It’s Easier to Get in Shape than Out of Shape

There’s no need to get discouraged if you miss a couple of days of your exercise program or panic if you don’t hit the gym for a week or two straight. Many people don’t start an exercise program because they are worried they won’t be able to keep it up regularly. But instead of focusing on the negative and worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to keep up with the program, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s easier to get in shape than out of shape.

The body is remarkable and tends to hold onto its fitness gains long after you’ve stopped exercising. Even if you miss a few days or a week of exercise, or even a few weeks in a month, there is no need to worry. Once you have been conditioned physically, it takes a lot longer to get out of shape than it took you to get into shape. The rate of regression depends on how long you’ve been exercising and how fit you are. Most people lose muscle strength at about one half the rate at which they gained it. So if you’ve been exercising regularly for three months and have to discontinue for any reason, it could take up to six months for your body to fall back to its pre-training state.

If you’ve been walking for approximately two or three months, your aerobic capacity starts to decrease in the first two to three weeks after you’ve stopped exercising, but it can take almost four to six months before fit exercisers get back to the pre-fitness level where they started. Aerobic exercising decreases the bad LDL cholesterol and increases the good HDL cholesterol after you’ve been on your exercise program for approximately two to three months. Studies show that it took at least three months for those cholesterol levels to return to their original pre-exercise levels after the exercise was discontinued. When exercisers resumed their program, it took them only half the time to return to their original levels of fitness.

So don’t t panic if you have to take a short break from your exercise program. The benefits that you’ve worked so hard for are long lasting, and they can be obtained again in half the time. It’s motivating to think how far each workout takes you toward getting trim and fit, and staying fit for longer.

Don’t Let a Rainy Day Slow You Down

Don’t wait until the weather is better to go out and walk. There’s no excuse for not exercising at home on any day when the weather is too cold or windy or too hot. But be careful about exercising outdoors when it’s very hot or humid. Heat exhaustion and, in extreme instances, heat stroke are complications frequently found in those exercise nuts that you see running on hot, humid days. Remember, it’s not necessary to walk outdoors if the weather is extremely cold, windy, wet, hot, or humid.

Here are some options to keep in mind when the weather’s not ideal for an outdoor walk:

• Ride a stationary bike. Pedal at a comfortable rate of 10 to 15 miles per hour for twenty minutes. To avoid fatigue, you
can divide those twenty minutes into two ten minute sessions.

• Walk on a treadmill. The treadmill is an effective way to burn calories and build cardiovascular fitness. With a treadmill, you can walk for exercise just as you would outdoors, rain or shine!

• Swim. Twenty minutes of swimming provides the same aerobic conditioning and cardiovascular fitness benefits as walking and indoor exercises. Swimming has the added benefit of being easy on the joints, especially if you have any form of arthritis or back problems. If you have access to an indoor or outdoor swimming pool, twenty minutes of swimming will fit the bill perfectly.

• Try an elliptical fitness machine. This type of machine combines the movement of a treadmill and a stair climber.

Your feet loop forward to simulate walking, but the footpads rise and fall with your feet. The elliptical motion provides a no impact type of exercise, which is great if you have arthritis or knee or back problems that make walking difficult. For maximum exercise, an elliptical machine with dual cross-trainer arms, which move back and forth as you stride, rather than stationary arms, burns more calories and uses more muscle groups.

Walk the mall. If you don’t like to exercise at home or at the gym when the weather’s bad, an indoor mall can be just the place to take your twenty minute walk. Many malls open early before the stores open to accommodate mall walkers. If you have access to one of these enclosed malls, then by all means get out there and walk. Remember to put vigor, vim, and pep into your mall walk step and keep your eyes straight ahead, so that you won’t be window shopping instead.

Walk with Weights to Lose More Weight

There is no need to engage in strenuous aerobic exercises or to lift heavy weights at the gym (either free weights or machine weights) to achieve cardiovascular fitness, weight loss, and improved lean muscle mass. When you walk with light one or two pound handheld weights, you build muscle mass, which speeds up your metabolism because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat cells burn. The combination of the fat burning aerobic walking exercise and the muscle building exercise of walking with handheld weights enables you to burn fat as you lose weight and develop a new and improved, lean and firm figure.

