10 Surprising Fitness Tips

1. Group Therapy-It is now almost common knowledge amongst fitness professionals and researchers that having a social support system in place is nearly essential to the success of a diet and exercise program. A recent Swiss study concluded that participants in an exercise program who have someone to share the experience with, whether it be a friend, spouse, or other participant in the same program, are significantly more likely to stick with it and reach their fitness goals than those who decide to “go it alone.”

2. Stop doing Cardio!- Traditional long, slow cardio is a thing of the past. Aerobic training might make your body an “efficient fat burning machine,” but this isn’t necessarily desirable. The ONLY tissue that burns fat in the body is muscle. Aerobic endurance training will eventually teach your body to use its own muscle as a fuel source (notice the difference between the “lean body” of an endurance athlete versus that of a sprinter). Aerobic training does demand work from the muscles, but not as much as other activities. Weight training and anaerobic cardiovascular training i.e. sprinting, have a greater effect on decreasing body fat than aerobic conditioning does. As for it “increasing” your metabolism? Your metabolism is really more dependent on how much muscle you’ve got on your body than anything else.

3. Save the crunching for your cereal- Years ago, scientists who studied human anatomy by using cadavers, figured that the function of our abdominal muscles must be to flex the spine-which is exactly what you do when you perform a crunch, a sit-up, or any other movement that requires you to round your lower back. As a result, these exercises evolved as the best way to work your abdominal muscles. But the abs actually have a more important function than flexing your spine which is to stabilize it. In fact, the muscles of your mid-section make it possible for your torso to stay upright instead of falling forward due to gravity. So your abs and lower back actually prevent your spine from flexing. If you want better results from your core workout, you need to train your core for stability. Abdominal training should focus on stabilization (both static and dynamic) – not movement.

4. Burn fat while you sleep-An effective workout need not last much more than 30 minutes. IF, that is, the intensity is high. Resistance training the whole-body at this high intensity places a demand on the body that effectively creates what is called an “after burn.” The after burn effect can stimulate the metabolism to a level where it will be elevated for over 36 hours or more after exercising. Calories (and fat) continue to be burned for an entire day and a half after the workout. What a metabolism boost! So if you want to burn fat around the clock-while you work and while you rest, make sure to make total-body resistance training a part of your workout routine.

5. Vitamin C helps keep the pain away- Vitamin C may play a role in repairing muscle and connective tissue. Anecdotal reports suggest that antioxidant supplementation might be effective in minimizing delayed onset muscle soreness (though there are no clinical trials as of yet to support this). Yet, some people who began taking vitamin C to ward off colds have noticed a decrease in this post workout soreness. Always check with your doctor before considering taking vitamin C. Large doses can, in some cases, be harmful.

6. Short and Sweet-When is the best time to workout? The answer is: when you can fit it into your schedule. You don’t need to use “time” as an excuse to skip a workout. If done properly, you CAN complete a total body workout in forty-five minutes (complete with warm-up, cardio and stretching). Keep the rest between sets to a minute, include a series of 4-5 “bursts” of high intensity cardio after resistance training, and end with a stretch of your personal “hot spots” or, the areas of your body that tend to be the tightest.

7. Elliptical just means oval-Treadmills are typically the most popular pieces of cardiovascular equipment in the gym. But elliptical machines are catching up. While many people prefer the elliptical because it is easiest on the knees, consider this: it also supports a great deal of your body weight making the demand on your cardiovascular system a lot less so fewer calories than you might expect are being burned. Additionally, the way these machines are programmed is notoriously inaccurate, leaving the average person believing they burned a lot more calories than they actually did. Bottom line: It’s too easy!

8. Body parts, schmody parts-For years, the conventional wisdom has been to train the body by breaking it down into a combination of “body parts” usually spread over the course of a week. However, the conventional “wisdom” is wrong. Muscles do not work in isolation! The body was meant to function as a unit. Instead, focus on combination movements that work as many muscles simultaneously as possible, training the whole body during each workout.

9. The “fat burning zone” is a myth-Here’s the concept: the body burns a greater amount of fat at lower intensities than it does at higher intensities (one of the reasons that jogging became so popular). It’s true that the body burns a greater percentage of fat at lower intensities than at higher intensities. But as a percentage of what? It’s a greater percentage of a smaller number. At lower intensities fifty percent of calories may be burned from fat, while at higher intensities it may only burn thirty five percent of calories from fat but at higher intensities you burn a LOT more total calories.

10. Fruits and Veggies for more muscle? A recent study suggests plant foods may help preserve muscle mass. Over time, some foods create a mild but slowly increasing metabolic “acidosis.” Acidosis promotes muscle protein wasting, or loss by both increasing protein degradation and inhibiting protein synthesis, or creation. Diets relatively high in potassium-rich, alkaline-residue producing foods like, fruits and vegetables, may help neutralize acidosis. This study concluded that eating more (alkaline) vegetables and fruits can significantly offset this effect. This is particularly important as we age because our muscle mass naturally begins to decrease (and remember: losing muscle mass also slows your metabolism). So eat those veggies!

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