The Core of the Matter
There’s a big debate going around the fitness world about whether diet or exercise is more important for weight loss. It’s a false choice. The reality is – it takes both. This isn’t necessarily about becoming “ripped” or looking like William Boniac and most people don’t want that. Today, people are buying their own exercise equipment to improve their health and appearance. They don’t have the time to commit to gym memberships and prefer to get into shape in their own homes, working out when it best suits them. Privacy counts and people who may need more serious work don’t have to suffer various indignities in public.
Obesity is one of today’s most serious health issues. It’s not that we’re all “couch potatoes,” whose workout means reaching for the remote. The truth is, we need to exercise and fight the “Battle of the Bulge” to counter the realities of our daily lives. Modern life and work means we sit now more than ever. What used to be our normal rate of activity, simply doesn’t happen. Manual work has mostly been replaced by keyboards – and we sit. Getting from one place to another means driving or taking transportation in some form – and we sit. Entertainment comes from the screen (TVs or computers) – and we sit. Our heart rates stay low and the overall muscle tone we used to gain even by walking through life doesn’t happen. We’re stressed. We eat foods filled with fats and sugars that shouldn’t be there and you’re reading this because it’s time to get to work and drop the pounds.
People tend to focus on machines to target their biceps, give them an expansive chest or those 6-pack abs. The first muscle that needs to lose its fat – is your heart. For some reason, the word “cardio” elicits moans and groans, like kids walking into class for a math test. The fact is, your heart is the core of your core and increase your heart rate and endurance is the key to shedding the pounds.
A proper cardio routine is more than just making your heart work a little more. There’s science to it. According to the Mayo Clinic, people need to establish their maximum heart rate (an upper limit for what your heart can take). It varies from one individual to another, but in general, you should subtract your age from 220. That will yield your maximum heart rate (if you’re 42, your maximum rate would be 175 beats per minute during your hardest workout). That’s the upper limit and the line you don’t want to cross. A moderate workout will increase your heart rate to 50-70% of this limit with weight loss starting at the lower end of the zone between 55-70% of your maximum heart rate. A vigorous routine will drive that up to 70% to 85% of the limit. That’s not where you’re starting. It’s where you’ll end up.
Treadmills offer a solid way to get their hearts pumping and increase their endurance. Modern machines offer a wide variety of settings to provide a range of challenges during a single workout. Variable settings let the users experience everything from an easy walk to a sprint or a cross country run. Incline and speed can be programed to change levels of difficulty multiple times throughout each session. Increased exertion drives the heart faster and is relieved when followed by a slower run over “level ground.” Your heart and legs will rest some while keeping an elevated workout going. Treadmills offer one great benefit that often gets overlooked, they are indoors. Rain, heat, cold and wind won’t impact your workout.
Cross-trainers, (ellipticals) offer a wide range of benefits. They increase the overall body workout by incorporating upper and lower body workouts into one routine. They’re a great way to boost your heart rate into the weight-loss zone while building your base level of fitness. That’s why they work so well.
Cross-trainers provide for adjustments in small increments. Speed and intensity (resistance) can be changed in multiple combinations to create a truly progressive program for fitness. You get the workout you need and avoid over exertion. Cross-trainers offer a low-impact option to fitness. Treadmills aren’t like running on roads, but they can impact knees and ankles and for some, that’s a show stopper. Combining an upper and lower body workout into one machine saves time (one of the biggest road blocks is having time to exercise) and people can work their bodies while watching a TV or a movie. Entertainment makes the time pass quickly without reducing the benefits.
Cost is a big factor these days. Getting a cross trainer into your home can be less expensive than gym memberships, particularly if more than one member of the family is using it. Family members program their own routines into a cross trainer, progress at their own rates and the price tag drops. Like treadmills and other machine, a cross trainer in the home offers privacy. It’s a bigger issue than people think, and embarrassment has kept many people from the work they are otherwise willing to do. That’s no small thing!
Another great option for a home workout is the time-honored rowing machine. They’ve been around for a long time and like cross trainers, offer a whole-body workout while getting your heart into the fat burning zone. Rowing machines work just about all muscle groups in the human body while increasing your heart rate, increase oxygen intake and build your core. An hour on a rowing machine burns around 600 calories, so it’s a high-efficiency workout and again – offers a low impact cardio workout.
There are some things to look for when considering a rowing machine. It might seem obvious but have a good look at the seat and sit in it! Comfort is a huge factor and you’re going to be spending some time there regularly. Rowing machines are programable with multiple levels of resistance in both the oars and the seat. Be sure you’re getting a machine that will grow with your strength. You‘ll be getting leaner and stronger and you’ll need a machine that continues to challenge your body. There’s one question few people ask. How tall are you? You're looking for stable, smoothly operating glide-rails that provide you with a full extension throughout your routine. Rowing machines offer another big benefit. There are perfectly good rowing machines that won’t leave you bankrupt. Modern machines offer multiple program setting and are easy to use and enjoy.
Feeding the Furnace:
The media is filled with magic super foods and diet plans that burn more calories than you take in. None of that’s true of course, but today, we’re confronted with a huge array of fad diets based on philosophy, science and sheer fantasy. The options range from paleo programs for those who think they’ll go foraging for fitness, to Keto diets that alter your body’s chemistry to kick-start you into burning fat for energy. Many options have serious health considerations and while the idea of eating “fat bombs” has its appeal (plus it does in fact work) there are issues involved and some people should probably consult with their doctors before going on that path.
One of the biggest issues with all diets is our ability to stick with it. People who are embarking on a weight loss campaign are making a serious commitment and for most of us, a lifestyle change. Diets that send people off to count grains of rice will probably no be a solution you can live with. Finding a diet that will get the pounds off in combination with exercise can be a challenge.
Through it all, there are few key facts to keep in mind when selecting a diet plan. Short term radical actions might be called for, but people choosing them should consider a secondary diet plan that will serve them long term with sustained healthy eating habits. In the end, this will be about burning more calories than you take in while providing the body with what it needs. In general, the average human burns about 2,300 calories throughout the day. Supporting our body functions, heart pumping, lungs breathing, etc… does that for us. Increasing our activity level and getting our heart rates into the fat burning zone regularly is the key.
For all the marketing that targets us, there are a few basic rules to follow. Most dieticians recommend a diet with less meat while our vegetable intake grows. They focus on reducing fattier red meats and reliance upon leaner fare like chicken, turkey and seafood. Our bodies do need fats to work properly but the saturates clog our arteries and retain more carcinogens than non-saturated fats. If you’re exercising and building muscle mass, you need protein. That’s what builds muscle. In virtually all sound diet plans, sugars and carbohydrates are the enemies of weight loss. It’s sad but true, German chocolate cake won’t be on the menu.
There really isn’t an either/or choice here. Exercising for weight loss means striking a balance in living that allows time to work your heart, build your core and burn the fat and a diet that supports weight loss while giving your body what it needs. As in just about everything else in life, moderation, planning and sticking with it – will get you into last year’s pants.