Power Diet Step

My Power Diet Step’ plan simply combines the aerobic benefits of walking with the strength training benefits of lifting light one or two pound handheld weights in each hand. When you combine your twenty minute aerobic walk with this strength training exercise, you have the advantage of a “double blast” of calorie burning for weight loss while trimming and toning your body.

First of all, your aerobic walking burns approximately 350 calories per hour, or 117 calories every twenty minutes. The strength training addition of using handheld weights while walking burns another 175 calories per hour, or 58 calories every twenty minutes. Strength training exercises (walking with weights) increases the body’s basal metabolic rate, which in turn burns additional calories. So you burn a total of 175 calories every twenty minutes when you walk with weights and therefore lose more weight; more quickly.

When you walk with handheld weights, walk with a natural arm swing, as you do when you normally walk. Your arms should hang down naturally at your sides. Hold the weights with your palms facing your body. As you walk, alternately swing your arms gently, bending your elbows slightly with each stride. You can also exaggerate this arm swing by holding the weights, palms facing the body, with your elbows bent at approximately 90° angles. Move your arms forward and backward in a pumping motion similar to the arm motion used by runners.

Walkers burn approximately 50 percent more calories doing the Power Diet Step using handheld weights than by just walking without weights. As an added bonus, walking with weights builds lean muscle mass, which burns an additional 50 calories an hour per pound of muscle. This exercise is ideal in helping to prevent osteoporosis, since walking with handheld weights puts the tension on the bones and muscles that is essential in preventing bone loss. Walking with weights will also help to improve cardiovascular fitness, thus lowering blood pressure and also helping to reduce the incidence of heart disease and stroke.

If you want to add strength training to your regular walking workouts, start by adding two days of walking with weights to your six day a week regimen. (See Tip 97.) If you desire more muscle toning and upper body strengthening exercises, you can increase the walking workout with handheld weights to three times per week.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Losing weight through a moderate exercise program and healthy diet is a gradual process. The most important point to note is that so long as you stick with the moderate walking program, the chance of regaining back the weight is minimal. This is because the body has gone through a time consuming metabolic process in which the adjustment to the weight loss and weight maintenance has been gradual. Consequently, no rapid weight gain has been noted in people who have been on a continuous exercise program.

Don’t Worry About Distance or Speed

In order to begin an exercise program, you do not have to be an exercise fanatic. You do not have to be a jogger or an aerobic exercise junkie to accrue the benefits of an aerobic walking program. The amount of time you exercise every day is more important than the speed or intensity. If you walk twenty minutes every day, it doesn’t make much difference whether you are walking 2.5, 3, 3.5, or 4 miles per hour. You are still burning calories, losing weight, and developing physical fitness. In other words, it doesn’t matter how far you walk or how fast you walk, as long as you walk regularly.

This type of walking activity falls into the aerobic form of exercise, in which you are taking in oxygen as fast as you are burning it up. This is an efficient use of energy. Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, is the opposite condition, which is caused by overexertion, working muscles beyond their capacity for example running fast or lifting heavy weights. This type of anaerobic exercise leads to the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, causing pain, discomfort, and fatigue, a condition known as oxygen debt.

In order to keep your walk a moderate aerobic exercise, you should walk at a speed between 2.5 and 3.5 miles per hour. If you increase your speed beyond 4 miles per hour, the upper arms and shoulders swing too fast and the lower leg muscles have to work too hard to compensate, thus producing wasteful energy expenditure. It is important that you walk at a comfortable speed, one that does not leave you breathless.

Walk Those Pounds Away

Walk Those Pounds Away

Walking is a great form of moderate exercise that not only helps you lose weight, but is also healthy for your heart. The great part about walking as an exercise is that you aren’t limited to a particular time or location. Walking doesn’t require special clothes or equipment. You don’t need to join a fancy gym. You can walk before or after work, or if you drive to work, you can park your car a block or two from the office and walk the rest of the way. If you take the bus or train, get off a stop before your station and walk. An enclosed mall could be the perfect place for your walk in bad weather. You can even walk on your lunch break for a refreshing break from the office.

