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Get stronger, leaner and healthier with strength training

by Mehsel Hartwell

You know exercise is good for you. Ideally, you’re looking for ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. If your aerobic workouts aren’t balanced by a proper dose of strength training, though, you’re missing out on a key component of overall health and fitness. Despite its reputation as a “guy” or “jock” thing, strength training is important for everyone. With a regular strength training program, you can reduce your body fat, increase your lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently.

Use it or lose it

Muscle mass naturally diminishes with age. “If you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you’ll increase the percentage of fat in your body,” says Edward Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center. “But strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass — at any age.”

Strength training also helps you:

  • Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body gains a bigger “engine” to burn calories more efficiently — which can result in weight loss. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
  • Reduce your risk of injury. Building muscle helps protect your joints from injury. It also contributes to better balance, which can help you maintain independence as you age.
  • Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won’t fatigue as easily.
  • Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.
  • Sharpen your focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps improve attention for older adults.

Consider the options

Strength training can be done at home or in the gym. Consider the options:

  • Body weight. You can do many exercises with little or no equipment. Try push-ups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches and leg squats.
  • Resistance tubing. Resistance tubing is inexpensive, lightweight tubing that provides resistance when stretched. You can choose from many types of resistance tubes in nearly any sporting goods store.
  • Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools.
  • Weight machines. Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines. You can also invest in weight machines for use at home.

Getting started

When you have your doctor’s OK to begin a strength training program, start slowly. Warm up with five to 10 minutes of stretching or gentle aerobic activity, such as brisk walking. Then choose a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 repetitions.

“On the 12th repetition, you should be just barely able to finish the motion,” Dr. Laskowski says. “When you’re using the proper weight or amount of resistance, you can build and tone muscle just as efficiently with a single set of 12 repetitions as you can with more sets of the same exercise.”

To give your muscles time to recover, rest one full day between exercising each specific muscle group. When you can easily do more than 15 repetitions of a certain exercise, gradually increase the weight or resistance. Remember to stop if you feel pain. Although mild muscle soreness is normal, sharp pain and sore or swollen joints are signs that you’ve overdone it.

When to expect results

You don’t need to spend hours a day lifting weights to benefit from strength training. Two to three strength training sessions a week lasting just 20 to 30 minutes are sufficient for most people. You may enjoy noticeable improvements in your strength and stamina in just a few weeks. With regular strength training, you’ll continue to increase your strength — even if you’re not in shape when you begin.

Strength training can do wonders for your physical and emotional well-being. Make it part of your quest for better health.

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10 Reasons Why Women Should Lift Weights

10 Reasons Why Lifting Weights Is Good For Women

Everyone has seen the adverts showing men lifting weights and looking great, but who knew weightlifting was equally beneficial to women? Researchers have recently found compelling reasons for women to start lifting weights too, but the number of women following this advice is still very small. Here are the top ten reasons you should hit the weights…

1. It’ll make you strong!

Including weights in your exercise program will help strengthen the muscles. Recent studies have shown that even moderate weight training can increase a women’s overall strength by 50%. Wouldn’t you love to show your boyfriend/husband that you are not just a fragile girl. And imagine all the extra shopping bags you can carry!

2. It’ll tone you up!

A woman who weight trains three a week for two months will lose thirty pounds of fat, and gain four pounds of muscle. This means you’ll appear much slimmer, and weigh less too! And who doesn’t like a super toned body like all the hot celebrities out there.

Only Steroids and HGH will make women bulk up this

Unlike men, women will not appear “bigger” because of more muscle unless they are taking anabolic steroids or human growth hormone drugs. That is of course if you lift appropriate weights and don’t overdo it like female body builders who have their own reasons for doing so. When done right, your body will get toned and you will look slimmer much like a sports woman from the Olympics!

4. It makes your bones STRONGER!

Weight training increases the vitality of the bones, and prevents osteoporosis, a horrible and sometimes crippling illness. Bone density improves around 20% in six months of weight training, but improves fastest when teamed with a high calcium diet.

5. You’ll be healthier!

Not only will your bones be strong, your muscles and connective tissues will improve too, meaning you are much less likely to pull or strain muscles, or to suffer from arthritis which even though quite a common foot problem can be avoided. A 12 year study conducted recently showed that strengthening the muscles in the lower back reduced back pain by 80%!

