Achieving effective weight loss and building a healthy body is a process that takes dedication and lots of hard work. While forming a nutritious diet fortified with vegetables, whole grains and lean meat is an absolutely essential part of maintaining optimal health, exercise is the only way in which you can physically transform your shape. When you include both cardiovascular and weight training in your exercise program you will reduce levels of fat while increasing lean muscle to forge a leaner, stronger and healthier physique.
Your body loves to exercise, so get moving! The benefits of physical activity are boundless. Exercise gives you energy, lifts your mood, relieves stress, lowers your blood pressure, vitalizes your heart and lungs, and reduces your risk for disease. Physical activity must become one of those things that you do without question, like bathing and brushing your teeth. Unless you are convinced of the benefits of fitness and the risks of unfitness, you will not succeed. Patience is essential. Don’t try to do too much too soon and don’t quit before you have a chance to experience the rewards of improved fitness.
Remember, you can’t regain in a few days or weeks what you have lost in years of sedentary living, but you can get it back if you persevere, and the prize is worth the price. Here are ten easy tips to help you jumpstart your way to a safe workout and a better body.
1. The general recommendation for physical activity is at least 30 minutes a day for good health. This doesn’t have to be a chore. You can sneak exercise into your day for a few minutes at a time. To get a total of at least 30 minutes of activity a day, try making these small changes in your daily routine:
*Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
*Take 2 or 3 short walking breaks at work each day.
*Walk around the house while you talk on a cordless phone.
*Walk and talk with a friend at lunch.
*Get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
2. Walking is easily the most popular form of exercise. Studies show that when done briskly on a regular schedule, walking can improve the body’s ability to consume oxygen during exertion, lower the resting heart rate, reduce blood pressure and increase the efficiency of the heart and lungs. It also helps burn excess calories. Here are some ideas to help you develop an efficient walking style:
* Hold your head erect and keep back straight and abdomen flat. Toes should point straight ahead and arms should swing loosely at sides.
* Land on the heel of the foot and roll forward to drive off the ball of the foot. walking only on the ball of the foot, or in a flat-footed style, may cause fatigue and soreness.
* Take long, easy strides, but don’t strain for distance. When walking up or down hills, or at a very rapid pace, lean forward slightly.
* Breathe deeply (with mouth open, if that is more comfortable).
3. Using free weights is an excellent way to improve your fitness. You can increase the rate at which you burn calories, increase your muscle strength and size, and increase the strength of your bones. The term “free weight” means the equipment will not restrict movement. Thus, the use of barbells and dumbbells requires more muscular coordination than machines. Because movement is not restricted, the risk of injury is higher than with machines. Precautions must be taken when using free weights. Specifically, ensure you have a good grip, maintain a stable position sitting or standing, use good technique or form, and solicit proper instruction from an exercise professional.
4. The following are some things you can do to make sure you are exercising with weights safely:
* Be sure to start slowly and build up your activities and your level of effort gradually. Doing too much exercise too soon can hurt you, especially if you have been inactive.
* Avoid holding your breath and straining while lifting a weight. This raises your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, pay special attention to this tip. It may seem strange at first, but the rule is to exhale during muscle exertion; inhale during relaxation. For example, if you are lifting something breathe out on the lift; breathe in on the release.
* When picking weights up off the floor (or putting them down), lift with your legs, not your back.
* Most accidents occur when a weight falls on a body part. This happens when a weight plate is not secure on a bar or when a dumbbell falls out of a person’s hand.
* Consider how you intend to use the weights. If you are using the weights for general fitness, you probably do not need a partner to spot for you. If you are buying free weights to increase muscle size, therefore lifting heavy weights, find a training partner to help you.
5. Timing when you eat and drink in relation to your exercise program is important. Whether your exercise routine is light, moderate, or strenuous there are some guidelines to consider when it comes to eating and drinking around workouts. Before exercising, eat a carbohydrate snack such as yogurt or a bagel one to two hours before exercising so you’ll have the right amount of fuel for your workout, and drink at least two cups of water. During the workout drink about 4 ounces of water every 20 minutes. In high heat or humidity, try a sports drink to preserve energy stores. After you workout you’ll need to replenish lost water to prevent dehydration. Weigh yourself before and after exercise to find how much fluid you’ve lost. For every pound lost drink two cups of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic liquid.
6. If you are actively performing weight training exercises it is important to give the muscles you are working adequate period to rest in between sets. Usually one to three minutes is appropriate. Rest allows for the muscle’s energy sources to be replenished. On a broader scale, allow two to three days between workouts of the same muscle group. You want to give your body the right amount of time to recover from the stress of a productive workout, helping to build your muscle strength and endurance.
7. All exercise clothing should be loose-fitting to permit freedom of movement, and should make the wearer feel comfortable and self-assured. As a general rule, you should wear lighter clothes than temperatures might indicate. Exercise generates great amounts of body heat. Light-colored clothing that reflects the sun’s rays is cooler in the summer, and dark clothes are warmer in winter. When the weather is very cold, it’s better to wear several layers of light clothing than one or two heavy layers. The extra layers help trap heat, and it’s easy to shed one of them if you become too warm.
8. When you workout is often a matter of preference. The hour just before the evening meal is a popular time for exercise. The late afternoon workout provides a welcome change of pace at the end of the work day and helps dissolve the day’s worries and tensions. Another popular time to work out is early morning, before the work day begins. Advocates of the early start say it makes them more alert and energetic on the job. Among the factors you should consider in developing your workout schedule are personal preference, job and family responsibilities, availability of exercise facilities and weather. It’s important to schedule your workouts for a time when there is little chance that you will have to cancel or interrupt them because of other demands on your time.
9. Whenever you miss a few workout sessions (more than a week), you may need to resume exercising at a lower level than before. If you miss a few sessions because of a temporary, minor illness such as a cold, wait until you feel normal before you resume exercising. Or if you have a minor injury, wait until the pain disappears. When you resume exercising, start at one-half to two-thirds your normal level, depending on the number of days you missed and how you feel while exercising. Whatever the reasons for missing sessions, don’t worry about the missed days. Just get back into your routine and think about the progress you will be making toward your exercise goal.
10. Lastly, maintaining a positive attitude is an essential part of exercising and losing weight. Always keep a realistic and achievable weight loss and fitness goal in mind. Remember, gaining weight didn’t happen overnight and neither will weight loss. Take your weight loss plan one step at a time. It is important to have a mental picture of you at your healthy weight and keep visualizing yourself until you reach your goal. It is only natural to slip and fall while on a weight loss plan. This does not mean the end of the world. Take a deep breath, dust yourself off and get back on track the next day. As you successfully drop unwanted pounds, be sure to reward yourself. Go shopping for new clothes, buy tickets for a ball game, concert or play. Make a list of some of your favorite activities and tie them to your weight loss or fitness goals. As you complete each goal have your reward.