting at your desk.  Pound for pound, muscle burns 25 times more calories than fat. One pound of muscle can burn 30 to 50 calories in a day, or 350 to 500 calories a week.  One pound of fat only burns two a day or 14 in a week.  So, if you build just five pounds of muscle, that’s equivalent to burning 26 pounds of fat in a year.

The evidence is right in front of you in the gym.  Notice the number of overweight people who do hours of cardio on the treadmill, in aerobics classes, or on the bike – or worse, all of the above.  The same people, on the same program for months, maybe even years, with no noticeable results.  Then, compare them to the physiques in the weight room.  Ask some of those people who look the most fit how much time they really spend in the gym – it’s much less than you think.  The results produced by weight training are much more effective.  And if your own research isn’t convincing enough to back up these claims, consider a Tufts University study that showed strength and resistance training can increase metabolism by seven percent, and promote significant changes in body composition.  Scientists calculated the higher metabolic rate meant that resistance trained subjects burned an average of an extra 354 calories per day.  The final result was that weight training produces an increase in lean body mass and a decrease in body fat by a permanent increase in metabolic rate.

What about the scale?  Throw it out!  Yes you may end up weighing the same or even more because muscle weighs more than fat, but remember, muscle takes up less space than fat.  So, ultimately, you will be small, firmer and toner; and your clothes will fit better.  That’s the true test. How you look and how you feel – not what the numbers on the scale say.  And women, no, you become overly muscular.  It’s just not possible – women don’t naturally produce enough of the hormones it takes to grow massive muscle.  Weight training will, however, give you that tone look you’re striving for – you can’t burn fat off to see muscle tone that doesn’t exist.  In addition, weight training is important to help prevent osteoporosis by building and maintaining bone density.

Timing is everything.  If your primary goal for cardio, in addition to cardio vascular health, is to burn fat, the most effective time to do it is when glycogen stores are low, therefore, early morning on an empty stomach would be an optimum time since glycogen stores have been depleted throughout the night while you slept.

If morning isn’t an option, and you’ll be doing cardio in the same workout session as weight training, it’s better to do cardiovascular activity immediately following weight training because glycogen levels have also been depleted at this time.  Not only will your cardiovascular exercise be more effective at fat burning, but your weight training session will be more effective and intense since you won’t have burned up all your ATP on cardio.

The key to successful weight loss is balance – in both diet and exercise.  Weight training will help increase lean body composition and boost your metabolism, even while at rest.  While cardiovascular activity will help muscles utilize oxygen more efficiently and promote overall good cardiovascular health.  Remember though, too much cardio can actually burn valuable muscle tissue and losing muscle slows down your metabolism  — which is obviously counter productive to your whole weight loss goal.  And again, remember balance — allow your body time to recover from all exercise. Muscle tissue needs recovery time to repair and grow.  So, don’t be afraid to take a couple of days off with no exercise and you will actually see better results.