Walking is the ideal aerobic exercise for good health, fitness, and weight loss without the dangers of strenuous exercise. If you want to lose weight permanently, then the energy burned during your exercise should come from fats and not from carbohydrates. During the first twenty to thirty minutes of moderate exercise like walking, only one third of the energy burned comes from carbohydrates, whereas two thirds comes from body fats. During short bursts of exercise, two thirds of the energy burned comes from carbohydrates and only one third from body fat. It stands to reason, then, that a continuous exercise, like walking, which burns primarily body fat, is a lot better for permanent weight reduction than short spurts of strenuous exercise.

Because strenuous exercise burns carbohydrates it causes a drop in blood sugar, which actually increases your appetite. Walking, on the other hand, redirects blood away from the stomach to the exercising muscles and decreases appetite. Walking also increases the body’s metabolic rate, which helps to burn calories at a faster rate.

The only way to beat the battle of the bulge is to burn those unwanted pounds away. Walking burns approximately 350 calories per hour, so you can lose one pound of body fat for every ten hours you walk. A twenty minute brisk walk daily will burn enough calories to help you lose weight quickly. Ten minutes twice a day is just as good. The following table will give you an idea of the energy expended in walking, which is actually the number of calories burned per minute or per hour, by walking at different speeds.

Calories Burned

Walking Burned in Thirty Burned in Sixty
Speed per Minute Minutes Minutes
Slow (2 mph) 4 5 130 160 260 320
Brisk (3 mph) 5 6 160 190 320 380
Fast (4 mph) 6 7 190 220 380 440
Race (5 mph) 7 8 220 260 440 520

Speed per Minute
Burned in
Thirty Minutes
Burned in
Minutes Slow (2 mph) 130 160 380 440 Brisk (3 mph) 160 190 320 380 Fast (4 mph) 190 220 380 440 Race (5 mph) 220 260 440 520

A pound of body fat contains approximately 3,500 calories. When you eat 3,500 more calories than your body needs, it stores those calories as a pound of body fat. If you reduce your intake by 3,500 calories, you will lose a pound. It doesn’t make any difference how long it takes your body to store or burn these 3,500 calories. The result is always the same. You either gain or lose one pound of body fat, depending on how long it takes you to accumulate or burn up 3,500 calories.

You can lose weight by just walking. When you walk at a speed of 3 mph for one hour every day, you will burn up 350 calories each day. Therefore, if you walk one hour a day for ten days, you will burn up a total of 3,500 calories. Since there are 3,500 calories in each pound of fat, when you burn up 3,500 calories by walking you will lose a pound of body fat. You will continue to lose one pound of body fat every time you complete ten hours of walking at a speed of 3 mph. It works every time!

Twenty minutes of walking six days a week is all you need. Walking twenty minutes outdoors or indoors on a treadmill will provide you with maximum cardiovascular fitness, good health, and boundless energy. It will help you burn the extra calories needed to lose weight and also decrease your appetite. This walking plan will also provide the fuel that powers your energy level throughout your day.

When you first start your walking program, pick a level terrain, since hills place too much strain and stress on your legs, hips, and back muscles. Make sure you walk at a brisk pace (approximately 3 to 3.5 mph) for maximum efficiency. When you begin walking, your respiration and heart rate will automatically become faster; however, if you feel short of breath or tired, then you’re probably walking too fast. Slow down or stop whenever you are tired or fatigued, and then resume walking after resting.

When you walk, concentrate on maintaining a natural, efficient gait and putting energy into each step. Maintain erect posture while walking, and every so often contract your abdominal muscles to strengthen your abs. Walk with your shoulders relaxed and your arms carried in a relatively low position, with natural motion at the elbow. Don’t hold your arms too high when you walk or you may develop muscle spasms and pain in your neck, back, and shoulder muscles.

The muscles and joints of the ankles, knees, and hips provide most of the energy required for walking. When we over-stride or understride, we disrupt the natural walking gait. An easy, steady, unbroken stride will produce the rhythm and gait necessary for the effortless act of walking. Also, avoid toeing in or toeing out during the walking gait because this wastes energy. Concentrate on keeping your toes straight, and your stride will be even and rhythmic.

