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Get Fit not Fat

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The human body is designed to mov.

The human body is designed to move. Yet throughout much of the late 20th century, North Americans have come face-to-face with a unique condition I call "hypokinesis," which is just another way of saying, "We suffer from too little body movement."

If we continue to practise a life of inactivity, we should not be surprised when we are greeted with a smaller, fatter, energy-deprived body! Studies confirm that reductions in activity levels are strongly correlated with body fat increases, even when caloric intake is significantly reduced. Proper exercise also decreases the storage of body fat, and when proper exercise is incorporated with an effective eating strategy, the combined effects are a loss of body fat and an increase in lean body mass.

By the time of retirement age, the average sedentary North American will lose anywhere from one-third to one-half of his or her lean body mass and gain it back in body fat. We may weigh the same at retirement age as we did in our 20s, but things definitely look and feel a lot different. In a sense, we become smaller people with more body fat.

One of the most devastating consequences of losing muscle tissue is the lowering of our basal metabolic rates the rate at which our bodies burn calories in the resting position. The truth of the matter is, muscle is the key metabolic engine of your body and each cell is loaded with thousands of tiny little powerhouse engines called mitochondria. When you allow your body to lose its muscle mass, you invariably end up losing the ability to burn more calories while at rest. One pound (0.45 kilograms) of muscle tissue can burn at least 50 extra calories throughout the day.

The Rebound Effect

Muscle loss is one of the major reasons most people end up failing at diets. When you restrict your calories beyond a certain set point (the weight at which your body prefers to stay everyone is different), your body ends up eating away at its own proteins (muscle tissue) to make up for the deficit in incoming protein. This is also why many people experience the rebound effect of putting on extra pounds when they go back to eating the way they did before the diet. Since they have lost muscle mass, their bodies are no longer able to utilize the same number of incoming calories and the extra are deposited within your 30 billion fat cells. We should all be more interested in losing excess body fat as opposed to excess pounds. The real question should be, "Where are these pounds coming from?"

Less Is More

In order to lose excess body fat, prevent premature aging and experience optimum health, proper exercise is important. Now before you become disenchanted with yet another expert's advice on what to do and how to do it, understand that my research has pointed in the direction that less equals more in terms of proper fat burning/anti-aging exercise. What I mean is that too many people overdo it when it comes to exercise.

Proper physical exercise doesn't necessarily mean hard-core sports or working out in a gym with excessively heavy weights. Instead, it can mean performing fun weight-bearing exercises (lifting weights) in a fitness centre or the privacy of your own home two to four times a week and for only 30 to 45 minutes at a time. A 1990 groundbreaking study presented in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that muscle size and strength was greatly improved in as little as eight weeks of weight training, even in 90-year-old subjects.

Along with the necessity of weight training to increase lean body mass (muscle tissue), I also advise performing any activity that the individual will adhere to. This includes going for long walks, hiking, skiing, skating, swimming or any other cardiovascular activity.

In a landmark study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, aerobic training was compared to a combination of aerobic and resistance (weight) training. Participants were split into two groups to complete a 10-week exercise program. One group completed 75 minutes of aerobic exercise twice a week while the other completed 40 minutes of aerobics plus 35 minutes of weight training. The time spent training was identical. At the end of the study, the aerobics group presented an 11 percent increase in endurance but no increase in strength. The group that completed both aerobics and weight training showed a massive 109 per cent increase in endurance and a 21 to 43 percent increase in their overall strength. There are many other studies that further prove the theory that resistance training with low-impact cardio is superior to either one alone.

Weight-Bearing/Cardio Combo

As I have pointed out in my book, Fat Wars: 45 Days To Transform Your Body, extreme cardio activities such as high-impact aerobics classes can actually be detrimental to achieving a lean, muscular body. The reason for this is because many people who perform aerobics do so exclusively (do not lift weights), and end up creating a negative stress response by pushing themselves to the limit, which further degrades muscle mass.

In order to burn body fat, it is best to work out at a low enough impact to be able to carry on a conversation. It is also best to perform weight-bearing exercises first (with a good warm-up) followed by cardio activity, since it can take up to 20 minutes to free up fat reserves as a main fuel source. When you lift weights first, you create just the right stress response to activate your fat burning engines for the cardio portion of the workout.

Amazing Benefits

One of the greatest benefits associated with proper exercise lies in its ability to lower high blood sugar levels and therefore reduce the risks of type II diabetes. The way in which it accomplishes this is really quite remarkable. During the actual exercise, muscles can take in up to 30 times more blood sugar than they do while at rest. The amazing thing is that this removal of excess glucose from the bloodstream occurs without the aid of the blood sugar lowering hormone insulin. By regularly performing weight-bearing and cardio activities, you are providing your body with an alternative method of removing excess glucose from the bloodstream. Talk about a huge bonus!

The greatest effects of proper exercise actually occur after the activity is completed. This is due to the rise in anabolic (rebuild-and-repair) hormones, testosterone and growth hormone approximately 15 minutes after the exercise is completed. As long as you don't blunt this metabolic increase by consuming solely high-carbohydrate energy drinks, your body will have the ability to burn calories (mainly from fat) for many hours to come.

In one study, it was shown that more than two-thirds of the fat-burning activity of exercise takes place after the actual exercise sessions. This increase in fat-burning potential has been documented as lasting for more than 15 hours in highly trained athletes and is believed to be due to the increased activity of a fat-releasing enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase.

The clear message at hand is that moderate exercise is key to living your life to its maximum potential. After all, you wouldn't leave your car unattended in a parking lot for its entire life, so why treat your body that way? Go ahead turn that key and take that body for a spin!

Burn Your Body Fat

  • It's important to maintain muscle mass to help your body burn calories.
  • Weight training along with low-impact cardio is superior to doing either one alone.
  • Lift weights two to four times a week for 30 to 45 minutes at a time.
  • Add low-impact cardio activities to your weight-lifting schedule. Perform any cardiovascular activities you enjoy including long walks, skiing and swimming.
  • Even after proper exercising, your body burns calories for many hours to come.
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