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Posts Tagged ‘weight loss’

Martial arts and fitness

June 18th, 2012 No comments

It’s been a lo-o-o-ong time since there were any blog posts on this site. And honestly, it’s been about as long since I’ve seen the inside of a gym… let alone, stepped onto a treadmill or sat down at a machine of any other kind. My only regular exercise has been a daily walk with my dog. Walking is decent exercise, certainly but it is not enough to stay really fit as would be obvious to anyone who saw me at the beach.

So I’ve decided to pursue an interest in the martial arts and I’ll be joining a local club.

Why martial arts?

Martial arts is not only ideal for fitness but there are at least two other things I love about this idea:

The social aspect: fitness clubs often perpetuate the solitude of contemporary life. As it is, I work at home alone and I need a social outlet. However, I know that going to a fitness club is not going to meet the bill. People in clubs are generally tuned out on their iPods and if you talk to them you’re interrupting them. One of the reasons I found it easy to quit my gym membership was the fact that it had no benefits socially. I look forward to that being different if I get into a martial arts class.

Spiritual discipline. I’m a lapsed Catholic and one of the reasons for lapsing is that I studied Buddhism at several points in university. This is a much more logical philosophy than anything you’ll ever learn in catechism class. However, I never really pursued any of the mental disciplines other than very brief, sporadic forays into meditation. I look forward to learning more about Sil Lim Tao, Chum Kil and Biu Tze, as the local martial arts club promises on its website.

And of course, a third benefit is that I might actually learn some self-defence. Since I am generally averse to violence I don’t know the first thing about defending myself in a fight or against a mugging. You just never know when such knowledge might come in handy and it's gotta be a good thing to at least know some intimidating stances.

Health benefits and insurance
Aside from getting in shape, I wonder if my insurance company has any breaks for people into fitness. While this seems like a longshot, there are companies who have rewarded people with a lower BMI. I doubt that my company will offer any such breaks, though.

In any case, I’m looking forward to improving my fitness and health. It might even help
revive this blog with more new posts. Like this one.

Do Magazine Diets Sabotage Weight Loss?

July 26th, 2010 No comments

Some plans just don’t add up

I’m always a little confused when I read the details of weight loss plans that I find in popular health and fitness magazines. So I decided to crunch some numbers, and I was more than surprised with what I found.

Why popular weight loss plans concern me

Take this diet I saw in a fitness magazine. It probably sounds a lot like plans you’ve seen in similar publications. The first thing that made me uneasy was a recommended 1,400 calorie a day meal plan. No way, I thought, you don’t have to starve yourself to lose weight.

Now I’m no expert, but I’ve read what many of them have to say. Most women need a few hundred calories above or below 1,400 (it can vary by person) just so their vital organs function, which means brains, hearts, lungs, kidneys and more. If you don’t consume more calories than that basic amount you’ll be risking your health and likely setting yourself up for a failed attempt at weight loss.

What about calories burned through exercise?

Which brings me to my next point. These weight loss plans don’t end at restricting calorie intake, they also recommend regular strength training and cardio workouts. If you take in 1,400 calories a day and burn off 400 during one workout session, that leaves only 1,000 for your body to use during the rest of the day - much less than what is considered essential. And as we’ve been told by experts in these same magazines, one workout session can boost the amount of calories you burn for hours afterwards, meaning even more calories gone.

What about calories burned through digestion?

But here’s another factor. You have to eat to take in those 1,400 calories, and every time you eat you’ll burn calories. About 10 percent of the calories you take in are burned off through digestion. So if you’re only taking in 1,400 you’ll burn about 140.

What about calories burned through NEAT?

The body’s calorie burning doesn’t stop there. You won’t be lying around doing nothing all day, getting in that one hour of exercise before becoming sedentary again. Every move you make throughout the day causes your body to burn calories, even something as seemingly unimportant as fidgeting. When calories are burned this way it’s known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT. Some people fidget and gesture so much throughout the day that they burn up to 350 calories.

When you do the math it’s easy to see why calorie restriction sets dieters up for failure.

Fidget Your Way to Weight Loss? Sounds NEAT

February 26th, 2010 No comments

Burn calories without workouts

Some people naturally burn as many as 350 extra calories per day - not because they exercise more and not because they have faster metabolisms. They can do it because of something called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). And the good news is it’s something we can do too.

What the heck is NEAT?
I’ll start with the basics of how we use energy throughout the day. Our basal metabolic rate (BMR) describes the energy expended by our bodies when we are completely at rest. Each of us has an individual BMR that tells us how many calories our bodies need just to perform the most basic functions.

After that energy is used to digest, absorb and store food, which is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Finally our bodies expend energy through something called activity thermogenesis, which can be exercise or non-exercise related.

You may be surprised to hear that most people burn fewer calories through exercise than they do through NEAT. That’s because exercise is often a once daily (or less for some people) calorie-burning spurt, while NEAT describes the calories we burn through any sort of activity all day long.

According to the Mayo Clinic people who are very sedentary may only be able to credit NEAT for 15 percent of their total daily energy (calorie) expenditure, while in active individuals it can account for up to 50 percent.