6. You protect your heart!

Weight training is proven to lower bad cholesterol, and blood pressure. These are both key signs of unhealthiness, which can really affect your heart, so keeping them as low as possible is important. If you weight train and do a form of cardiovascular exercise, the benefits are maximised.

Oldest Female Bodybuilder in The World

Ernestine Shepherd World”s Oldest Bodybuilder at 75 years old!

7. It’s never too late!

Even women in their 80’s and 90’s can benefit from learning to weight train, as long as it is done in a safe environment. The benefits can be enjoyed at any age and your resultant healthy heart will thank you!

8. You’re less likely to suffer from diabetes!

Weight training appears to improve the body’s ability to process sugar, which reduces the chances of diabetes. Of course there are cures for diabetes. But prevention is better than cure right? Training can improve glucose usage by 23% in the first two months! As diabetes is a growing problem, this is a huge benefit.

9. You will improve your outlook!

Ten weeks of weight training has been proven to increase confidence and fight depression, due to feeling capable and the feel good hormones being released. What a perfect way to keep your mind and body healthy!

10. You’ll increase your performance!

Training will make everyday activities much easier, so whether you can cycle that bit further or run that bit faster, you’ll see the difference in your everyday life, too. It can even help with hobbies such as golf! And let me not even begin to state the great effects it will have on your sex life!

Staying fit can be hard work, and with so many suggestions, you feel like it’s much easier to just stick to the treadmill. The benefits of weight training are unbeatable though, so get down to a gym and see what your personal trainer recommends. I did, and now I love it! Plus, you never know who you’ll meet… Have you started lifting weights, and felt the benefits? Please share your stories!

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and board-certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

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Improving Your Child’s Self Esteem Through Exercise

Improving Your Child's Self Esteem Through ExercisesBy Lynn Bode

Raising a pre-teen or teenage daughter (or son) is not easy and can cause any parent a lot of stress.  There’s so much to worry about – dating, drugs, alcohol, sex, school grades, just to name a few.  But one crucial element often gets overlooked until it manifests itself in extreme ways (like through an eating disorder). I’m talking about self-image. It’s extremely important that parents ensure that their children have a positive self-image, especially in relation to their body.

The key to ensuring strong self-esteem and a positive body image starts with the parent. If you don’t feel positive about your self-image, then how can you expect your children to? While this is important for both genders, it is especially critical for raising a healthy daughter. And beginning the lessons when a girl is young is imperative, so don’t wait until it’s too late – teaching your daughter to feel good about her body needs to start at a very young age.

Eating disorder experts say girls are developing eating disorders as young as 5 and 6 years old. And a recent study indicated that 70% of the sixth-grade girls they surveyed said they began worrying about their weight between ages 9 and 11. Why are so many young girls thinking that they are fat? Many are obsessing about their weight because they have parents who are preoccupied with their own poor body images.

While the statistics are disheartening, the good news is that there’s a lot that can be done to help our children have positive self-images. And, even small changes that parents make can help. Here are few tips to help your children avoid warped and negative body images:

Establish a “no diet talk” rule. When your children are nearby, DON’T talk about dieting or how fat you feel! This is extremely important. Remember, kids are listening all the time (even when you think that they aren’t – especially then). So, even though asking your spouse or friend “do I look fat in this?” may seem innocent, it can have a life-altering effect on your kids when they repeatedly hear it.

Parents aren’t the only adults that influence their children. Set the “no diet talk” rule mentioned above for all adults that are around your children. This means you shouldn’t allow your friends, parents, siblings, neighbors, or anyone else to talk about being fat or being on a diet when they are around your children.

Set a good example. If your children never see you engage in fitness or if they hear you complain about working out, then they are going to have a negative image of exercise. Let them know that you workout to stay healthy, to be strong and to have more energy and stamina (so you can keep up with them)!

Get your kids involved in sports. Experts say that playing sports really helps build confidence and improves self-esteem (especially for girls).

Teach your children to include physical activity as part of their daily routine. But don’t force them to exercise. Make sure that the physical activity is seen as something fun to do rather than teaching them to think of exercise as a necessary evil. Good activities include taking a nightly family walk, turning off the t.v. and instead turning music on that you all can dance to, or taking a weekend family bike ride.