During the act of walking, your arms should swing naturally from the shoulders. Over swinging the arms purposely during walking will reduce the efficiency of the act of walking and subsequently tire you out early during your walk. Don’t concentrate too much on the act of walking during your rhythmic stride, and you will allow the muscles to relax and perform more efficiently. You’ll begin to feel relaxed and comfortable as your stride becomes smooth and effortless.

Don’t Fall for These Exercise Myths

Don’t be fooled by these common exercise myths.

Myth: The More You Perspire, the More Calories You Burn

Just because you sweat an extra amount doesn’t mean you’re burning extra calories. The key to burning more calories and losing more weight is twofold. First of all, it’s the intensity of your workout that determines how many calories you burn. If you’re breathing hard and your muscles feel sore, then you’re burning extra calories. Second, and actually more important, is the duration of your exercise. Moderate, low intensity exercises, like walking for thirty to fortyfive minutes, burn more calories than short term strenuous exercises, without the muscle aches or the heavy breathing. By increasing the basal metabolic rate for a longer period of time, the body burns calories at a steady rate while exercising and even continues to burn calories, at a lower rate, after the exercise is finished. This is because the basal metabolic rate doesn’t slow down immediately after your longer duration moderate exercise.

Myth: Lifting Heavy Weights Burns More Calories

Lifting heavy weights does burn more calories initially; however, since this activity cannot be continued for a long time, calories are only burned for a short time. Besides, heavy weight lifting can cause muscle and ligament tears and various other tendon injuries. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that lifting heavy weights may contribute to the development of high blood pressure because this is an anaerobic exercise that does not produce oxygenation of all of the body’s cells like aerobic exercises do.

Strength training exercises using light to moderate weights, on the other hand, can be continued for a longer duration, which leads to the steady burning of calories and actually boosts your overall metabolism. This leads to weight loss and the gradual sculpting of muscles for a better, not bigger, figure. Also, these strength training exercises help prevent osteoporosis, or the thinning of the bones as we age. These exercises also build more muscle, which burns more calories than fat even after you stop exercising.

Myth: A Morning Workout Burns More Calories

The amount of calories you burn has nothing to do with the time of day; it is dependent on the type and duration of exercise you do. Your body can’t differentiate between a morning or an evening workout. All your body knows is how many calories you’ve burned by the duration and the type of exercise you are doing at any particular time of day. It takes burning 3,500 calories to lose one pound of body fat, and the same formula holds true no matter when you exercise. This can take a day, a week, or a month; the calories that are burned are cumulative. In other words, if you burn 350 calories a day walking, you will lose a pound of body fat in ten days (350 calories X 10 days = 3,500 calories burned).

Myth: Running and Strenuous Aerobic Exercises Are the Best Way to Lose Weight

Strenuous exercises burn primarily carbohydrates during the first two thirds of your workout and then begin to burn fat only during the last one third of the workout. Walking and moderate exercises, on the other hand, burn fat during the first two thirds of your workout and then burn carbohydrates in the last third of the workout. You can clearly see that you will burn more calories (fat has 9 calories per gram compared with carbohydrate, which has 4 calories per gram) by moderate exercises like walking.

Strenuous exercises are not only ineffective in a weight reduction program, but they are dangerous, since they contribute to muscle and ligament injuries, strains and sprains, and have even been known to cause more serious problems like heart attacks and strokes. A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh found that women who rated their exercise as moderate lost a comparable amount of weight, if not more weight, than those women who exercised vigorously. It’s the total duration of activity, and not the intensity of activity, that burns more calories. Weight loss occurs more gradually and more effectively in a moderate exercise program like walking. Moderate exercise also contributes to the maintenance of weight loss for as long as you exercise regularly.

How To Schedule Your Workouts

We’re all busy, overworked, and overscheduled. You have a million things on your to do list every day. So how can you make sure that exercise is one of them?

Until your exercise program becomes a habit, it is a good idea to schedule your workout into your day. Your exercise program should be planned to meet your individual schedule; however, when you begin exercising, it’s a good idea to work out at a specific time every day to ensure regularity and consistency. You will be able to vary your schedule once you have started the program. Lunchtime, for example, is an ideal time to plan a twenty minute walk, since it combines both calorie burning and calorie reduction if you have less time for lunch, you’ll eat less.

