Thursday, September 12, 2013
Sports & Fitness
Balancing act: Aerobic exercise with strength training is key in losing weight
By Casey Ardoin • firstname.lastname@example.org • June 15, 2009
With the summer months beginning to heat up, everyone wants to look and feel their best, but an expensive gym membership is not required to get fit and shed the pounds.
In fact, incorporating more exercise into a daily routine along with making simple changes to your diet can yield results without putting a dent in your pocketbook.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, adults ages 18-65 should participate in moderately intense aerobic activity at a raised heart rate for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
David Szymanski, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Louisiana Tech University, said getting that exercise can be as easy as hitting the pavement.
"Someone can simply walk if they want to lose weight, (and) because of the heat, they could either do it early in the morning or later in the evening," he said. "Beginners might want to start walking three days a week and then gradually progress as their body feels better."
He said up to 300 calories can be burned by briskly walking for 30 minutes at a rate of 3.5 to 3.8 mph.
Jogging, swimming and cycling are also good choices for aerobic exercise, as well as simple housework such as gardening or mowing the lawn. And while most people think of working out as a task, Szymanski said squeezing in exercise throughout the day can be easier than it seems.
"Walking flights of stairs at work or during your lunch break (can burn calories)," he added. "Also, going to Wal-Mart and (pushing the cart) is exercise, and as you continue to put more groceries in the cart, the mass of the cart increases, adding resistance."
While regular cardio activity alone will yield results, balancing aerobic exercise with strength training is the key to losing weight.
"If people want to lose weight they must do resistance training. Resistance training burns calories when you exercise but burns even more calories after you exercise," said Szymanski. "If you increase your lean body mass, that muscle will actually burn more calories, and the more muscle you have, the more (calories) you burn at rest."
Weightlifting is often the most recognizable form of building muscle, but for those who are inexperienced, there are other affordable ways to strength train.
"Someone who is a novice can take a can of soup out of the cupboard and use it as a dumbbell or fill up plastic milk cartons (to use as weights)," Szymanski said.
He also suggested multiple repetitions of simple body weight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and squats to build muscle mass.
But exercise alone won't do the trick.
In order to maintain or lose weight, a healthy diet is also a must, said Cathy Agan, an extension agent for the Family Nutrition Program at the LSU AgCenter Extension Office in West Monroe.
"It takes a combination of watching your calories, eating healthy food and being physically active," she added. "You have to get a balance between energy in and energy out."
Agan said the the food plate plan (www.myplate.gov), a nutrition plan highlighting the different food groups, can be used to outline how much of each food group is needed and can be a great way to start managing your diet.
And while many organic products and health foods tend to be on the pricey side, there are inexpensive options that won't pack on the pounds.
"Farmer's markets are a great place to get fresh fruits and vegetables," said Agan. "Dry beans and peas are low calorie, low fat and low cost and serve as a good source of fiber and protein."
She said some of the easiest ways to improve your diet include ditching the high-sugar soft drinks for water and adding whole wheat.
"Of course anything that's (high in fat and sugar) usually equals high calories," Agan added. "High fiber foods are good whole grains because fiber will help you stay full longer."
Regular cardio and strength training plus a nutritious diet will produce results, but healthy weight loss is a gradual process.
And don't be discouraged if the scale doesn't budge — oftentimes results can be counted in inches instead of pounds.
"In around six to eight weeks they should see some changes in their body, not only by looking at the scale but by looking in the mirror," Szymanski added. "If someone loses body fat but gains muscle, the scale might not change, but their clothes will fit differently."
It may be hard to stick to a diet and exercise plan, but Agan suggests looking at getting fit and healthy as a lifestyle change, not a diet. The key is designing a plan that works for you.
"If (the diet is) totally unrealistic then you won't succeed," she said. "Make goals that are doable."