Things that affect your NEAT
Occupation - People with active jobs can burn up to 1,000 calories more per day than those with sedentary jobs. But you’re not a hopeless case if you’ve got a desk job. Get up often to take short walks around the office or walk to a co-worker’s cubicle to give them a message instead of using email. If you’ve got a really great boss, convince them that a standing desk will boost your productivity.
Leisure time - Do you spend most lounging in front of the TV, or are you always moving? I’m not saying you have to go outside for a run, just puttering around your yard or organizing a closet can elevate your daily energy expenditure.
Fidgeting - People with fidgeting habits - whether they gesture with their hands while they talk, bounce a leg while they sit or twirl their hair around a finger - might just have discovered the secret to staying in shape. These people are constantly in motion. Even though it may not seem like much, a day full of fidgeting can really add up.

What you can do to take advantage of NEAT
Since NEAT is a combination of everything you do throughout the day, it’ll take a lot of lifestyle adjusting to get the full benefits, but there are many easy ways to start.
Use a push or manual mower when you’re cutting the lawn
Avoid drive-through windows
Choose stairs over elevators
• If you must watch television do a bit of household tidying at each commercial, and change channels without using the remote.
Get a little restless - If you have the urge to move your hands, feet or other body parts don’t fight it
Laugh out loud, and do it often
Tell great stories - the more wild gestures the better
Stand instead of sitting whenever possible

Boost Your Strength Training Calorie Burn

February 5th, 2010 No comments

Supersets help you get things done faster
When most people tackle the weight room, they start with a plan that includes straight sets. This method involves performing two or more sets of each exercise, with about a minute or more rest in between each set. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing straight sets, it does have some negatives, including the fact that your sessions take longer to complete and your body will eventually adapt and quit realizing results. That’s where supersets and all its variations come in.
What are supersets?
Supersetting is when you perform two exercise sets without rest in between. Some pros recommend you perform sets on opposing muscle groups, meaning if you do one set of barbell curls to work your biceps, you immediately follow it with one set of skull crushers to work your triceps.

You can also perform two exercises that target the same muscle, such as leg extensions and squats. This method is known as pre-exhaustion supersets because the first move isolates and fatigues the quads and the second involves them in a compound exercise. Post-exhaustion supersets are the exact opposite, you do the compound move first and the isolation move second.

Why you should try supersets
• Supersets are a great way to blast through a weight loss plateau because they challenge your body to do work it isn’t used to.
• They make gym time go a lot faster since you’re resting less.
• They allow you to reach muscle fatigue without lifting heavy weights. This is good for someone working out without a spotter or who doesn’t want to lift heavy.
• They make for an easy session. All you have to do is pick two exercises, rest, then repeat. While you’re resting after those two you can decide on two more, until before you know it you’re done.

Types of supersets
Pre-exhaustion supersets - See above.
Post-exhaustion supersets - See above.
Tri-sets - This one is pretty self-explanatory. Perform three exercises in a row instead of two.
Opposing muscle groups - As explained, this method involves working one muscle group and then its opposing group. It can be very beneficial because you’ll be working both muscle groups evenly.
Compound supersets - Two different compound exercises are performed in a row.
Isolation supersets - This is also known as same-part supersetting. An example would be doing incline curls followed by barbell curls.
Staggered supersets - This type of supersetting involves performing an exercise for a larger muscle group, followed by one for a smaller muscle group.
In-set supersets - two different exercises within a rep. One example would be doing a dumbbell bench press and transitioning immediately into a dumbbell flye.
Upper body/lower body supersets - It doesn’t matter which part of your body you target first, just that you follow up an upper body exercise with a lower body one, or vice versa.

Powering Through a Weight Loss Plateau

January 4th, 2010 Comments off

A change of pace can reignite your metabolism

When people are trying to lose weight - no matter how valiant their efforts - there often comes a time when the scale stops moving. It’s known as a weight loss plateau and it happens to the best of us.

There are a few reasons for plateaus. When our bodies weigh more they are forced to work harder, meaning they burn more calories. So as we lose weight our bodies inevitably begin to burn fewer calories during the same activities.

The calorie burn of aerobic activity is further reduced if our bodies become used to a cardio routine. Only if the body stays challenged will it continue to burn calories at the same rate.

Best ways to beat a weight loss plateau
Before you decide to restrict your diet, make some changes to your fitness routine. If you don’t already lift weights, now is definitely the time to start. When you build muscle your metabolism speeds up. If you build enough muscle while losing weight your metabolic rate may not even decline.

Compound resistance training moves - If you spend most of your time in the weight room doing isolation exercises, such as leg and bicep curls and decline bench crunches, you’re missing out on what compound exercises have to offer. By doing one set of deadlifts you’re working not just your glutes, but your hamstrings, lower back, abs and more. It’s the perfect way to challenge your body without spending any extra time in the gym.
• Superset your strength training
- Supersets are when you move from one strength training set to the next with 30 seconds or less rest time. Some people simplify this method by doing a circuit. They perform one set of each exercise in their routine and repeat the circuit up to two more times. Switching just one of your weekly strength training sessions to supersets can be enough to get your body burning again.
Switch up cardio - Even if your cardio involves a strenuous 40 minute elliptical session, five days a week, at some point your body will become efficient at it, burning less calories as a result. That’s where cardio variation comes in. Try switching to the treadmill or stationary bike one or two days a week, or use more than one cardio machine during a single cardio session. When using the elliptical try choosing a different preset program than you’re used to and switch between workouts that are low, moderate and high intensity. One of the best ways to beat a plateau is by incorporating intervals, which can mean alternating between brisk walking, jogging and running during the workout.

Before you get too concerned, ask yourself if you’ve really stopped losing weight. It might be as little as a fourth of a pound a week, but it’s still something - 12 pounds a year to be exact.