You can choose to work out in the morning, afternoon, or evening depending on what time of day is most convenient for you. You can also change the times that you exercise each day depending on your work schedule or home activities. Here are the pros and cons of exercising at various times of the day according to the fitness experts to help you individualize your workout schedule.

• Morning. The main obstacle to getting in a morning workout is the difficulty of getting out of bed. If you choose to work out in the morning, you will want to leave yourself enough time so that you won’t be rushed, especially if you have to go to work or have home responsibilities. Since there are usually few disruptions early in the day, people who walk in the morning are more likely to stick with their exercise plans over a long period of time. Plus the sense of accomplishment, having completed your exercise early in the day, gives you a psychological rush for the first part of the day.

• Afternoon. Most individuals feel an energy lag between two and three o’clock in the afternoon, which is related to the body’s natural circadian rhythm. It may also be partly due to having just eaten lunch. Some exercise physiologists say that walking midday can smooth out that energy lag by increasing the levels of certain hormones that will perk you up for several hours. Remember, however, that it is not a good idea to exercise immediately after lunch or to skip lunch altogether. Walking for twenty minutes and then eating a light lunch will boost your energy level for the rest of the day.

• Evening. Due to fluctuations in biological rhythms, you breathe easier in the late afternoon or early evening because your lungs’ airways open wider, your muscle strength increases due to a slightly higher body temperature, and your joints and muscles are at their most flexible. This may be a good time to work out, according to some exercise physiologists. However, if you’ve had an extremely difficult day and you’re dead tired, revving yourself up for exercise may seem more like a chore than fun. Also, never exercise near bedtime because the increased energy level that follows the exercise may make it difficult to fall asleep.

Remember the choice is yours. Exercise according to your own biological clock and how you feel, and also according to your own time schedule. It’s your body, so listen to it, and it will respond to you with boundless energy and pep when you work out regularly.

Antioxidize with Exercise

Antioxidants are chemicals that help neutralize the potentially dangerous free radicals that result when your body converts oxygen into energy. If free radicals aren’t neutralized, they can give rise to a host of problems, including cell damage and a condition called oxidative stress that results from an imbalance between the factors that cause oxidation and the factors that inhibit oxidation. Many antioxidant nutrients are found in primary food sources; for example, fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and oils, yeast, and many other food groups.

Among the many health claims regarding antioxidants in foods and supplements, however, there has been little discussion of the way the body itself can combat damage caused by free radicals.
Living cells have evolved a variety of internal systems that offer protection against oxidative stress. Regular exercise can influence the equilibrium between antioxidation and oxidation, or the oxidative balance. In other words, regular exercise acts as an antioxidant just like any food or dietary supplement, helping the body to rid itself of free radicals.

Physical activity influences oxidative balance, but it does so paradoxically. During acute phases of physical activity such as strenuous exercise, more oxygen is needed to create energy; therefore, more volatile oxygen molecules or free radicals are formed. During this type of strenuous exercise, highly reactive hydroxyl radicals can overwhelm the body’s antioxidant systems and cause injury to the cells and tissues. Hence, isolated strenuous exercise produces significant oxidative stress. However, when physical activity is recurrent or moderate (for example, a walking program), exercise induced oxidative stress decreases over time as the internal antioxidant systems begin to adapt.

This is a very complicated way of stating that regular moderate exercise is beneficial to your health. Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, improves the oxidative balance in several ways. It regulates enzyme systems that are responsible for cleaning up escaped free radicals and may also decrease resting levels of free radical formation. To put it another way, sedentary people tend to have poor oxidative balance because they undergo oxidative stress even at relatively low levels of physical functioning, whereas fit people tend to have good oxidative balance because their bodies limit oxidative stress during exercise and during daily functioning.
So the next time you eat foods for their antioxidant properties, remember to continue your moderate exercise program to obtain additional antioxidant protection against those nasty free radicals. The result is that you’ll look younger and live longer as well as lose weight.

Warm Up to Stretch

Stretching exercises can improve the flexibility of the joints, muscles, and tendons, thus making the body less prone to injury. Stretching also increases the flow of blood to the stretched muscle and helps to promote bone growth where there is a stretching motion against gravity. Stretching before your workout tunes and tones your muscles and ligaments before your exercise. Stretching also has the advantage of preventing muscle and ligament injuries when you walk or work out. There is also increasing evidence that stretching has a calming effect on the central nervous system by transmitting relaxing signals along chemical neurotransmitter pathways from the peripheral nervous system to the brain.