Try to prepare (or if you are short of time purchase) healthy meals. And teach them the importance of good nutrition. Don’t let them have the misconception that there are “good” and “bad” foods. If a kid thinks that candy is a “bad” food, then naturally they will just want it more. Just try to encourage your kids to eat a balanced diet each day and to eat sugary and/or fatty foods in moderation.

Remember that something as small as talking about losing weight in front of your kids can have very detrimental effects on their self-image as they age. Damaging behavior learned from a parent at a young age can take years for a child to overcome. So, the sooner you start incorporating the tips above into your life, the better for you child. But don’t forget that it has to start with you – make sure that you are incorporating healthy fitness and eating rituals into your daily routine and that you have a positive body image (no matter what your size or shape is)!

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To learn more about workouts for children and teens or to have a personalize fitness program created for your child’s fitness goals browse through our fitness page by clicking here

The 4 Things Missing From Most Women’s Workouts

If your workouts consist of doing light weights and steady-state cardio, you might be in for some bad news: These things alone won’t likely get you the results you’re after, say experts. To increase your fitness level, burn fat, and improve muscle tone, you’ve got to step up your game.

Here are four things women tend to skip that can deliver serious results.

1. High-intensity training.

All that time coasting on the elliptical at a comfortable pace probably hasn’t done much for your body, says Panama-based trainer Belinda Benn, creator of the Breakthrough Physique home fitness system. In fact, the biggest mistake women make in their training is not exercising with enough intensity, she says.

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is typically a 10- to 20-minute workout that alternates short, intense bursts of activity with moderate-exertion recovery periods. “High-intensity interval training  is the best way to improve your overall fitness, burn fat, and stimulate your hormones for a stronger body,” says Benn.

How to tell if you’re training hard enough? Look to your body for clues, Benn says. Good indicators are sweating, increased heart rate, and lactic acid production (i.e., feeling the “burn”) during exercise. Moderate muscle soreness for up to a few days post-workout is also a good sign. “If you feel nothing,” Benn says, “you probably didn’t work out hard enough.”

Heavy Lifting For Women
2. Heavier lifting.
 

 

For most women, a typical weight-training session equals light dumbbell exercises, says Toronto-based strength and conditioning specialist Craig Ballantyne, creator of the Turbulence Training Program. But doing fewer reps with more weight—say, 8 reps per set with a 15-pound dumbbell, instead of 15 reps with an 8-pound one—will burn more fat, he says. Lifting heavier will also increase your strength and muscle definition.

Start by swapping out your normal weights for slightly heavier ones, and gradually work your way up. Most women often worry that lifting heavy weights will make them look big and bulky like men. Unless you are taking Anabolic Steroids and/or Human Growth Hormone it is virtually impossible to grow muscles like men. I don’t care how heavy you lift.

3. Upper body workouts.

Women tend to store body fat around the waist, hips, and thighs, so that’s where they typically focus their exercise efforts—neglecting their upper bodies, Benn says.

But you can’t spot-reduce fat, and sticking with what’s easy can stunt your progress, says Benn. Because you may feel weak while attempting pull-ups for the first time, Benn suggests doing the hard stuff at the start of your workout, “when you’re freshest and feeling mentally strong.”

“Focusing on underdeveloped muscles will improve the contours of your body,” Benn says.

4. Training with a barbell.

Think barbells are synonymous with back-breaking chest presses? Not so. “You can do a tremendous workout just with a barbell,” Benn says. “If you’re holding a bar rather than using two separate weights, it forces you to get your body  in sync.”

Barbells are great for both upper- and lower-body exercises. Balancing one across your shoulders while doing squats, lunges, or walking lunges helps develop posture and balance, Benn says.

If you’re flirting with a barbell for the first time, go as light as you need to. Even 10 pounds is a good start.

Bonus tip:

If you’re worried you’ll bulk up with any of these exercises, consider your body type. Benn says women generally fall into two categories: those who build muscle easily, and those who don’t. If you build muscle easily, she suggests emphasizing high-intensity exercises. If you develop muscle slowly, you’ll benefit from spending more time on heavy lifting.

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To learn more about workouts for women or to have a personalize fitness program created for your weight lost goals browse through our fitness page by clicking here