New research suggests that you should actually warm up your muscles prior to stretching exercises. This can be accomplished by a gentle five minute walk or five minutes on a stationary bike or treadmill at a very slow speed. So, in effect, you are first warming up your muscles before you stretch, and then stretching in turn further warms up your muscles, ligaments, and joints before you begin to exercise more vigorously. Think of it as a “double warm up.”

Proper Stretching Technique and Sample Stretches

Stretching should be done slowly, and stretching one muscle group at a time is preferable.

Arm Stretches

Stretch both arms in front of you and hold that position for five to ten seconds, and then let your arms down slowly and relax them for an additional five to ten seconds. Next extend both arms out to your sides, hold for five to ten seconds, and then slowly let them down and relax them for five to ten seconds. Repeat this motion with your arms above your head, and then with your hands clasped in back of your head with your elbows bent as if you are stretching when you get out of bed.

During each of these exercises, gently stretch the arms by pulling or pushing them away from the body and then pulling them back toward the body. Remember to do it gently; if it hurts, you’re stretching your muscles too much.

Neck Stretches

To stretch your neck muscles, first look up and hold your head in that position for ten seconds, then relax, returning to a normal head position for ten seconds. Repeat the procedure looking to the left, and then to the right. Also repeat looking down, with your chin resting on your chest for ten seconds, and then return to the normal position for ten seconds.

Leg Stretches

The best way to stretch your leg muscles and ligaments is to sit in a chair and stretch one leg at a time in front of you for ten seconds, then relax the muscles, and then bend your knee and hold that position for an additional ten seconds, then relax the muscles and place your foot back on the floor. Repeat the same procedure with the other leg. You also can accomplish the same thing by pressing your feet into a footrest while sitting on a plane, train, bus, or at your desk.

These simple stretching exercises are designed to develop maximum flexibility of the muscles, ligaments, and joints. Although not as elaborate as yoga or tai chi, they are effective limbering and toning exercises for the body. These stretching steps help prepare the body for mental as well as physical fitness. They help you to get in touch with your body as you contemplate the slow, relaxing stretching steps. Take slow, deep breaths during the stretching exercises for maximum relaxing techniques.

You can develop any stretching routine that feels good to you. Stretching is an individual exercise, and what feels good for one person may not be satisfactory to another person. When you’ve finished, your muscles should feel relaxed, not taut or tight.

Gain Without Pain

Exercise doesn’t have to be stressful, painful, or exhausting to be beneficial; moderate exercise prevents heart disease and is a healthy component of any weight loss or fitness plan.

In a recent study of over seventeen thousand women and men, it was concluded that moderate exercise is an independent factor in the prevention of deaths by cardiovascular diseases. The American Heart Association presented the following findings:

• Despite blood pressure, cholesterol, or age, moderate exercise has an independent effect in preventing heart disease and strokes.
• Men in the lower 20 percent of physical fitness had a 50 percent higher incidence for heart disease than men falling in the 30 to 50 percent range of fitness development.

• Women in the bottom 20 percent zone of fitness, however, had a 70 percent higher incidence of heart disease than those women in the 30 to 50 percent range of fitness development.

• The major conclusion was that “just a little bit of exercise” is all that is needed to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta revealed a startling finding after reviewing forty three previous studies on heart disease. The one statistically significant predisposing factor in the development of heart disease, which appeared in every single study, was a lack of exercise. Their research revealed that people who exercised the least had almost twice the risk of developing heart disease as those who exercised regularly. This particular study brought together the findings of the forty three previous studies, which had all measured physical activity in many different ways. Walking was as effective as any other type of exercise in preventing heart disease, without the added risk of injury and disability that occurred in the more strenuous exercises. This analysis suggests that the lack of exercise on its own may be as strong a risk factor for developing heart disease as high blood pressure, smoking, and high cholesterol.

So don’t concern yourself with meeting the so called “target heart rate” during your workouts or worry whether or not you are exercising strenuously enough. As this research shows, moderate exercise will keep your heart and your body in top shape.